Over the past few decades, the horrific crimes of sex offenders have finally pulled from the shadows and into the light. Even though there is greater awareness of sexual assaults, very few still get reported, let alone their perpetrators convicted. When convicted sex offenders are released back into society they’re placed on searchable databases, subject to electronic monitoring, and are prohibited from being within a certain radius of various institutions, including schools. The levels of oversight and the stigma placed the offenders by society isn’t unwarranted, but it does raise questions about rehabilitation and reintegration into society. These are questions raised in the new documentary from the directing duo of Frida and Lasse Barkfors, Pervert Park, which documents the life for the convicted sex offenders in Florida Justice Transitions, a trailer park exclusively for sex offenders.
It’s not easy to sit through Pervert Park, as a number of the convicted sex offenders painfully speak about their past crimes. These crimes are thoroughly disgusting but these people must speak frankly about their felonious failings in order to seek the therapy they need to move forward with their lives. As they recount the details of these horrific acts, it’s impossible not to sit there and cringe while a sickening feeling rolls through your gut. If there’s one thing that seems to bond all of these people it’s the fact that most were victims of sexual abuse themselves, and they perpetrate a cycle of abuse as they enter into adulthood. That’s why the therapy sessions that the trailer park provides are so important, as they try to stop the cycle of abuse before it continues to grow.
The film does highlight a few stories of people that were more or less entrapped through internet string operations, including one twentysomething young man who received quite a bit of leniency in his sentencing. Pervert Park never really moralizes on either side of the story, allowing these people to speak for themselves without narration imposing judgement on either their actions or their sentencing. Never is the audience implored to sympathize with these people, only to empathize with their wounded selves. After all, these are humans who have done horrible things but so many are themselves victims themselves. There’s truly a moral quandary at play in the material presented before the audience, but the film always allows for the viewer to make their own judgements on what’s presented.
Running at around 75 minutes, Pervert Park is a gut-wrenching examination of a community of the ostracized. These are people who have committed unthinkable deeds, people that have inflicted pain on the vulnerable. Even when their prison sentences are over they’re still paying for their crimes, and will continue to feel the punishment for the rest of their lives. As a film, Pervert Park does a wonderful job of examining its topic and allowing the facts to speak for themselves. It’s up to the viewer to impose their own morality upon the subjects, and it’s impossible not to when hearing the details of the crimes these broken individuals have done. The biggest takeaway from Pervert Park is the cycle of abuse and the necessity of treatment and therapy as a means to understand the horrific crimes in order to break the cycle. There’s nothing pretty about Pervert Park, but rifling through the ugly details is the only way to heal.
- Overall Score
With a difficult subject matter, Pervert Park is still an illuminating examination of the cycle of abuse and the need for therapy and rehabilitation for even the most heinous of sex offenders.