Thursday, November 26, 2015

How Sex Offender Registration And Notification Is Dangerous To Children

That Is A Mouthful

I do apologize for the long title. And you did indeed read that correctly: Registration and notification laws put children in more danger. The end result of these laws is a huge stigma around the word "sex offender". If anyone has that label, they are automatically an outcast. It does not matter if they committed their offense as a juvenile. They are modern-day lepers. All it takes is a single accusation, or a single mistake, and someone is slapped with that label. Sure, their prison term ends. Sure, they might get probation, or a little bit of jail time. But their punishment will never, ever end. Should you feel sorry for sex offenders? I have no idea. That really is not the point.

Label

Their punishment will never end, because of the hype and stigma surrounding that label. It does not matter what one has done to earn it. Not at all. Public urination? In several states: "Sex offender". Sexting? "Sex offender". Child pornography possession and distribution- sex offender. Touched a child- sex offender. Raped a child: "Sex offender". Had consensual sex that parents did not agree with: "Sex offender". Caught with pants down in public: "Sex offender". Streaking: "Sex offender". Skinny dipping: "Sex offender". If it is considered a sex crime by the penal code, there is absolutely nothing a judge can do to prevent the label: "Sex offender". All one has to do is be charged with and convicted of a crime that triggers the registration requirement: "Sex offender".

Is that list comprehensive? Hardly. I just picked the major ones. Of it, I can identify exactly two things on it that actually pose a risk to children, and even then... it entirely depends on the circumstances. You see, most people who abuse children are known and trusted by those children. I have harped on that fact many, many times because it drives home the point: Sex offenders, for the most part, are not a risk to children. That is what the facts indicate. The Department of Justice' own statistics back that up. You can click any number of the links under "studies" on the side for verification. Offenders typically do best when they are reintegrated and get treatment, according to expert psychologists in the field.

That means that the people you think of when you think of sex offenders? The child molesters, the child rapists, the rapists, and anyone else with the "sex offender" label? The majority are not nearly as dangerous as public hype and myth lead you to believe. But do not believe me just because I say something on the internet. Ask your local officials who handle sex offenders. Ask the therapists who treat them. Ask the Department of Justice. Look up the facts for yourself. That is why this blog has so many resourced linked on the side.

Dangerous Focus

The main reason that registration is dangerous is that it puts the focus of children's safety on a list of people who are supposedly threats to children. The problem is, the people on those lists, for the most part, never repeat their sexual crimes. The sexual recidivism rate, on average, is 11.5%. The general recidivism rate, for any crime that a sex offender is re-arrested for, is 33.2%. They get caught for not registering. For probation violations, like viewing pornography or being too close to a school. For owning a firearm (you sign on to a law enforcement hit list and then try to feel safe about it when it gets put on the internet). The majority if the time sex offenders reoffend, that is what their crime is. Not nabbing some kid off the street. Not molesting a child. For petty rebellious behavior against the authorities.

What happens when law enforcement has to weed through a huge list to find the 11.5% on it that are actually dangerous? What happens when the community is told that everyone on it is a huge safety risk, but only a minority are? Are children safer? Let me ask you yet another question: Say you are playing dodgeball... wearing a blindfold... will you be able to avoid the balls coming your way?

Disruptive To Offenders, Increasing Risk

You see, registration is disruptive to the registrant's life, in and of itself. It is not just a list that law enforcement use to investigate new crime (95% of which is committed by first-time offenders) Law enforcement can show up, whenever, to do 'compliance checks' to make sure you are where you should be. I have heard stories of cops showing up to workplaces to ask if Jimmy works here, because he is a sex offender and has to register. Of cops announcing to a waiting room full of people, "Sir, here is your predatory offender form." I have had police at our door three times already.

Think of the time it takes these officers to conduct their checks and waste their time making sure I am doing what I am supposed to be doing, when the statistics say I am already not likely to commit another sex crime. That is time they could be spending doing other, more important things. Like busting the morons who text and drive, or the people that shoot at protesters, or investigating the people in our communities we know and trust, but are actually abusing children.

The registry, the part that is only visible to law enforcement- is that much of a waste. Community notification, which is the part that most people think of- is far more harmful. You see, notification requires certain offenders to have their basic information- name, address, workplace, conviction- up on the internet and in the community for anyone at all to see. Oh, sure, there is a little disclaimer that the information cannot be used to stalk, harass, threaten, or harm the offenders listed (because you know, everyone reads and follows the terms of service on a website, right?). But there have been many instances of just that happening. People lose their jobs and cannot get employment because of notification laws. There are groups who think they are doing a service to the public by announcing who did what. Patch.com is notorious for that.

