Matt Duhamel, also known as The Outspoken Offender, who resides in the USA and was arrested in 2006 for receipt and distribution of child sexual exploitation material, continues to discuss and help others affected by America’s sex offender registry.
This interview is one of the most compelling interviews a sex offender has ever given and shows the world through his eyes what it is like to be on the sex offender registry.
He has been very open what life is like being on the sex offender’s registry and his arrest in 2006. He is not asking for people to feel sorry for him, what he is asking for is for people to understand what life is like for him and others who are released from prison.
Since being released from prison he has seen the world in a different light, and he himself has seen how the world treats him differently. For people with no criminal record getting a place to live is easy, but once landlords find out you are on the sex offenders registry then most landlords shut the door in your face, according to Duhamel.
To try and make people understand what life is like for him and others like him, he has started a blog and Youtube channel titled,The Outspoken Offender. The blog aims to bring greater awareness as well as explain that people on the registry still have a place in society.
The blog which can be viewed by visiting https://www.theoutspokenoffender.com/ is first and foremost a resource offering support and encouragement for people and their families who find themselves on the sex offender registry. The Outspoken Offender is also campaigning for those on the list to be treated more humane, as Duhamel says in his own words, “You are not defined by your past.”
The Outspoken Offender also looks at how getting a job when a boss knows you have a sexual criminal record is very hard. All though some people may feel shocked by some of the blog posts, the blog does provide a real insight on what it is like to be on the sex offender registry. So, we decided to learn more about The Outspoken Offender and see what it is like being on the registry and how he’s helping others.
You were arrested in 2006, what were you arrested for?
I was arrested for possession, receipt and distribution of material related to child sexual exploitation. I take full responsibility for my actions and feel bad everyday for what I did. With a partner, I was helping operate about a dozen child and teen modeling websites. Parents and photographers from around the world would send us photos and videos of child and teen models. Though all the content on the websites were considered non-nude, we were both arrested and convicted. I was unaware at the time that the United States has what’s called the “Dost Test” or “Factors” which helps the court determine if content rises to the level of child pornography. Nudity is NOT a requirement of the Dost Factors, and photos and videos can still be considered illegal even if the minor is partially or fully clothed.
Why have you decided to be so honest about your arrest?
Well, I’ve been honest about it from the start. In fact, I discuss my arrest and conviction in my documentary film, The Forgiveness Journey. I’ve also done a lot of public speaking about my past. More recently, I’ve decided to speak about it more aggressively because of how the registry has negatively affected my life over the years. My life will never be the same since my arrest. In April of 2017 when I had successfully completed my five years of probation, part of me wanted to believe once I served my time, I could live a fairly “normal” life under the sex offender registry. I was wrong. Though my day to day life is normal, it’s the denial of employment, housing and social ostracism that I battle with constantly.
How were you caught?
After I was arrested, I’d learned that the FBI was investigating my business for about a year and half. I believe one of the girls started to brag to her friends about how she was a model on the internet. Word got around and the local authorities were contacted. From there, the FBI started their investigation on our websites.
Most sex offenders hide away and keep their crime secret, do you feel safe coming forward and speaking out?
I think the vast majority hide, but things are changing. More people on the registry are starting to speak out and talk about how the registry not only affects them, but their own children and families. They are talking more about collateral damage, which I also discuss in my videos and blog. But to answer your question, yes, I do feel safe.
Have you been verbally or physically attacked since your release from prison?
No, I have not.
When you tell a person that you are on the sex-offenders register how do they react?
Well, I don’t normally tell people unless I know them well. Of course online, that’s a different story. When I’m face to face with someone, I don’t just start talking about my offense. You could look at it this way: when you meet someone, do you start automatically talking about your past? Do you talk about your divorce that happened three years ago, or the time that you stole money from your employer? Probably not. The same goes for my past crime.
When you were arrested was it a wake-up call?
That is a good question. I knew what I was doing was morally wrong. Inside, I battled with what I was doing everyday. At one point, I told my business partner that I wanted out, so I left the business for about six months. Then the bills started piling up. I ended up going back and running more websites. I didn’t want to lose the lavish lifestyle I was living including my 5,200 square foot home, Maserati sports car, and other material stuff.
