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.