and assist families and communities to address and prevent the exploitation of children, by
putting online and in-person safety information in the hands of every man, woman, and child.”75
The first federal regulation creating registries of known sexual predators is named after
Jacob Wetterling.76 In 1994, Congress passed the Federal Violent Crime Control and Law
Enforcement Act, otherwise known as the Jacob Wetterling Act.77 This law required states to
create registries of offenders who committed sexually-violent offenses or sexually-violent
offenses against children, and to establish registration requirements for these types of offenders.78
States that did not comply with the requirements of the Jacob Wetterling Act faced losing ten
percent of one source of their federal crime budget funding.79 Congress intended for law
enforcement agencies to use these registries to track the whereabouts of known sex offenders and
quickly apprehend suspected perpetrators of sexual crimes.80 Who is able to access this
registration information, however, varies from state to state.81
The Jacob Wetterling Act defined a “predator,” or someone who must register with the
community, as someone who commits an act “directed at a stranger, or a person with whom a
relationship has been established or promoted for the primary purpose of victimization.”82 In
keeping with that definition, many states excluded family members or close friends from the
definition of a “sexual predator,” while creating their sexual offender registration protocols.83 The
rationale behind this decision was that family members who were abusive were less of a threat to
the general public.84 This legislative decision reflects the reactionary nature of these laws and the
legislators’ limited understanding of the actual problem of child sex abuse, which primarily
occurs between family members and acquaintances.85
B. Megan’s Law
In July of 1994 in Hamilton Township, New Jersey, seven-year-old Megan Kanka’s
neighbor lured her into his home with the promise of a puppy.86 The neighbor brutally sexually
assaulted Megan inside his home before murdering her.87 The perpetrator was a twice-convicted
child sexual abuser who lived across the street from Megan in a house with four other sex
offenders.88 Because there was no community notification of known sex offenders, Megan’s
75 Wilson, supra note 7, at 515; Jacob Wetterling Resource Center, GUNDERSON NAT’L CHILD PROTECTION TRAINING CTR.,
http://www.gundersenhealth.org/ncptc/jacob-wetterling-resource-center (last visited Apr. 21, 2014).
76 Prescott & Rockoff, supra note 7; Wilson, supra note 7, at 515.
77 Prescott & Rockoff, supra note 7; Wilson, supra note 7, at 515.
78 Wilson, supra note 7, at 515–16; ZILNEY & ZILNEY, supra note 58, at 86; Terry & Ackerman, supra note 54, at 79.
79 Megan’s Law and the Adam Walsh Protection Act, PARENTS FORMEGAN’SLAW&CRIMEVICTIMSCENTER,
http://www.parentsformeganslaw.org/public/meganFederal.html (last visited Mar. 13, 2014) (noting that the ten-percent reduction
would be removed from grant funding under the Edward Byrne Memorial State and Local Law Enforcement Assistance Program,
which allocates federal funding to states for purposes of “improving functioning of the criminal justice system with an emphasis on
violent crime and serious offenders”); ZILNEY & ZILNEY, supra note 58, at 86; Terry & Ackerman, supra note 54, at 79.
80 Prescott & Rockoff, supra note 7; Wilson, supra note 7, at 515.
81 ZILNEY & ZILNEY, supra note 58, at 86.
85 Id.; Jill Levenson, Sex Offender Residence Restrictions, in SEX OFFENDER LAWS: FAILED POLICIES, NEW DIRECTIONS 275 (Richard
G. Wright ed., 2009) (noting that thirty-four percent of child abuse victims are abused by family members and fifty-nine percent are
abused by close acquaintances); HAMILTON, supra note 4, at 10 (noting that eighty percent of girl survivors and sixty percent of boy
survivors were abused by someone they know). Abusers range from close relatives, to family friends, teachers, doctors, or religious
86 Wilson, supra note 7, at 516; Megan’s Law and the Adam Walsh Protection Act, supra note 79.
87 Megan’s Law and the Adam Walsh Protection Act, supra note 79.