How can an offender rebuild their lives in a stable, supportive, and caring community with all of that going on? The current system is set up for offenders to fail, and for those struggling with any kind of sexually deviant attraction, they will want to keep it to themselves for fear of it being found out and being slapped with a label as if you can become a sex offender just because you are attracted to children (we do not police thought crimes yet, this is not Minority Report).

Not to mention that there are these mandatory reporting laws, that are supposed to result in increased reporting of sex crimes. What it really means is that the single mother who knows her 14-year-old son is abusing her 5-year-old son will never talk to anyone, for fear her son will go to jail. This means that the sons do not get any help. It means that the college student who knows they are attracted to children does not get help, because he knows that the therapist could report them to the police. And maybe he goes on to sexually abuse a child, or several, because he has no idea where to ask for help.

The Point

What it all boils down to is this: The laws create a stigma, the stigma creates an unsafe environment for getting help with any kind of sexual struggle, and then someone offends and the laws become active for them. And the American public believes that because they have the label with so much stigma, because they are 'monitored' by law enforcement, that they are safe in their homes. America believes that sex offenders are responsible for sex crime- when it is the Average Joe who commits the sex crime and then becomes a sex offender, not a sex offender who commits a sex crime. Not only is it a false sense of security, not only is it something all politicians refuse to touch in any rational, fact-driven manner, it actively pushes people away from the very help that could lead them to never committing any crime in the first place and managing their sexual thoughts.

For every one child that comes forward to report sexual abuse, another eight never will. And for every sex offender on a registry, there are many more who have committed sex crimes that will never be put on that list and we will remain unaware of them. And the list we have only distracts us from who the real threats to public safety are, the repeat offenders.

Our system of punishing people who get caught enables child sex abuse to happen by forcing the issues further into secrecy.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Warning Signs In Potential Abusers

A potential abuser is someone who either may be abusing a child, or may be at risk for abusing a child, but you do not yet know one way or the other. I got the inspiration for this post from Stop It Now, so, of course, I am borrowing some of their information and questions. As always, I come up with my own answers based on their ideas. This is a list of things to watch for in any adults who work with children, based on my own experience with abuse. This list is in no particular order, and any one of these things can mean nothing. 

