In this article, I refer to sex offenders in the masculine he, him, his. This is for two reasons; most sex offenders, by a very large margin, are male; and it makes the writing of the article easier. The reader needs to know that everything I am writing applies also to female sex offenders, who make up approximately two per cent of the sex offender population in America.
As I sit here watching a certain newsrag program on a certain cable news channel, I hear an obnoxious woman start quoting statistics about sex offenders that are appalling! It makes me think to myself, “If they are so dangerous, why do we let them back on the streets? Why don’t we just lock them up for life? If it is true that almost all sex offenders re-offend, we should never let them out of prison again.” And this line of thought led me to my favorite question: Why are we doing it?
When the woman on the news show started spouting her statistics, I wrote them down to verify them. Here were the claims that were made: 90% of sex offenders will re-offend. 90% of sex offenders will commit a new sex crime within 3 years. Sex offenders cannot be treated. All child molesters are pedophiles. The only treatment that works for sex offenders is execution.
I immediately suspected there was some sort of conspiracy here. I thought for sure that the government was hiding something from us and releasing sex offenders back into the population for some nefarious purpose. I was determined to get to the bottom of it and report this information to you, the public.
Surprisingly, I did find a conspiracy after all. But it isn’t the one you think. The conspirators turned out to be news media. Newspapers, cable networks, magazines and even public networks. It seems that it is more expedient to MAKE UP the news than report on the truth. The media is responsible in a very large part for the myths and misconceptions surrounding these individuals. By misreporting information over the years, the media has been able to instill enough fear into our society that the mere mention of the term sex offender on their network increases ratings. Increased ratings mean more advertising dollars. Since we are willing and actually desire to hate sex offenders, we are also responsible for perpetuating these myths.
Sex offenders are amongst the worst of the worst of our society. We love to hate them. I will not make any excuse for them such as “they are misunderstood individuals,” or they are a “product of their society.” They aren’t. They are perverts with mental deficiencies who have chosen to commit crimes of the most despicable nature. They are sick people who need treatment, but not in the way a cancer patient is sick. Rather, they are sick in the way a drug addict or alcoholic is sick.
The myths and misconceptions surrounding sex offenders usually result in a stereotype of a grizzled old man hiding behind a bush and drooling over children in a park and offering a pocketful of candy (as in, “I have some candy in my pocket little girl, just reach in and grab some.”) The truth is, this kind of offender is very rare; most child victims will be molested in their own home or in the home of a trusted friend or relative. Most rape victims will be assaulted by a spouse or trusted friend. But, by perpetuating the myths, the media and general public can make themselves feel better about demanding the worst types of vengeance. It is easier to punish the stranger than the person we know and love. In doing this, according to the Hindman Foundation, a nationally recognized leader in the treatment of sex abuse victims, “many problems emerge with the detection, prosecution and management of sex offenders.”
So, let’s discuss the FACTS about sex offenders.
According to the Bureau of Justice, “Sex offenders were less likely than non-sex offenders to be rearrested for any offense: 43 percent of sex offenders versus 68 percent of non-sex offenders.” Remember, the loud-mouthed news reporter said it was 90%. Where did she get this fact? The truth is, she made it up. I found absolutely no corroborating evidence anywhere to support her claim. In fact, the most reputable agencies who track these statistics don’t even support the claim that “most” sex offenders will re-offend.
The Bureau of Justice further reports that, “Within 3 years of release, 2.5% of released rapists were rearrested for another rape.” Additionally, when it comes to child victimizers, they report that “An estimated 3.3%… were rearrested for another sex crime against a child within 3 years of release from prison.”
I came across one website of a fear monger who claimed that 25% of sex offenders will commit another sex offense within 15 years. When I contacted the owner of that site requesting that he tell me how he came up with that information he sent me back a reply which basically said that he made the number up after he read some reports and didn’t like their results.
Remember, the Bureau of Justice numbers are based on actual arrests, convictions, releases, re-arrests and new convictions in all 50 States.
Another reputable agency, the Center for Sex Offender Management, reports a bit differently, though they do not disclose how they arrived at their numbers. According to them, “child molesters had a 13% reconviction rate for sexual offenses and a 37% reconviction rate for new, non-sex offenses over a five year period” and “rapists had a 19% reconviction rate for sexual offenses and a 46% reconviction rate for new, non-sexual offenses over a five year period.”
