Monday, December 21, 2015

Myths: The Brief Version

So, I was looking over my FAQ and the most recent post about myths, and I thought it could use some condensing. I recognize that I can be long-winded in my writing, so... here goes.

Myths about sex offenders:

  1. Sex offenders constantly reoffend
    1. Verdict: False. Sex offender recidivism, according to the US Department of Justice, is around 5% in the first year of release, and several meta-analyses (one is linked on the right) put it around 13% in the first five years of release. Rates are higher when any offense/conviction is considered, not just sexual crime.
  2. Residency restrictions protect children, and do not significantly affect sex offenders
    1. Verdict: False. California just altered their residency restrictions because they found just the opposite. Also, 85% of child sex abuse happens in one-on-one situations in the victim or offender's residence. While blanket residency restrictions do still affect the very small minority of repeat offenders who prey on children who are strangers, this portion of offenders are already unlikely to be deterred by residency restrictions rendering the restrictions virtually moot. 
  3. Treatment does not work on sex offenders, there is no cure
    1. Verdict: Mixed. While technically accurate to say there is no cure for sex offenders (definition of sex offender: Someone has offended sexually against another), the issues that lead a human being to violate sexual boundaries are usually a myriad of mental health needs. Mental health needs are ongoing, and cures are a one-time fix, which means that no mental health issue can be cured. Treatment can and does teach offenders to manage their mental health needs, risks, and helps them come up with safety plans to address their needs in a healthy, productive way. Studies have shown that sex offender treatment alters recidivism rates in small samples by 20-30%, and some state programs like Hawaii have shown much success. Also, sex offenders already have a low recidivism rate, so saying that "treatment does not work" is patently false. 
  4. Sex offenders are trying to lure children on the internet
    1. Verdict: Mostly false. The majority of internet solicitation crimes occur by first-time offenders, not registered sex offenders, and the number of youth who report being solicited as the law would define it- made by an adult- is around 3%, according to a 2001 Department of Justice study. 
  5. Sex offenders are finding victims on social media
    1. Verdict: Mostly false. Existing sex offenders- those on the registry- who find new victims on social media are vastly outnumbered by the number of first-time offenders who use social media to find and interact with victims of their sexual crimes. While some sex crime does involve the internet and social media, the fact is that social media is a factor, not the main method for the crime in most cases.
Myths about child sex abuse:
  1. Child sex abuse only involves penetration
    1. Verdict: False. Child sexual abuse can include anything from invasive and inappropriate sexual conversations, to physical touch, to penetration, to taking or sending nude images to a minor. While some forms of child sex abuse may not be illegal, if it is sexual in nature, crosses acceptable boundaries, and is traumatic for the child, it is sexual abuse.
  2. Most children will tell an adult
    1. Verdict: False. The vast majority of children who are sexually abused wait months or years to notify anyone that they have been abused, and some never do. Abuse is humiliating, shaming, and leads the child to believe that they are the cause of the abuse. If only they were not as pretty, or cute, or smart, they would not be treated that way. Children do not want to get adults involved because they often see it as their fault, and also want to protect adults from being impacted by it.
  3. Child sex abuse only affects girls
    1. Verdict: False. Child sex abuse affects 1 in 4 girls, and 1 in 6 boys by the time they turn eighteen according to multiple experts on abuse. 
  4. People who abuse children are pedophiles
    1. Verdict: Mixed. While people who abuse children sometimes are attracted to children (Dr. James Cantor, a well-known researcher, estimates that 30% of child molesters are pedophilic, or attracted to children, and states that no single study shows this), that does not mean that someone who is attracted to children has molested a child. While a child molester may be a pedophile, a pedophile may not be a child molester. Pedophilia is a disorder, and the act of molesting a child is the result of someone's choice, not the result of the disorder. Mixing the two minimizes abuse, discredits pedophiles who do not act, and just adds confusion to a already heavy topic. 
  5. People who abuse children are dirty men in trench coats who nab children off of the street
    1. Verdict: Mostly false. An Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers study of 67,045 victims found that only 5% were total strangers to their abuser. Stranger abduction and assault is extremely rare. There is also no profile for what a typical child molester looks like. 


  1. I read your letter to the editor online in the Niaggara Falls newspapper and I agree with you 100%, the only problem is that it is hard to reason with nazis.

    They would love to see sex offenders destroyed and down, best way to get back at them is by being there. Nothing to hide, nazis created this problem, not sex offenders.

  2. It is a hard, emotional topic, and one most people are not knowledgeable or prepared for. I prefer to look at it as people being misinformed about a highly charged subject- that does not make the reactions and the panic okay. Understanding breeds empathy, and if people do not understand...


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