How did your arrest affect your family?
It was devastating to them. I think it still is in certain ways. I’m not one to just break the law or get into trouble. I was a shy kid, somewhat nerdy, but outgoing and funny with certain people. I got pretty good grades and was not a troublemaker. I’ve always been an entrepreneur. The passion to run a business from an early age and make a lot of money may have played a part in my poor decisions.
Before your arrest you had a successful career in TV news, radio broadcasting and film production, how has that changed?
Well, I can no longer find a job in this industry. I have tried, and in fact, just about a month ago I had two interviews set up for a TV news producer position. Unfortunately, they used Google as their personal background check and found out about my conviction. (my case was highly publicized) I never even had a chance to explain my past with them. They cancelled the interviews and told me it would “never work.” This is what I’m talking about when it comes to employment. When you’re living with a sex offense conviction, you rarely get the chance to explain or prove yourself. It’s ridiculous.
You spent 49 months inside a federal prison, (2007-2012), how did the other prisoners react to your crime?
I spent my time in a low-security federal prison which specializied in people with sex offenses or drug crimes. So it was expected that you were there for one of these convictions. Because of this, it was fairly safe with very little violence. I was never physically harmed by another inmate, though I had a few verbal altercations.
You spent five years on federal supervision, and you are a registered sex offender, do you take offence at being called a sex offender?
Yes, in some ways I do. I know I use the term, but would rather say “registered citizen.” But if I use that all the time, most people won’t understand who I’m referring too.
I just don’t like the word “sex” because my crime didn’t involve sex. None of the content that I posssessed involved actual sex acts, nor did I have sex with anyone underage. The real problem is the phrase, sex offender because when people hear it, they automatically assume the worst.
Some people believe that sex offenders have no place in society and should be locked up in prison for the rest of their lives, what is your opinion on this?
Of course I don’t believe this. If we were to lock up all the sex offenders for life, what about the drug dealer selling drugs to kids, getting them hooked on illegal drugs?
Not all convicted sex offenders commit crimes because they have pedophilia. Most people feel that just because you are on the registry, that you’re automatically a threat to children. This just isn’t true. So to lock up all sex offenders would be wrong and barbaric.
It was reported that some experts believe that sex offenders are people who are ill and damaged and need help instead of locking up, would you agree?
My opinion on this question may vary from other registered sex offenders. I do feel that someone that has an attraction to prepubescent children (pedophilia) can’t be cured. Though, pedophilia can be managed effectively through counseling to help reduce sexual thoughts, fantasies, and urges, but there is no cure.
First, I want to be clear that I’m not condoning sexual abuse in anyway. I’m not a doctor, but I feel that pedophilia is not a disorder as described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). I feel that pedophilia is a sexual orientation. The nature/nurture debate is still being considered and how each one ffects someone with pedophilia. There is also a lot of research from Dr. James Cantor, of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, that supports the theory that pedophilia may be something you’re born with. https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-34858350
The Child Sex Offenders Disclosure Scheme in the USA allows people to find out if they have a sex offender living next to them or near them, what is your opinion on the scheme?
I disagree with it. People that have committed sexual based offenses have lived in our communities and neighborhoods for many years, not just since the invention of the registry. I understand that people want to feel safe, but relying on a bloated, inaccurate and misleading registry is not the way to do it. It does not make safer neighborhoods and it only instills fear.
There are terms and conditions that you must stick to when being on the sex offenders register, how has this changed your life?
It’s not so much the duties of actually registering your information at the police department like employment information, place of residence, or place of education that causes me grief. It’s the public shaming and rejection that is hard to deal with. I also hate the fact that when people see that I’m on the registry, I’m a danger to their children. I don’t like being pre-judged without the opportunity to speak about what happened, and why I did the things I did fourteen years ago.
You have publicly said that the sex offender registry has caused more damage than good, can you explain what you mean by this?
Its caused more harm and damage because of how it forces sex offenders to the fringes of society. This is not a good place to be. A lot of sex offenders go homeless because of “child protection zones” and residentary restrictions. The question that American’s need to ask is: wouldn’t you feel better having someone on the registry housed and employed, rather than being homeless, pissed off at society, broke, while roaming the streets?