Additionally they report, “Another study found reconviction rates for child molesters to be 20% and for rapists to be approximately 23% (Quinsey, Rice, and Harris, 1995).” It should be noted that these numbers are based on a considerably smaller control number than the BoJ. It doesn’t make their results any less valid, but it is important to put the information in perspective.
If the CSOM studies are based on a sampling of records, then they have to face the possibility that the records that were handed over to them were not random but rather, designed to meet some person?s political ambitions. Further, if they are based on local records, then those results are only good for a small area of the country. Since they did not disclose how they arrived at their results, we have no way of knowing how to understand their study. But it should be noted that they report on their website that sexually based offenses are typically underreported which could explain why their numbers are a bit higher than the BoJ’s. Also, the BoJ statistics are based on actual convictions and do not take into consideration charges dropped due to plea bargains and such. This may also contribute to the slightly higher numbers from CSOM.
Regardless of which numbers you believe, the fact still remains that sex offenders are vastly less likely to re-offend than any other criminal. Myth: the recidivism rate amongst sex offenders is 90%… BUSTED! (Myth: certain loud mouthed newsrag hosts make up statistics in order to increase ratings?CONFIRMED!)
Next we need to examine the claim that sex offenders cannot be successfully treated. I was recently watching an episode of Law and Order, Special Victim’s Unit where Ice T’s character stated that sex offenders could not be treated because they cannot learn to control their urges. (Please don’t hold it against Ice T. He is only an actor who was reciting lines that writers provided him. You can hold it against the writers for not verifying their facts.) Again, the statement made by that character and the statement made by Ms. Blonde Ambition are not supported by the facts. CSOM reports:
“Treatment programs can contribute to community safety because those who attend and cooperate with program conditions are less likely to re-offend than those who reject intervention.” Again, it is important to read what was really said here. I highlighted those words for a reason. The offender must be compliant with treatment conditions in order for the treatment to be effective. If the offender is non-cooperative, the risk of re-offense increases by as much as eight per cent as will be discussed below.
CSOM, when discussing treatment options for offenders, tells us that: “The majority of sex offender treatment programs in the United States and Canada now use a combination of cognitive-behavioral treatment and relapse prevention (designed to help sex offenders maintain behavioral changes by anticipating and coping with the problem of relapse). Offense specific treatment modalities generally involve group and/or individual therapy focused on victimization awareness and empathy training, cognitive restructuring, learning about the sexual abuse cycle, relapse prevention planning, anger management and assertiveness training, social and interpersonal skills development, and changing deviant sexual arousal patterns.”
A unique form of treatment that has yielded tremendous results over the past couple of decades is called ?restitution therapy? which requires the perpetrator to take responsibility for his actions and to, for lack of a better term, ?submit? to the victim. In doing this, the perpetrator relinquishes power and returns it to the victim. As will be discussed briefly later, this is very good for the victim?s treatment and recovery process.
They go on to say, “Different types of offenders typically respond to different treatment methods with varying rates of success. Treatment effectiveness is often related to multiple factors, including:
1- the type of sexual offender (e.g., incest offender or rapist);
2- the treatment model being used (e.g., cognitive-behavioral, relapse prevention, psycho-educational, psycho-dynamic, or pharmacological);
3- the treatment modalities being used; and
4- related interventions involved in probation and parole community supervision.
Several studies present optimistic conclusions about the effectiveness of treatment programs that are empirically based, offense-specific, and comprehensive (Lieb, Quinsey, and Berliner, 1998). The only meta-analysis of treatment outcome studies to date has found a small, yet significant treatment effect an 8% reduction in the recidivism rate for offenders who participated in treatment (Hall, 1995). Research also demonstrates that sex offenders who fail to complete treatment programs are at increased risk for both sexual and general recidivism (Hanson and Bussiere, 1998).”
In other words, sex offenders are less likely to re-offend than other criminals and if they are amenable to treatment they are even less likely than non-treated sex offenders to re-offend. Myth: Sex offender treatment does not work. The only treatment for sex offenders is execution: BUSTED! But in fairness, I must say it is busted with caveats.
