Roberts can still be found on a commercial database online, her photo featured below a banner that reads, “New technologies in the hands of teens are another route to the registry.In Prince William County, Virginia, two years ago, a seventeen-year-old high-school junior sent a sexual video to his teen-age girlfriend, and found himself charged with manufacturing and distributing child pornography.
”Her friend, who had just given birth to a baby girl, had logged on to the Michigan Public Sex Offender Registry Web site to search for local predators.
She had entered her Zip Code, and there was Leah’s face—her copper bangs, her wide cheeks, her brown eyes staring blankly from the photograph.
The essay aired details about her past that she’d long tried to suppress; by posting it on her class’s server, where anyone who Googled her name could find it, she thought she might be able to quiet the whispers, the threats, and possibly make it easier to find a job.
Her story, she warned, “is not a nice one, but hopefully it will have a happy ending.”Du Buc had grown up in Howell, Michigan, a small town of berry and melon farmers. She had earned straight A’s, written for the school newspaper, led Students Against Driving Drunk (she voted to change the name to Students Against Destructive Decisions, she says, to stress that “there are lots of bad decisions that can get you killed”), and performed in “Grease” and “Once Upon a Mattress,” while working part time as a cashier at Mary’s Fabulous Chicken & Fish.
“High school was bliss for me,” Du Buc said recently.
“I tried not to dwell on the stuff that wasn’t good.” But, as she was about to start her freshman year at Western Michigan University, she got a call from a close childhood friend, Victoria, who asked, “Did you know you’re on the public sex-offender registry?
He has counselled more than a hundred youths who are on public registries, some as young as nine.
He says that their experiences routinely mirror his own: “Homelessness; getting fired from jobs; taking jobs below minimum wage, with predatory employers; not being able to provide for your kids; losing your kids; relationship problems; deep inner problems connecting with people; deep depression and hopelessness; this fear of your own name; the terror of being Googled.” [cartoon id="a19772"]Often, juvenile defendants aren’t seen as juveniles before the law.
Her name, weight, and height were listed; so was the address where she’d grown up, playing beneath tall pines and selling five-cent rocks that she’d painted with nail polish.
Something Du Buc had done at the age of ten had caught up with her.