Part of the work I do is working with adolescent sex offenders. I get many reactions from people when I mention this part of my life, varying from awe: “Wow, that’s amazing, I’m glad you do because I couldn’t’ to disgust “they can all rot for all I care”.
I worked with aggressive assaultive girls for three years. When I first started practicing therapy that was my goal population. I wanted to work with the girls, and the more troubled the better. Looking back in self reflection this was part of my own healing. Wanting to help the parts of myself I still struggled with through my helping others. I was resistant to working with boys, but was told repeatedly that I worked better with them. When the program I worked with needed a therapist for the adolescent male sex offenders, I decided to go ahead and take the plunge. I cut my teeth working with that population as a direct care staff years earlier at the same facility and had some interest. Now, four years I love working with them.
Did you know:
- An adolescent sexual offender that receives treatment has up to a 98% likelihood of never sexually offending again? (recidivism ranges between 2% and 15%)
- That there is a very big difference between an adolescent that molests another child and a pedophile (a person sexually attracted only to children) as even most adult offenders have healthy sexual attractions to adults but need alternative skills for sexual impulses
- 30-60% of juvenile offenders exhibit learning disabilities and academic dysfunction.
- Up to 80% have a diagnosable psychiatric disorder.
- 20-50% have histories of physical abuse.
- 40-80% have histories of sexual abuse
The current culture tends toward fear mongering in relation to sexual offenders. Because of the trauma of molestation and rape, as well as the fear of the thought of that happening to us or our kids we want to shove the people who do these things as far from us as we possibly can. The media, and unfortunately even public figures such as Oprah (who initially was a strong supporter of treatment for abusers and has turned in to the leading supporter for crucifiction) continue to support the myths regarding offenders which bolster the above desire. This leads to fear based legislation that does more to make the public feel safe than to affect the actual problem or create safety. Some of the legislation actually increases the risk for offenses as it limits their ability to get treatment (among many other reasons). States such as South Carolina require life-time registration for children as young as 9 who commit an offense, even if they don’t ever offend again. The effects of this on the child (teasing and ridicule at school, bias of teachers, community hatred) are amazing, let alone the effects on the siblings (who can be victims as well) which haven’t been well researched as of yet. Imagine committing an act at the age of 11, turning your life around, but you are still required to register as a sex offender at the age of 36 – which in turns effects the communities attitudes toward you and your ability to make a living. What mistakes did you make as a kid, and can you imagine continuing to paying for them now?
I do this work because I actually love what I do. These are kids who need help, and with that help can go on to lead healthy, non-offending lives. The goal of all treatment is “No More Victims”. These kids need an advocate as well as someone to teach healthy habits and patters. This population understandably makes people uncomfortable, even practitioners. I work with both victims and offenders, working to make my corner of the world little bit better.
For more information on common myths regarding offenders and sexual offenses visit the Center for Sex Offender Management. Stay informed to stay safe.