Not all sex offenders are willing to undergo treatment. Reasons for this range from just plain denial that they have a problem to the fact that it is incredibly uncomfortable and difficult to discuss the root causes of the criminal behavior. Since it appears that over 98% of sex offenders are male, it makes sense that they would be unwilling to discuss these issues. In our culture and society, we tend to raise our boys in a manner that reinforces this behavior. With our understanding of human psychology increasing yearly, this cultural behavior is slowly changing.
We are finally beginning to understand that it is okay to let our boys cry and it is okay to discuss emotions and sex. This is a recent development and the more conservative elements in our society are still against such things. Sex is at the root of their anxieties. We have made sex such a taboo subject for so long, we can no longer bear to discuss this with our children. Ironically, these same people who will not discuss sex with their children are also at the forefront of the battle to keep sexual education out of our public schools. It seems that they just don’t want anyone to know about sex. It seems that conservative elements are trying to push their ideal that sex is somehow evil or solely for the purpose of reproduction and should not, under any circumstances, be enjoyed by those participating in such activity. And then we wonder why people are developing sexually deviant behavior.
Sex offenders have the ability to cross taboo boundaries that ordinary people seem to be unable to cross. It is the opinion of many sex offender treatment providers that the reason this is possible is because of the fact that we don’t discuss emotions, sexual respect and such with our young children. It seems that most sex offenders come from these kinds of conservative households. Again, from the category of irony, most sex offenders report that they were NOT molested as a child which is commonly thought by the general public. It also seems that most children who are sexually molested do not grow up to be sexual predators or sexual criminals as is also commonly thought by the general public.
So why are they able to cross those taboo boundaries that ordinary (notice that I do not use the word “normal”) people don’t? Theories abound about this. For some, it is to satisfy their need for power. Others get a thrill out of crossing those boundaries in the same way that a person gets a thrill from jumping out of an airplane. Still, others believe they have a religious right to engage in certain activities, such as incest. There are a host of other reasons, but I list these three as examples of the workings of the sex offender mind.
Sex offenders come in a variety of flavors. They are typically classified in the following categories: power rapists, indiscriminate child molesters, pedophiles, all others (this includes incest related crimes, prostitution, pimping, voyeurism/exhibitionism, etc.) It is interesting to note that the power rapists and the indiscriminate child molesters have the lowest recidivism rates (according to the BoJ website, it is 2.5% for rapists and 3.3% for child victimizers) leaving one to question the conventional wisdom about incarceration vs. treatment. With those statistics in mind, it means that the bulk of the sex offenders who re-offend are the pimps and prostitutes! With everyone up in arms about sex offense incarceration terms not being long enough for repeat offenders, why, then, are these offenders not receiving longer prison sentences?
Additionally, the question of registration must be revisited. It is obvious by the statistics that it is not the sex offenders we need to worry about. Once they are caught and undergo treatment, it is highly unlikely they are going to re-offend. However, other criminals, who are much more likely to re-offend, should be the ones registering. The other side of the coin is that as long as the sex offender’s whereabouts is known, it helps his neighbors and the supervision officials to keep tabs on him increasing the chances of his successful rehabilitation.
Pedophiles are a unique subset of sex offenders. Most people believe that any child molester is a pedophile. That is not the case. A pedophile is one who has a mental disorder that causes him to become sexually aroused ONLY to primary sexual characteristics. Primary sexual characteristics are those of a young child or (in the case of a hebophile) a pubescent child. This means they display the undeveloped or developing sexual characteristics such as lack of body hair, undeveloped penis, vagina or breasts, or, in the case of the developing adolescent, very little in the way of pubic hair, developing breasts, vagina or penis. Myth: All child molesters are pedophiles?BUSTED.
An indiscriminate child molester is different from the pedophile in that the child molester is aroused by both the secondary sexual characteristics of an adult, that is, developed sexual organs and mature body, as well as the primary sexual characteristics of the child or pubescent adolescent.
