There Goes "Honey Boo Boo:" What's the Sex Offender Registry got to do with it?

Reality TV show “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” was recently cancelled after media outlets released photos showing members of the family profiled on the show with Mark McDaniel, who was recently released after serving 10 years for aggravated child molestation and is listed on Georgia's sex offender registry. Do you have questions about what the sex offender registry is and how it impacts this situation?

Although Sexual Trauma Services of the Midlands is not involved in this case, we do provide services to many children who have experienced similar instances of sexual abuse as well as education on issues related to sexual violence and the sex offender registry. This blog is one of two parts: part 1 discusses how common these situations are and options to respond.

What is the sex offender registry in South Carolina?

The sex offender registry in South Carolina is a public listing of individuals who have been convicted or otherwise held responsible for committing sexual offences. A full list of all crimes that may lead to sex offender registry can be viewed here, but in general crimes include any felony criminal sexual conduct charge involving sexual battery (a legal term indicating rape/penetration) of an adult, spouse, or child; attempted sexual battery including the use of GHB, Rohypnol, or similar substances in an attempt to commit sexual assault; and a variety of sexual crimes involving children including solicitation of sexual activity, production or sharing of pornographic images, incest, and non-penetrative molestation. Sentencing for other offenses such as indecent exposure, assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature, or kidnapping may include sex offender registry if the presiding judge feels that the crime was sexual in nature and registry is necessary to protect the public.

The primary requirement that sex offenders have is that they must keep law enforcement updated on their current residence, any property they own, and any school they attend or work at; this information will be posted to a publicly accessible registry by law enforcement. Because South Carolina’s registry is a lifetime registry, registry requirements don’t end when an offender’s probation or parole ends, but continue for the rest of their life.

What other conditions might a registered sex offender have?

Some sex offenders, depending on the type of crime they committed, may also be required to register their workplace or wear an electronic ankle monitor. Those who have been designated as Sexually Violent Predators by a psychiatric evaluation and a sentencing process may be committed for intensive mental health treatment and, when released, are required to update their photos and registry information every 90 days. Those who have been convicted of certain crimes involving children may not live within 1,000 feet of a school, park, or certain other areas where children congregate.

Offenders who were convicted of sexually abusing children may also fall under the requirements of Jessie’s Law, in which case they would wear a GPS ankle monitor and would be required to agree to a variety of conditions. These include limiting contact with children by not living near or going to places where children congregate (schools, parks, daycares), not consuming alcohol, quickly and courteously leaving any situation where a child is present, and only having contact with immediate family members under age 18 with the approval of mental health and legal professionals.

Are there differences between SC and Georgia (where the family lives) that might explain what is happening?

The offence that Mark McDaniel, the offender in this case, was convicted of is called aggravated child molestation in Georgia and is the most serious sexual offense against a child in Georgia. It typically involves a ‘split sentence’ where the offender serves part of their sentence in jail (the mandatory minimum of 10 years that McDaniel served) followed by a lengthy period of probation where the offender is required to register as a sex offender and receive mandatory counseling, and may have other conditions imposed as part of their probation.

Georgia’s Sex Offender Registration Review Board determines a ‘level’ for each offender based on the level of risk they pose to the community; one of the levels is a ‘Sexually Dangerous Predator’ level that would require electronic ankle monitoring.  South Carolina designates an offender as a Sexually Violent Predator prior to their release and they are diverted into treatment immediately upon the end of their sentence. Georgia’s code states that this designation should be made six months prior to release, but McDaniel’s listing shows that he has not yet been assigned a level.

Because McDaniel is most likely still under probation, conditions such as whether he is allowed to have contact with children would be part of the terms of his probation and would be enforced by his probation officer.  Reportedly these conditions currently only prevent him from having contact with the victims of the crime, and would not prevent contact with other children. However, the Department of Social Services does have the ability to assess whether children are in danger of harm and take action to prevent such harm.

If I am aware of a similar situation, what can I do?

One of the most important things to do is to respond in such a way that the child knows that you believe and support them, and want to get them help. Then, get them help by bringing in trained professionals: any person who is aware that a child has been abused or neglected in any way should immediately contact law enforcement to report the crime, as well as the Department of Social Services if the child’s living situation is not safe.

There are also many agencies in SC that can provide counseling and support to survivors, including child advocacy centers that exclusively serve children and rape crisis centers that serve teens, adults, and secondary survivors. Any person in need of assistance—in making reports of abuse or in seeking services—can reach Sexual Trauma Services of the Midlands through our 24 hour hotline at (803) 771-7273. Survivors of sexual violence can access free, confidential services from Sexual Trauma Services of the Midlands including crisis intervention, individual and group counseling, and personal and legal advocacy.