The List

  1. Evidences cognitive distortions
    1.  A cognitive distortion is essentially a belief or thought process that does not add up. These are typically thoughts, but can be evidenced by something someone says or does. This feeds more into gut feeling: That someone says or does things that just seem off. One example might be someone who makes arguments that are worded unusually or have conclusions that are at odds with the overall argument. Things that they say or do just do not follow.
  2.  Ignoring Boundaries
    1. This may seem self-explanatory, but sometimes people are just unable to respect someone else’s wishes. They may violate social boundaries, like doing things that are socially unacceptable. They may violate emotional boundaries, like saying things to hurt other people and not seeming to care that they are causing emotional pain. They may violate physical boundaries, like touching, slapping, or poking when someone is telling them not to.
  3. Ignoring A Child’s Wishes
    1. Like the first behavior, but for children. The person may hug, tickle, kiss, roughhouse, hold, or touch a child when the child says they do not want to. Disrespecting a child’s wishes can be a way of testing the child’s boundaries to desensitize the child to other boundary-crossing behaviors or sexual behaviors.
  4. Refusing To Let Children Set Or Keep Boundaries
    1. Similar to ignoring a child’s wishes, but this can be done in a way that seems innocent (Joe, you will hurt my feelings if you don’t give me a hug and kiss) or in ways that are teasing, belittling, or bullying a child when the child tries to assert their boundaries.
  5. Using A Child For Emotional Support
    1. Children are not capable of handling adult concerns, and an adult who tries to sooth their frustrations or concerns by sharing them with a child may be having difficulty with something that is going on in their life. Normally, these concerns are issues that would ordinarily be shared with adults like personal, financial, confidential, or other kinds of activities and concerns that seem odd to share with a child.
  6. Using A Child For Physical Comfort
    1. This may be as seemingly innocent as requiring hugs from children to “get through a rough spot”, or snuggling with a child. It could also be something more upsetting, like having the child give massages, demanding kisses, or other odd behavior.
  7. Situational Obliviousness
    1. Sometimes, the person may say or do things that do not fit the situation (and not for comedy’s sake). They may say something that is insulting to others and not realize it, or ignores the social cues in a situation. A common thought might be, “They’re just not getting it.”
  8. Using Sexual Language Around Children
    1. This can take many forms, like telling a dirty joke when children are around, saying something that would be considered flirting if it were an adult being spoken to, or sharing a personal sexual issue with a child. This can also be pointing out sexual images to children.
  9. Secrets And Secretive Behavior
    1. This can also take many forms. Some examples might be sharing a game, sexual material, drugs, or alcohol with a child and asking them not to tell anyone about it. This can also be someone who texts, calls, emails, chats, or spends an excessive amount of one-on-one time with a child. Red flag words might be “Hush, that’s our little secret,” or “That’s our private time, no one needs to know about that.”
  10. Making Excuses For No Apparent Reason
    1. This usually comes with your reaction of, “Dude, you don’t have to justify yourself to me, I get it.” Or, something like, “Yeah, you did it, you know you did it, just apologize already.” Someone who justifies their behavior constantly, or defends choices that are clearly harmful to other people, or outright denies that something was harmful at all would fall under this category.
  11. Insisting On Alone Time With A Child
    1. Seeking time alone with a child may be natural, healthy thing within a family, but if someone inside or outside the family insists on being alone with a particular child, this can be cause for concern. Unusual amounts of time alone, unusual interest in a particular child, or that the time alone is uninterrupted or uninterruptible are also causes for concern. Another aspect of this is spending lots of time with children rather than adults.
  12. Drug Or Alcohol Abuse
    1. Many people do inappropriate things under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and while they are responsible for their behavior regardless, drug or alcohol use can be a sign that someone is unable to cope with the stresses of daily life. This is a warning behavior that may need an intervention at the direction of a professional trained in chemical dependency.
  13. Being Interested In A Child’s Sexuality
    1. This goes beyond simple concern that one might have for a child’s well-being, like inquiring about who a child likes or directing them to resources if they are struggling with particular issues. Concerning behaviors might be someone who interrupts a child’s dates with the child’s peer, interfering when the child dates others, or talking about the child’s body and how attractive they look. Behavior would look like jealousy from an adult interested in another adult, but is directed towards a child.
  14. Disrespecting Others’ Privacy
    1. This could be obvious, such as walking in on children or others when they are using the bathroom, but may be less obvious like peeking when no one appears to be watching or insisting on helping a child bathe or clothe themselves.
  15. Frequently Ignoring A Child’s Inappropriate Behaviors
    1. The person might turn a blind eye to a child’s behaviors when those behaviors are clearly problematic, or they might even encourage these behaviors. Allowing a child to violate other children’s boundaries, encouraging a child to be sexual with other children, or allowing a child to view pornography are also examples of ignoring inappropriate behaviors.
  16. Appearing To Be An Ideal Role Model
    1. Some behaviors might be giving gifts to children, babysitting for free, giving children money, going on special alone trips with children, and overall appearing to be “too good to be true”.
Debrief

Notice how most of these connect in some way to your gut reactions. Most of the time, we see something that is off and justify it. In fact, when we are driving, we are taught to do this: Oh, they must be late for work. But if you are noticing things that do not seem right, write them down. Make a list. 

You are not writing this list and looking at these warning signs so you can catch a child molester red-handed. That is the job of the police, teachers, and social workers. You are looking at this list because you are concerned, and you want to make sure everything is alright. 

How can you talk with someone you know and trust about the possibility that they are sexually attracted to children, or that they may be abusing children? Where do you start? Stop It Now has advice on that too. I also have my own suggestions for starting a conversation, and why. Stop It Now also has a hotline you can call (1-888-773-8368, M-F, 9-6 EST). 

How To Talk About It

You must start the conversation by voicing what you are seeing, and that you are concerned about them. Above anything else, they need to know that you care and you want the best for them. They need to hear that they are not alone, and that you want to help them. Minimize any aspect about child safety and emphasize that the conversation is about protecting them, period, end of sentence. Not protecting them from abuse. Not protecting them from themselves. Not protecting their favorite child. All of that may be true, but what they need is that you are there for them. If they hear that you are concerned about them hurting a child, it will end the conversation and they will not talk to you. It will immediately make you an unsafe person to talk to.

