**Trigger warning, sexually explicit details described in this review**
More than 20 years before the #MeToo movement, #MuteRKelly and the power of social media, Ron Book, a lobbyist in the state of Florida — became a crusader for sexually abused children. His crusade, happening after learning that one of his children was molested by a live-in nanny, resulted in the state and the nation’s most strict laws against some 800,000 child sex offenders.
Untouchable, a documentary written, produced and directed by David Feige, tell Ron’s story of devoting his life to ending the livelihoods of sex offenders. Not by physical death, but the death of their normalcy and everyday living.
Untouchable is an award-winning documentary that made its debut at numerous film festivals in 2016. It won the Albert Maysles New Documentary Director Award at the Tribeca Film Festival and won at the 2016 Berkshire International Film Festival.
A married father of three, Ron Book’s crusade began after learning that his daughter Lauren was sexually abused by the children’s nanny, Waldina “Wandy” Flores for six years. Lauren, now a member of the Florida Senate 32nd district and founder of the Lauren’s Kids Foundation, is also featured in Untouchable. She said the sexual and physical abuse began when she was 11-years-old. Lauren said Flores asked her to spit out her chewing gum, which Lauren didn’t, Flores put her tongue in Lauren’s mouth and removed the gum. From there Lauren was victimized by Flores, who would watch Lauren shower, sexually violated her, defecated on her and more. It’s not until Lauren is older and dating (Flores set them up to date so to throw off any suspicions about her), that through persuasion from her boyfriend, she tells a psychiatrist about the abuse. The psychiatrist tells Ron, who immediately fires Flores and puts her out of the house.
Flores is currently serving a 25-year sentence in a Florida prison for sexual battery and lewd and lascivious behavior against a child.
The first part of Untouchable follows Ron’s emotional mission to do away with child sex offenders beyond imprisonment. Because of perseverance as a lobbyist, he succeeds in helping to pass laws that range from mandatory HIV testing for sex offenders, to residency restrictions barring them from parks, schools and anywhere near children. Some of those restrictions run from 1,000 to 2,500 feet. The documentary states that these laws and other restrictions on sex offenders were passed in the majority of counties in Florida. The residency restrictions also resulted in many sex offenders becoming homeless.
Untouchable also features interviews with some sex offenders in Florida and Oklahoma. They described their lives as a living hell because of the laws. Clyde Newton served eight years for sexual battery against a child, with seven years probation. He returned to Miami, held two jobs, had a home and lived under the 1,000 feet residency restriction. Then Ron Book lobbied for a tougher residency restriction, 2,500 feet. Newton lost his home because it violated the restriction.
Newton also lost his jobs and became homeless. He ends up sleeping outdoors at a designated location known as an outdoor encampment. Newton joins 100 sexual offenders who have to report to the encampment at night from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. Any violation of any kind and the offenders return to prison. Newton makes three violations over time.
Homeless sex offenders are also a major topic in Untouchable, especially in Florida thanks to Ron Book’s crusade that gives offenders no chance of normalcy in society. It’s so bad that a group of predators have set up tents and makeshift shacks under the Julia Tuttle Causeway, which spans Miami’s Biscayne Bay. There’s even a homemade sign nearby with the name, Bookville, a jab at Ron Book, blaming him for the homeless problem. This brings as much media attention to Book than his lobbying crusade. At one point, Ron Book visits ‘Bookville’ and works to find some alternative. Nonetheless, he still considers sex offenders as ‘scum’ and ‘monsters.’
Meanwhile, Lauren has a crusade of her own through her foundation, Lauren’s Kids, advocating for sexually abused children, talking to children and families about her story and educating children on what to do if someone touches them inappropriately.
Untouchable puts a spotlight on those who are against the laws toward sex offenders. A group titled Women Against the Registry – W.A.R. This group consists of mothers, spouses, relatives of sex offenders who feel that the restricting laws against sex offenders is too harsh. There’s a scene at Lauren’s annual walk where W.A.R. does a counter protest, which seems unsuccessful as they are clearly outnumbered.
Other stories from sex offenders include Shawna of Oklahoma. Shawna is a single mother of two young children and is on the sex offender registry for life. There’s also a male sex offender who lives in a trailer park with fellow sex offenders for a specific length of time.
Untouchable is one of the most interesting and intense documentaries I’ve watched over time. I was amazed and impressed with the fire in Ron Book to fight to protect children after what his daughter went through. As passionate and angry as he was to make these laws happen, I believe this was also his way of making up for not knowing what happened to his child. While Untouchable may seem uncomfortable for people to watch — there are some trigger moments in the interviews — it should be viewed.
In today’s society, Hollywood is deemed a symbol of the #MeToo movement with Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey and others. Untouchable shows that sex offenders are nothing new in the world. Whether people like it or not, Untouchable can bring on more in-depth conversations on the pros and cons of how these laws affect families of victims and sex offenders in your own backyard.
Untouchable is produced by Blue Lawn Productions, in association with Racing Horse Productions and co-produced by MeerKat Media. It’s in theaters and available on VOD.
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Lisa D. DeNeal, of Gary, IN, is a freelance journalist, editor, and, author. Her latest novel is the romantic comedy, “Extra! Extra! Love!” Other books include, “Dead Lies,” “The Panthers Club (with Alethea Pascascio-Gordon) and, “Unflappable (with Carolyn E. Mosby).”