Sexual predator treatment squeezes state budgets
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#1 Jun 22, 2010
Thank you for putting the spotlight on a seriously misunderstood issue, and our attempts as a society to respond to it.
This is a classic example of myth triumphing over reason.
Unfortunately, the result is that, by focusing on the myths, we are distracted from responding appropriately to the real danger of those we don't focus our attention on, but commit the vast majority of sexual offenses. It is those people, and their sex offenses, we should be focused on, but aren't, because we don't believe they could do such a thing, or that what they've done is not really serious.
The myth is that all sex offenders are the same, and that, if permitted, they will continue to prey on our children and our other loved ones.
The reality is that the vast majority of people who have committed sexual offenses (and that can be anyone) won't reoffend, if appropriate notice is taken by the legal system, and they receive appropriate consequences, eg.: a relatively short term of incarceration, probation, and outpatient treatment.
We are likely to create more risk than benefit when we overreact to the bulk of sex offenses with long prison sentences, sex offender registries, and little, inappropriate, or no treatment.
Meanwhile by lumping all sex offenders together, we are likely to end up under-reacting to the most dangerous people. Of identified sex offenders, we need to focus most of our attention on:
# 1: True pedophiles, with a sexual preference for children, and a demonstrated inability to prevent themselves from acting on that sexual preference.
# 2: Violent rapists who are more interested in acting out their aggression than in pursuing sexual gratification, but have discovered that sexualized aggression is particularly potent because sex, and its associated behaviors, are such versatile and powerful symbols in our society.
These two categories may well need long terms of incarceration and/or civil confinement, because they are very difficult to treat with thus far available methodologies.
The third category of people we need to focus our attention on as a community, and not leave to the "system" or the "experts," in part because they are the most dangerous, and, in part because only we can identify them and interrupt their aggression.
This category is comprised of those we have thus far almost totally neglected because they are the ones we would least expect.
They are hidden amongst: our fathers and mothers, our sisters and brothers, our aunts and uncles, our grandmothers and grandfathers, our children, our cousins, our neighbors, our friends, our babysitters, etc. who have by virtue of position or relationship seemingly earned our trust.
These are people who are struggling with internal pain, but often doing it silently, who are finding it difficult to meet some important needs, so that when their relationship with our loved one gives them the illusion of being able to meet that need through sexual aggression, they take the opportunity.
Sexual offenses are not about sex, they're about fulfilling needs via the vehicle of a behavior which carries powerful symbolism in our society, namely sex, which thus becomes the tool, not the objective.
Reducing sexual aggression is too important a task for it to be left to "others."
We all need to step up to the plate and take responsibility for protecting those of us who are most available and vulnerable.
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