If they are dealing with attractions to children, they may, as I did, tell themselves that no one can understand them and no one will care if they knew the truth. They need that belief challenged, and you can do that by telling them, repeatedly if necessary, that you care about them. They need support, not suspicion and judgment.

Example

If I were to write to someone I think might be dealing with attractions to children, I would write the following:


I need to talk with you. I have seen some things that I am not sure I understand, and I want to ask you about. I care about you, and I want you to know that will not change no matter what. It feels like something might be bothering you, and I want you to know I am here to help you with whatever that might be, if anything. It does not matter what the subject is, I promise to listen and hear you out.

What Is Primary Prevention?

Definition

Primary prevention is a term used by the ATSA (Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers) to describe prevention that results in a person at-risk for sexually abusing a child getting help before the act can occur. Okay, I answered the question, end of blog post, right? Not quite.

Distinction

Primary prevention, at its core, is different from any other prevention method currently in use. The most popular method of child abuse prevention is currently Erin's Law (website and brief biography). This prevention method involves educating children about good/bad touch, the difference between a secret and a surprise, and who to tell if someone is abusing them. In other words, the law requires teachers and educators to be aware of the above-mentioned education and teach it in an age-appropriate way to children. It also requires that parents and guardians be given information about warning signs for abuse, and resource information for victims and their families

The difference is that the expectation that children- yes, children- put this education to use, and tell a trusted adult who can intervene and report if abuse happens. It places the burden of telling on and stopping the abuse onto the child, and identifying the abuse on an adult's end once the abuse has already occurred. This method relies on being able to spot the abuse after it happens.

What Parents Are Told

Most recommendations for parents include this same information: Talk with your child, learn the warning signs, tell children the differences between what is appropriate and not appropriate, know who to trust, etc. Only recently has it become common for parenting sites and advice columns to teach the warning signs of a potential abuser. The biggest recommendation for parents, of course, is to know where registered offenders are in their area. In some cases, teachers and parents are taught that sex offenders are the people who abuse children. Not only do known/registered sex offenders make up a very low percentage of sex abuse crime, only 10% of abuse victims actually report it. Part of current prevention focuses on ensuring that children will report abuse when it happens.

Why Current Prevention Fails

All of the prevention methods discussed above are great for building a child up. It is excellent to teach a child boundaries, as Erin's Law does, because it means they will be more mentally healthy and able to stand up for themselves. I am far from convinced that this actually leads to children being able to fight off a would-be abuser. In the words of Stop It Now, "Children cannot be responsible to determine what is abusive or inappropriate." These prevention methods fail at what they are designed to do: Prevent harm from coming to children. What they do accomplish is stopping that harm where it does occur. While there is certainly value in stopping existing abuse, calling it prevention is neither accurate or wise.

Challenges to Primary Prevention

Primary prevention is a great idea: Child abuse, frankly, sucks. Children should have the right to live abuse-free lives. However, practically making primary prevention happen is extremely difficult for several reasons. The current attitudes towards sexual offenders have also been directed at and felt by true pedophiles- those with attractions to children, not just those who have harmed a child. Most sex offenders who are caught are being caught for the first time. The majority are not repeat offenders, yet parents are still being told and the government is still perpetuating the idea that sex offenders, because they are sex offenders, are dangerous to children. Even the 19-year-old sex offender who had consensual sex with a 14-year-old, someone viewing sex abuse images, or the guy that was caught urinating behind a bush.

The severe attitudes towards sexual offenders have been well-documented. Many justices have struck down residency requirements of sex offenders, and many states and cities are having discussions about how helpful it is to require all offenders in their area to be a certain distance away from schools, parks, and child care facilities. Many believe that by punishing sexual offenders, a deterrent for sexual offenses is created. However, this relies on victims in order to work. The idea behind prevention is to reduce victims.

These attitudes make it extremely difficult for anyone to seek out help, even if they want it and are concerned by their thoughts. The risk of being exposed is extremely high, and the fear of facing the attitudes towards sex offenders makes it very unlikely that someone with attractions to children or concerns about their sexual thoughts will get help.

There are also many myths regarding sex offenders that prevent otherwise rational people to concluding that help is possible for people with deviant sexual thoughts or attractions. One example the idea that all sex offenders are psychopaths with no empathy (I believe reading my blog you will find that I have empathy), or the idea that offenders cannot take responsibility, or that sex offenders cannot be cured (horrible way to put it). Then there are the stereotypes, like stranger danger, white vans, mustaches, and homeless people.