The reason that the distinction is important is that indiscriminate child molesters can be treated successfully and, as yet, there is no means of effective treatment for pedophiles. Unfortunately, there is no known method for increasing sexual arousal to secondary sexual characteristics. The best that can be done for the pedophile is to decrease his sexual arousal to children through the use of negative behavioral modification. This means that they expose the pedophile to audio and visual stimulation and allow him to become aroused. When he becomes aroused they cause some sort of negative thing to happen to cause his mind to associate the arousal with a negative action. For example, they may shoot a blast of ammonia up his nose at the moment he begins to become aroused. This is an extremely unpleasant experience, so the brain begins, over time, to associate deviant arousal to children with the negative experience of ammonia being forced up his nose. This will lead to a decrease in arousal to children.
Once this has been achieved, cognitive modification and restitution therapy can then take place allowing the pedophile to learn to control his impulses to react to children. The combination is usually sufficient to give the pedophile all the tools he needs to prevent himself from acting out on the deviant behavior again. It should be noted that pedophilia is an extremely rare condition. It occurs in less than 1% of all child molesters. The popular media use of the word to describe all child molesters is a deliberate misuse of the term.
Child molesters and power rapists can be treated effectively through the use of cognitive restructuring, negative behavior modification, intensive self therapy, and, of course, by being made to take responsibility for their actions, also known as restitution therapy.
There is a pervasive fear amongst the population that the convicted sex offender may move in next door. This irrational fear is based upon the popular myths perpetrated by the media. The truth is that the known sex offender is not the one of whom you need be afraid; you need to be afraid of the one you don’t know about. So who are they?
Typically, the sex offender works in a construction or industrial related job in a blue collar capacity. He is someone whom you know well, say a family member, neighbor or close friend. Usually it will be said of him that he was the last person one would have suspected of such behavior. He will be a church-goer, model citizen and pillar of the community.
This is not the case with all sex offenders, just the vast majority of them. Just because you know of a construction worker or factory worker who happens to be a nice guy and attends church and PTA meetings doesn’t mean he is a sex offender. Remember, most people are exactly what they seem to be. The difference is that the sex offender has to pretend to be like everyone else because he knows he is not.
That guy lurking behind the bushes with a pocketful of candy drooling over children should also be suspected. Don’t think that just because it is unlikely that he is a sex offender that he isn’t. What I am telling you is that you are very unlikely to come across someone of that type. If you fear for the safety of a child, err on the side of caution and call the police. I usually don’t advocate the calling of authorities before you have taken preventative measures of your own first, but in this case, you could be preventing a child from being molested. You could be forcing a sex offender to receive the treatment he needs to be a productive and law abiding citizen. In this case, I support using the authorities.
The next question is, how should they be punished? Many say that since they are sentencing their victims to a lifetime of pain and misery, the offender should spend their life without their freedom. On the surface, this sounds reasonable. But when we dig deeper, we see that the reasoning is not valid. In most cases of rape or molestation, it usually takes the between three and five years of therapy and hard work to overcome the feelings of powerlessness and emptiness they experience. If they are motivated to recover from their experience, and they are willing to confront their victimizer, they can usually fully recover. (Yes, I said, face their victimizer. Therapists universally agree that this is an integral step, usually toward the end of their therapy, which should be taken under very controlled circumstances. Maybe I will write an article about this later as it is a fascinating subject. In essence, the victimizer has the power taken from him by the victim thus placing the power back where it belongs.)
I know that it sounds like I am minimizing the ability of the victim to recover. I do not intend it to seem that way. I know that there is a lot of pain and suffering involved in the recovery process. The reason I only touch on it here rather than go into depth about it is because this article is about the offenders, not the victims. I will write an article about victims another time as my research into their condition concludes. I am still gathering data.
I also know that there are people who will never recover from their trauma because trauma affects everyone differently. These cases are in the extreme minority. I understand their situation and my heart goes out to them. But the facts are still the facts. Most people recover.
With this being the case, is it right to keep the sex offender behind bars forever? If we remove our emotions from the argument and listen solely to the facts, the only answer can be “no,” not at all. This is a hard argument for me to make since the specter of this vile crime has touched my life as it has so many others. It is not easy to let go of the hurt that the perpetrator caused his victim and those of us who trusted him. But, once I do let go of the anger and pain, I can see clearly that the facts do not support my emotional status.
This is not to say that my emotions are wrong, they are not. I have the right to feel betrayed, angry and hurt. But I, like so many others, will get over it.
