CHARLES COUNTY, Md. (ABC7) — "I know sexual abuse, especially in children, is a topic people don't want to talk about. It is heartbreaking and painful,” said Annie Kenny, the mother of a victim who has started her own change.org petition to bring attention to needed change in state laws in Maryland.
Kenny on her change.org petition describes what happened to her family after her ex-husband was convicted of attempted sex abuse of a minor, a misdemeanor with five years of probation and a lifetime of registering as a tier-three sex offender.
“We assumed incorrectly that kept some boundaries up for the other children that he was having visitation with,” Kenny said.
ABC7 did reach out to Kenny’s ex-husband for comment but did not receive a response.
After the conviction, Kenny was told her ex-husband might be sleeping in the same bed with her minor children during custodial visits. When she went to the Charles County Sheriff's Office, she was told in Maryland it isn't a crime for a convicted child sex offender to sleep in the same bed with a minor. Only a judge could add that type of restriction during a parole hearing.
"I was really horrified to find out that it wasn't already a law. It doesn't make any sense to me,” Kenny said.
She also discovered child sex offenders finished with probation can legally contact kids through electronic devices with no parental supervision.
"Criminally there's nothing happening,” Kenny said.
Kenny's change.org petition is asking lawmakers in Maryland to create new boundaries and so far she has almost 25,000 signatures in support.
After being contacted by Kenny, Maryland Del. Matt Morgan introduced House Bill 596. Both just testified in front of lawmakers and a similar bill is in the Senate.
"Her story is very courageous. If you didn't have advocates and people bringing this to our attention it’s hard to get problems solved and things fixed,” Morgan said.
House Bill 596 gives judges the ability to match the length of a sex offender's probation with the length of time an offender has to register as a sex offender. It would give the court the ability to monitor offenders longer and add extra restrictions.
Kenny is asking for extra restrictions now but, in three years, her ex-husband's parole expires. All his restrictions vanish even though he has to register as a child sex offender until the day he dies.
“Child safety isn't something I should have to fight for personally, but I will,” Kenny said.
Kenny is working on a plan right now to make additional changes in sex offender laws across the United States.