While Wikipedia has accurate information on the subjects, the myths and attitudes still persist. I believe that as long as these myths and attitudes exist, child abuse will remain a serious issue and continue to happen. In order for primary prevention to happen, people must come forward- on their own- for help, and in order for that to happen, education must be available in the right circles.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Arguments for Childhood Sexual Encounters

Introduction

I ran across an article today with a very interesting comment from a "Vernon D". Here, I will address the single response to that article. It is the response, more than the article, that has me appalled. The response links to a journal article on www.shfri.net. Once you enter the site, you are taken to a site titled 'SafeHaven Foundation' and a splash screen citing the need and presence of academic freedom in the UN and US Constitution. One of the links of the main site is their 'philosophy of responsible boylove'. You can read it for yourself, but essentially their philosophy is that a relationship between a boy and older male is acceptable provided that the boy is calling the shots and is a bond of friendship.



So, about that "journal article" they posit as scientific... It strikes me that my perspective might be helpful on this sort of topic, given that I did molest a child and I did, at one time, believe that sex between an adult and child would be okay in the 'right' circumstances, eerily akin to the above philosophy.


Issues With Claims To Be Scientific


One of the main issues with the response is that it claims, and I quote, "For more discussion of "pedophilia" in a scientific journal, go to http://www.shfri.net/ppp/ppp.cgi" Also, "Addressing the broader issues beyond the allegations in this news report, it should be noted that scientific studies based on legitimate empirical evidence..." The biggest issue with the article is that they claim it to be scientific, but it is not published in a peer-reviewed journal with any sort of academic credibility. It is published in a forum for sharing logical ideas across multiple disciplines. If they are making claims to have empirical and scientific proof, then their article must cite academic sources properly and be reviewed by psychologists in the field. The article itself is framed as a logical argument, not as a peer-reviewed study. As such, it cannot be considered scientific or empirical. 


Main Points

The article essentially claims that the factual basis for trauma and victimology, as it calls it, of children following sexual encounters with adults is lacking. In other words, the trauma that children feel from sexual encounters is based not on fact- the child's feeling- but on society's beliefs regarding such encounters. The argument is that in many cases, minors have sought out sexual gratification from adults. There are numerous news articles of minors lying about their age, and the duped older person ends up on a sex offender registry. So the cases do exist.


However, the article fails to examine why those children seek out those encounters. I would argue that they have undergone other traumatic experiences, such as emotional abuse, bullying, sexual abuse, etc, and are expressing themselves to get attention in the only way they know how: By acting in a way they think is outrageous. It is a mechanism of childhood we are all familiar with. The experts who work with children have varying suggestions of how to meet the needs of these children, but never will you find an expert on children saying that it is a good idea for these children to express themselves sexually with adults to explore and satisfy their physical desires and natural curiosity.


Certainly, there are established cases where there were sexual acts between an adult and a child, and the child was not harmed. There are likewise many more cases where the same happens and the child was harmed. There are also cases where the sexual acts happen and the child's experience with police and parents are more harmful than the act itself. Many people overreact, insult the perpetrator, etc, and the child ends up more confused, more disturbed, and more harmed because the reaction to the situation was not helpful. Within this field, that is recognized fact that all of those cases exist.


Issues Of Trust And Bias


However, an adult cannot interact with a child without the child trusting the adult simply because they are an adult. Therefore, any sexual encounter will involve grooming (I have said before grooming can be voluntary or involuntary), and therefore coercion and bias. There is no way for a child to seek out a sexual encounter without the same sort of belief-interference that they are claiming is responsible for the feeling of trauma. Children would not naturally seek out sex with adults unless an adult is leading them that direction, or there is something else going on. In other words, it is very uncommon. It is also preposterous to think that the children that will not be harmed will somehow, miraculously be paired with adults who accept these boy love philosophies. It is similarly preposterous to think that anyone can identify what children will or will not be harmed by it. There is no crystal ball there. The logic does not add up.


That is what the article is arguing: The same premise of their philosophy, that boy love (older individuals having what most, including myself, consider an inappropriate relationship with young boys) is a safe and natural part of growing up. My experience with that kind of argument is that it is blatantly and obviously self-serving. It is obviously biased for a group of people with attraction towards children, particularly boys, to be arguing that sexual acts with boys is okay if the boys want it and the act is about love. I daresay the authors of the site, and of the articles, have no way of proving they have no self-interest in making the claims they do.