In 2017, you made a film, NOT FOR RENT!, a documentary that discusses discriminatory housing issues among ex-felons and sex offenders. Do you blame landlords for being careful to whom they rent out their property to?
I don’t blame the landlords, per say. I understand they want to protect their properties. I do blame the media and how they’ve caused a moral panic in America. This in turn has caused everyone, including landlords to be highly discriminatory without even knowing all the facts. Landlords are also afraid of what neighbors may think if they were to rent to a former inmate or registered sex offender. I’ve seen this happen first hand with rental properties that I’ve tried to rent.
Would you like a law to be brought in to stop landlords turning people away with a criminal record?
Very much so. In fact, it’s already happening in a few American cities such as Seattle. Seattle’s Fair Chance Housing Ordinance prevents landlords from checking prospective tenants’ criminal histories. This is a positive housing trend in America but these ordinances need to include people on the registry as well.
Let’s be honest, if you were not on the sex offender register and you owned a block of flats with families living there, would you rent out an apartment to someone you knew were on the sex offender list?
If I hadn’t gone through the criminal justice system, probably not. I don’t like saying that, but it’s true. You see, if you haven’t been affected by the criminal justice system, it’s hard to have empathy for the people that have gone through it. I hear a lot of people say, “I would never get arrested or go to jail.” I thought that too and look what happened. It can happen to anyone at any time. You don’t have to be a criminal to go to prison.
Do you believe that sex offenders should be given a second chance and have a place in society?
Yes, very much. We’re all humans. We all make mistakes but all of us deserve a place in society. Now with that said, there’s a very small amount of people that need to be watched closer than others, but the vast majority of people on the registry are no harm to others. That’s one of the huge problems with the registry: we lump everyone together!
Sex offenders find it hard to gain employment, why do you believe that is?
I’m going through this issue right now. I’ve applied for 254 jobs on Indeed and more on LinkedIn and Craigslist, and I’ve only received one job interview which was last week. I also found out a few days ago I did not get the job.
I think they have a hard time because employers are scared. They are scared of what other people (such as customers, clients, other employees) will think of them if they hire someone on the registry. There was a time when the store manager of the national chain, Walgreens wanted to hire me. He knew about my offense, but the corporate office said “no.” Corporate never met me, never talked to me, nothing. They decided that it would be too much of a safety factor if I worked there. They only looked at the crime, not the person. Again, I was being labeled dangerous and that really upset me.
You have said it is wrong that employers don’t employ sex offenders, are you saying that you would like a law brought in to stop this from happening?
Well, I think what Seattle is doing is a good example. We need to have the “Ban the Box” campaign for all employers, for all crimes, including sex offenses. Now of course the employer can still decide if he/she wants to hire the applicant, but at least the prospective applicant has a chance to discuss their situation with an employer before being refused an interview.
What is your opinion on paedophile hunters?
I don’t think much about these groups. But I do agree with law enforcement when they say these groups are putting the law in their own hands and should not get involved.
You have launched a blog called The Outspoken Offender, why have you decided to do that? What has been the reaction to the blog?
The reaction so far has been very positive. The YouTube channel and blog have only been up for about a month but there’s been a lot of interest. I think some people are surprised that I’ve come out so publicly because I don’t think it’s ever been done before, at least not like this. My video titled, “Confident Sex Offender Visits Burger King and Eats at Subway” has had the most publicity so far. I don’t think a video like this has ever been done before:
What do you hope to achieve from your blog?
First and foremost, I want to help others that may be in the same situation. That is my main goal. I want other people that have been affected by incarceration or have been placed on the sex offender registry know that they can still be a success. Secondly, I want to reduce the stigma, social ostracism and rejection that registrants and their families face everyday. I think it’s very important that we also address the families of registrants because they can receive rejection, hate, and even physical harm. Social rejection is probably the hardest thing to deal with, because as humans, we need to belong. The feeling of belonging is a basic human need, and most people affected by the criminal justice system in America (especially registered sex offenders) lack this basic need.