Carl Peterson doesn’t like the fact that his neighbors are afraid of him, and he wants to put his community’s mind at ease. This is going to be tough going, because the 48-year-old is a convicted Level 3 sex offender who has raped a young girl.

Peterson was charged and sentenced 12 years ago with raping his 13-year-old niece. He’s recently been released from prison and decided to address his neighbors at a community meeting in Belmont, Massachusetts, where he lives with his wife and 14-year-old daughter.

According to the Belmont Patch, Peterson addressed a community of about 100 neighbors in the Belmont high school auditorium. The meeting was organized by the Belmont Police Department in order to inform the public of the sexual offenders registry.

Peterson addressed the crowd by saying, “I’m the Level 3 offender you’ve all been talking about,” adding, “The problem is...all you get to know about my problem is what you read ... which says I'm the most dangerous and the most likely to reoffend of all sex offenders. It also says my offense was the rape against a child. What's important is that I'm not the victim. I'm a sex offender and I committed a crime and I did spend four years in prison for it.”

Although some in the crowd jeered and yelled at the middle-aged father, others urged him to keep talking, saying they wanted to know more about his crime. The former prisoner described the assault on his niece that landed him in prison. Peterson also shared that he’s been seeing a therapist for eight years, and that he’s certain that he’ll never commit a crime again, and that there are safeguards in place to assure that.

I will admit that when I heard of this story, I wondered how it would play out in my community. I live in a somewhat urban area where there are many registered sexual offenders within our residential neighborhood. My local mom’s blog is always posting and sharing photos and addresses of the offenders from the registry in order to educate parents and letting everyone know of any strange activity. While there have been many spirited debates about the right to privacy and the need for criminals to become rehabilitated, many of these issues become cloudy when it’s your own kids who may become potential victims of an offender.

The way I feel, and what seems to be the general consensus, is “be aware, but don’t become a neighborhood vigilante.” I’m all for criminals putting their past behind them and becoming productive members of society, and I do understand that some of our sexual offense laws are a bit arbitrary, but I’ll still be keeping a watchful eye out to keep my kids safe, and I would expect nothing less from other parents.

While I admire the bravery of Carl Peterson, and his openness to answering questions from what was most likely a very hostile audience, I think he’s correct when he says, "There is nothing that I can say that says 'You don't have to worry about me." For the sake of his family and community, here’s hoping that his actions will back up his words.

What do you think, moms? Should more registered sex offenders address their communities?

Source: Belmont Patch

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Teddie McCormick is an Associate Editor at Wetpaint Entertainment. Follow her on Twitter and on Google+!