Conclusion


It is natural for a child to seek out curiosity-indulging experiences involving sex with other children. This is extremely common. In the vast majority of these cases involving peers, there is no harm done. It is also natural with an older child, if they have access to younger children, to experiment in a similar way, though many of these cases involve harm to the younger child (a third of child sexual abuse cases involve juvenile perpetrators). Those result in a bit more harm, because of the lack of equality. It is still mostly benign. However, when an adult enters the picture, the lack of equality becomes pronounced enough that there is no way for a child in most cases to be making relationally-oriented decisions without some sort of leading on the adult's part.


At minimum, childhood sexual encounters with adults have a very high risk of harm, not only because of the potential time lapse in the event and the harm being recognized as such, not only because of the genuine, un-interfered with feelings of the child both during and after, but because so much literature shows us the self-described feelings of the child, as a child, as an adult, etc. In victim's own words it is harmful, and those statements are made both with and without the sort of reaction cited by the article.


And because of that, their arguments fall on deaf ears to those capable of thinking logically and rationally. There is a reason most of society views sexual interactions between children and adults as taboo. Using big words and fancy writing to argue otherwise does not convince anyone capable of using logic to assess all of the facts and all of the arguments. Like it or not, they have the freedom of speech to say whatever they wish. In that much, they are correct. But it is still illegal, and for a very good reason.


I went into reading this journal article with a great deal of hesitation. There were a large number of red flags: Would I question all I have learned in treatment because of it? Would it argue me away from believing that my actions were wrong? Would it change anything? Having read it and processed it, all I feel is disgust and sadness that people can write such preposterous things and dress it up as logic. The only good thing that came from reading it is affirming just how crazy, illogical, sad, and desperate it is to believe that a sexual act with a child could be a good thing. I have been there. I would not wish that kind of twisted belief on anyone.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions, Myths, and Stereotypes