Back on topic, what then, becomes a fair punishment? Execution? Well, for the fear mongers, this seems to be their punishment of choice. Castration? This option makes absolutely no sense at all. Removing the testicles of a sex offender will NOT reduce the impulse. Sexual offending takes place in the brain, not the penis or the testicles. If the intention is to remove the offender’s DNA from the gene pool, then we will also have to kill any children the offender may have had, which also makes no sense, not to mention is barbaric to even consider. Chemical castration, which uses Depo-Provera to reduce the sexual urge also makes no sense for the same reason. So it seems that incarceration is the only viable alternative.
So how long should a sex offender be incarcerated?
There was a study done some 20 years ago (unfortunately, I have been unable to find it on the internet and I admit I am working solely from memory about this study) that suggested that after three years of incarceration, an inmate will either have learned his lesson or he will never learn his lesson. During the original three years, the inmate is usually in denial of his crime or is railing against the system or is involved in the appeals process. So it makes sense, then, that if it is going to take the offender that long to come to the realization that he needs to take responsibility for crime, the punishment then should be, after three years of incarceration, the real prison term should begin. If it takes an average of five years for the victim to overcome their pain and suffering, then let the perpetrator serve eight years. Three years to get the nonsense out of his system and five years for his victim.
Now, I admit that the argument is made with some emotion. Again, the facts don’t support my emotional argument. It costs far less to have a sex offender undergo treatment than it does to incarcerate him. It typically costs between $5000 and $15,000 per year to put a sex offender on an intensive supervision plan WITH treatment. Conversely, to incarcerate WITHOUT treatment, averages $22,000 per year. After the incarceration, the taxpayers then have to cough up the money for the supervision and treatment. The offender has to pick up much of this cost himself by paying a fee for supervision and by being required to pay for his treatment. But the taxpayer still has to cover some of the burden.
If the treatment option is working, why are we not discussing using that option first? Or at the very least why not be treating them while they are incarcerated?
One would think that in a country that has 20% of the worlds criminal element incarcerated, we would be trying to come up with ways to stop the cycle of violence! For example, what is being done to prevent the situation from happening in the first place? I personally know of a situation where the parents of a child were concerned that their child’s behavior put him at risk to become a sex offender. They approached a therapist about it and the therapist said that the law prohibited him from doing anything about it until AFTER the child had committed a crime!
Yes, the problem is a complex one because it raises so many issues about the right to privacy, invasion of privacy by the government, unreasonable search and seizure issues, and a host of other Constitutional issues. But, at the same time, if we can prevent one child from becoming a monster, that means that we can prevent approximately 115 victims. That’s right, 115. It has been determined that each sex offender creates an average of 115 victims before he is caught.
This subject is so full of myths and misconceptions that I could continue on for many more pages and still only scratch the surface. If this topic stirs up enough debate, maybe I will write another. For example, I have only barely touched on the fact that the media deliberately misrepresents this issue for the purpose of obtaining higher ratings. In fact, I learned that one year, not to long ago, television stations and cable stations ALL used the sex offender issue to gain ratings during Sweeps week! In some cases it worked, and in others it did not. In fact, the only program of all the ones I watch on a regular basis, that did NOT use that issue to gain ratings was Star Trek; Voyager. (That probably gives away how long ago it was that this happened.)
I cannot put the issue more succinctly than the late Jan Hindman, when she said:
“It is not enough to shed tears for those who suffer the tragedy of sexual abuse, nor will much be accomplished nurturing hatred and devising punishments for those who sexually abuse. Only by sharing knowledge, providing training, exchanging ideas, and challenging traditional beliefs and biases can we respond effectively to sexual victimization.”
I have obviously not touched on ALL the issues involved with sex offenders. My primary goal was to dispel some of the myths surrounding sex offenders. If we can begin to understand the true nature of these people, maybe we can stop living in fear. If we can learn to educate our children to be on guard for these individuals without being afraid of them, maybe we can prevent more children from becoming victims. If we can learn more about how we can help these people become responsible citizens they will stop being a drain on our society’s resources.
A new voice has arisen on the internet. A voice determined to expose the truth and reality about various events and myths that are affecting the United States and the world. His name is Iacchos Deru (pronounced YAH-kose De-ROO). Iacchos is the pseudonym of a writer, philosopher and observer who has noticed the unfortunate turn of events in the United States and around the world that threaten sanity, security and Freedom.