It is difficult for me to start something like a FAQ, but I will attempt to answer questions people might have about sex abuse, abusers, pedophiles, and the justice system. I confess that I am readily borrowing from Stop It Now and Virtuous Pedophiles for some of these topics, and forming my own answers based on my experiences and knowledge.
  1. What is pedophilia?
    • Pedophilia is the condition of being attracted to prepubescent children. In some cases, it is a disorder. Pedophile is a term misused by many news sources and popular culture to refer to people who abuse children. However, a pedophile is simply someone with pedophilia. Pedophiles usually deal with a number of mental health issues like depression, low self-esteem, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts because of the stigma involved in their disorder. Most pedophiles do not abuse children, and many who abuse children are not pedophiles. Best guesses indicate that about 1-2% of all men deal with pedophilia on some level. Compared to known statistics of abuse, there are more non-offending pedophiles than there are offending pedophiles. It is difficult to ballpark these figures because of the stigma and secrecy involved.
  2. What is sexual abuse?
    • This is a very basic question, but a good one. Sexual abuse is anything that is sexual in nature and harmful or traumatic to a child done by someone at least a few years older than the child. This is not limited to touch or penetration, it can also include exposure and sexual conversations with children. If the same happens among adults, it is usually considered harassment or assault, but it is abuse just the same. 
  3. Don't all offenders reoffend and continue abusing children?
    • The short answer is no. The criminal justice system indicates that anywhere from 3-36% of offenders reoffend, and the majority of those offenses are nonsexual, such as not keeping up with their sex offender registration, violating probation or parole requirements, etc. Multiple sources have varying figures, but it is more common for other types of criminals to offend than it is for sexual offenders. On average, the sexual recidivism rate of sex offenders is around 11.5-13%.
  4. Is the attraction to children a choice?
    • The short answer is no. In the same manner that same-sex attractions or gender identity questions are not voluntary, attraction to children is something that can be described as an affliction or a sexual orientation (see next question). Like any affliction, those with it have a choice on what to do about it, in thought and action. Few seek help because of the stigma. Criticizing those with such attractions is just as unhelpful as saying someone with depression should just snap out of it. 
  5. Is pedophilia curable? 
    • No. No one can make an attraction to children go away, medically or therapeutically. Pedophilia is only correlated with child sexual abuse in around 30% of cases, so there is evidence that most people with pedophilia can manage it without hurting a child. 
  6. What about child pornography? 
    • There is a common belief that "child pornography" is less harmful than child abuse, or that viewing it is. However, I vehemently disagree with this belief. Think of your most embarrassing moment. Now imagine someone taped it and posted it on the internet, and that people not only view it, they enjoy viewing it. That is what a victim of child pornography goes through, in addition to the initial abuse, and those that view it participate in their victimization, and in the victimization of others because they create a demand for it. In order for "child pornography" to be in existence, a child must be abused and filmed. Whether one is the producer or the viewer does not matter to my mind. Creating the demand creates the product just as much as the person holding the camera. Children are abused in the creation of such imagery, even if they are forced to appear that they enjoy it.
  7. Isn't there pornography involving children that's drawn? Wouldn't it be better for pedophiles to view that so they do not abuse children?
    • Yes, there is drawn or 'virtual' pornography that is available on the internet. In some cases, 3D rendering is used, in others they take on a comic-book form. The legalities of these art forms are hazy depending on location. Such media can be helpful to exclusive pedophiles, but it is fair to say that such methods should be used with a therapist's guidance to assure objectivity and an actual benefit. There are some that would not benefit from viewing drawn material depicting children, and negative beliefs may form from viewing it. For some, the line between fantasy and reality can get blurred.
  8. How does sex offender registration work?
    • When one is convicted (not accused, convicted) of a sex crime, they are required to register their name, residence, vehicles, student status, pictures, fingerprints, and DNA with law enforcement. Some places require internet usernames, social media accounts, etc and have other restrictions besides. In most first convictions, like mine, they are assigned a level, which is to indicate the level of risk the offender poses. Most offenders, unless their evaluation (or charges, depending on the state) indicates a higher risk, start at level 1, which means that they are only 'visible' to law enforcement. They are not on community lists, and no one besides law enforcement is informed of their movements. Different states have different requirements for length of registration, but federal minimum starts at ten years. Multiple offenses, multiple victims, risk assessments, and other factors can lead to public notification, which is what most know as the sex offender registry. Different states handle registration differently. There is no set standard that every state or country follows.
  9. What sort of requirements are there for probation?
    • That is a difficult question to answer, because many counties vary in the restrictions given to sex offenders. In my case, any internet accessible device is monitored, and I must agree to a computer use document and be polygraphed for compliance. I cannot view pornography (yes, adult pornography). I cannot have contact- direct communication, indirect communication- with children, unless it happens in the course of my job. In the same manner, I cannot have contact with my victim or his relatives. I cannot vote or own a firearm- BB gun, airsoft gun, or gun. I know some offenders who must notify their employer of their SO status and cannot use computers at all. I cannot address parole, as I never went to prison. 
  10. What constitutes a sexual offense?
    • A sexual offense can be difficult to define in some cases. I have heard cases of teenagers dating, where one teen is several years younger, and they have consensual sex. By law, this can be a sexual offense. However, if no one is harmed or feels traumatized, it would not necessarily be considered a sex offense by therapists. The state would consider them an offender. Essentially, a sexual offense, as far as treatment professionals are concerned, is when one person's sexual behavior causes harm or trauma to someone else. The three huge factors are the law, those directly affected, and society. What matters most to answering this question is those directly affected: If they were traumatized, it is a sexual offense. 
  11. Don't sex offenders usually reoffend?
    • No, it is more common for them not to reoffend. Offenses like exhibitionism (exposing) turned up higher rearrest rates, while child pornography and molestation turned up lower rearrest rates, with more violent acts like rape being the median. It is interesting to note that more of the recidivism arrests were from other crimes, not sex crimes. Simply Googling 'Sex offender recidivism rates' will give you an idea of the difficulties involved in calculating reoffense rates. But in short, sex offenders have lower rates of recidivism than other criminals, and a Wikipedia article about sex offenders cited a 2002 study as saying 5.3% were rearrested for another sex crime. Generally, the longer an offender is crime-free, the less risk they present to the public.
  12. What is the purpose of this site?
    • This site began as sort of a journal, and a way for me to express my thoughts about how sex crimes can be prevented. In the early days, it was just me and my thoughts. More recently, I have been reading studies, other advocacy organizations, and take a more professional approach. The purpose of this site today can be found in its updated form in the mission statement.
  13. What can I do to help a victim of sexual abuse/assault?
    • Wait for them to say anything, and let them ask for what they need. The worst thing you can do is bring it up and ask how they are doing, unless they have already asked you to check in with them about it. At the same time, they need to know you understand, you care, and that they are not alone. The best thing you can do is work with a child advocacy center. Every situation is different, and you will have stereotypes about abuse/assault that can interfere with actually helping a victim. You can make the trauma worse by your reaction.
  14. What can I do to help a sex offender, or perpetrator of sexual abuse/assault?
    • Tell them that it will get better, there is help, and that they can live a normal life. Even if you do not believe that, they desperately need to hear it. They need to know that you care, and it will give them the hope they need to pursue the help they need. The issues and choices that led someone to harm another sexually are complex, and understanding them takes time and effort. I would wager that most offenders/perpetrators do not want to hurt people, and want to get help. The worst thing you can do is judge them and remind them of what they did. They do not need to hear it, unless they are making excuses for their actions or blaming the victim or others for their choices. If they are upset by what they did, they do not need any reminders about it.
  15. What can I do to help someone who has difficult fantasies and urges, like pedophilia or paraphilia?
    • The worst thing you can do is not ask how they are doing. Secrecy emotionally and with their thoughts is what steers someone struggling with their sexual feelings and thoughts towards acting them out. The more they are wrapped up in their head, the more desperate they feel. The best thing is to find someone who is familiar with abuse issues, such as ATSA or Stop It Now, and talk with a therapist. This blog has a resource for them as well. The more support you can give them, the better. They need to know that you care and that you want them to succeed. Think of all those movies where there is that touching friendship, where someone is there for someone, or where just spending time together means a lot. If someone dealing with pedophilia or a paraphilia has told you what they are dealing with, they need you to care and not judge. They do not need to hear that they are dangerous, they need to hear that they can get better and that you will stand by them. They will accept whatever realities come with regards to children's safety in their own time, and hearing it from someone else will not help them.
  16. How can you say that abuse must be prevented before it happens? How would we even spot a potential abuser?
    • My post about warning signs addresses this in more detail. First, there are always signs in someone with attraction to children that can be observed from the outside. I think it takes a great deal of compassion to approach someone showing these signs and honestly ask them if they need help with anything, or to explain what is being seen. Asking something like, "Help me understand... [this thing I observed]". Even if they are not dealing with attraction to children, they will probably appreciate seeing that you care enough about them to say something about something you do not understand. Currently, our method of prevention as a society is aimed at severe punishment so as to deter the crime. However, there are very few resources available to anyone considering abusing a child- or assaulting an adult. There is very little research available regarding these at-risk populations also, because of the stigma around the topic. Without that research, we cannot know how and where systemic primary prevention methods should be applied. What we do know is toted by organizations like the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers, the Moore Center for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse, and other professional and academic organizations like them.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

TNF 13 Media Policy

Introduction

Given that I have been approached several times by different sources, I thought I would lay down some ground rules for media and other organizations that wish to get my perspective on things. They apply to formal news organizations, individuals involved in advocacy or activism, and prevention organizations.

Boundaries

  1. I do not do anything on camera, and I do not use my real name. This is both to protect me, but also to protect my victim and his family, who are unaware of my advocacy. 
  2. You will not refer to me as a pedophile or sex offender, given how loaded both of those terms are. We can discuss other options. Other ideas might be 'someone who sexually abused a child', 'someone with pedophilia', 'primary prevention advocate'. 
  3. I am willing to engage in "writing assignments", or posts on a particular topics. I am also willing to guest-write articles on particular topics. 
  4. Every factual claim I make has a link cited somewhere on this blog. I can provide the link if you have any doubt as to the accuracy of the statement or statements.
  5. Certain verifications can be provided under certain circumstances.
Permissions
  1. Any Tweet or retweet may be retweeted by you or your organization. 
  2. Any quote you use from this blog must include a reference or citation of some kind.
  3. Any post of this blog can be reproduced with a reference to TNF 13 and a URL for the source of the blog post.
  4. Generally, you have my permission to use this blog to inform, educate, and aid the prevention of child sexual abuse. 
  5. Generally, you do not have my permission to use this blog to harass, stalk, bully, threaten, coerce, or otherwise attempt to harm this blog and the cause of primary prevention.
  6. Anything beyond the scope of #3 & #4 require specific permission, and the reason you wish to use my information.