Saturday, December 31, 2016

Primary Prevention in 2017

I do have some goals for 2017 in regards to primary prevention. This list has no bearing on any future projects, I mean, the whole tone of New Year's resolutions and the like.
I would like to break them down into several categories:


  1. Educating The Public
  2. Sex Offender Registration
  3. Sex Offender Notifications
  4. Sex Offender Residency Restrictions
  5. Educating Families
  6. Sexual Education
  7. Miscellaneous Sex Offender Restrictions

These categories are distinct from the mission statement I have, as these are unique to 2017 and are based on what was accomplished last year. Each goal, in detail:

Educating The Public

The public has a right to know basic and counter-intuitive information about sex crimes. In 2017, it would be ideal if the average person knew what I would say are the top three facts about child sexual abuse: 95% of sex offenses are from first-time offenders (not sex offenders), 90% of abuse is perpetrated by those known and trusted by the victim, and child sexual abuse affects 1 in 6 boys and 1 in 4 girls by the time they turn 18. Will you help the facts about child sexual abuse be known in 2017?

Sex Offender Registration

Sex offender registration has become onerous in the political realm, as well as a financial burden. The trend in 2016 was that the registration requirements of sex offenders do not align with the biggest risks to the general public. Seeing more judicial wins in 2017 that strike down onerous requirements that distract from real public safety threats would be a plus.

Sex Offender Notifications

Sex offender notification has become, to some people (like the vigilante Donna Zink in Washington State, who refuses to read studies on the subject), a way of preventing sex crime. However, many studies and articles surfaced in 2016 (like this one and this one, and this Quartz article and this one for honorable mentions) showing that these notifications only do well under certain circumstances. Therefore, it would be helpful in 2017 if the notification requirements in some areas (similar to the judicial wins on registration) would be lessened.

Sex Offender Residency Restrictions

This is perhaps one of the biggest areas that needs addressing: States and cities that believe that by restricting where sex offenders can live, when they have been shown to have the opposite effect of increasing recidivism and homelessness. More judicial wins that strike down sex offender residency restrictions would be a fantastic win in 2017 (Michigan gets honorable mentions here for their recent supreme court win, which among other things, struck down residency requirements for some offenders).

Educating Families

Families knowing how to prevent child sexual abuse, before it happens, by knowing the warning behaviors in potential abusers is nothing but positive. The more families are aware in 2017 that a potential abuser can look very much like a great mentor for children, the better. Also, the more resources that are available to the general public, the better. I may or may not have something in the works in that regard, but of course, I cannot confirm or deny that as of yet.

Sexual Education

As with educating families, the more children and teens know the facts about sex and sexuality, the more prepared they will be to make informed decisions about sexual behavior. The more prepared they are, the more they will be able to ask for help if they need it. If more states pass legislation requiring sexual education (or sexual abuse education), primary prevention will be furthered in 2017.

Miscellaneous Sex Offender Restrictions

There are many sex offender restrictions that have no bearing on public safety, like social media use. Other restrictions have included registering any and all internet accounts, avoiding libraries (because the children), and avoiding the state fair (because sex offenders lurk in the shadows waiting to kidnap your children, apparently). Can it just be said that the more restrictions are based in factual information, like studies and such, the better? 

Let us all make 2017 a safe place for children, and do what we can to stop child sexual abuse... before it happens. Let us ring in the new year, remembering our most vulnerable people: Children.

Oh, and there are some hints in this post for something big that might be coming in 2017, in case you missed them. Enjoy the New Year, 2017.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

An Interview With A Sex Expert

Introduction

This blog has long focused on facts over myths, research over media articles, and experts over advocates. Child sexual abuse and its prevention is an extremely emotional topic for most people, and the facts often get lost in the emotional whirlwind of people who just want to make sure children are protected. Because of this, it is essential for policies and plans to be formed based on facts. Our current policies are not, however. We have formed registries, lists, and management techniques to either address problems that do not exist, or we leave the protecting of children to policies that are effective after someone has been victimized rather than before.

Yet here we are, two decades after passing the first sex offender registry laws, and the epidemic continues. Clearly, we are allowing our emotions to lead and we are attempting to form the facts to fit what we believe is best, rather than going the other way and allowing the facts to form what we believe is best. I believe that primary prevention absolutely must be a part of how we respond to the epidemic that is child sexual abuse.

I felt that asking an expert some pointed questions that people no doubt want to know about sexual offending would be extremely valuable. It is one thing to read about facts and studies, and to read news articles that cite those facts and studies. But I think it is quite another to hear those facts directly from an expert. With that said, I would like to welcome Dr. Holly Silva to this blog.


TNF 13 (TNF): So, Dr. Silva, what is your experience with sexual offenses? What do you do, and where did you learn to do it?


Holly Silva (HS): My motto is "No More Sexual Victims," and over the past decade, my work has revolved around doing my best to make that happen. Evaluating and treating adult sexual offenders, as well as providing education regarding dynamics related to sex offenses has been essential in working towards this goal. I received my doctorate from Alliant International University in 2004. I have experience evaluating and treating civilly committed sexually violent predators in New Jersey, as well as sex offenders in Connecticut. I am affiliated with the Connecticut Association for the Treatment of Sexual Offenders, which is an organization that provides effective assessment and treatment information to professionals who treat sexual offenders. I also provide trainings including those to police officers related to investigations and sex offender dynamics. I will soon be expanding my practice to include treating offenders through telehealth services, including video-conferencing, for ease of access.


TNF: So, you work with sexual offenders to prevent more sex crime from happening? And, not only have you treated sexual offenders, you train people who work with them as well? How did you come up with your motto?


HS: "No More Sexual Victims," developed over time, following my experience working in New Jersey with civilly committed Sexually Violent Predators (SVP's) and offenders in Connecticut, following sentencing and typically, release from jail/prison. I've found that evaluating and treating offenders is only one way to decrease sexual offenses from occurring. Getting the public involved and educated regarding multiple aspects of offenses including why such offenses take place, how to prevent such offenses, preventing inappropriate student/teacher relationships, as well learning about non-offending pedophiles are other essential components to prevent offenses.


TNF: How common is it for sexual offenders to commit more sexual crimes? If you treat offenders to prevent more victims, does that mean sex offenders are dangerous?


HS: The research varies but overall, the known re-offense rate for sexual offenses is between 12% and 24%. With that said, many believe that such percentages do not reflect the true re-offense rate, as many offenses are not reported. It is important to note that some offenders are high risk and others are low risk to re-offend. Each offender presents a unique set of dynamics that needs to be taken into to account, which is why it is essential to complete risk assessments on all offenders, regardless of the type of offense. Providing specialized sex offender treatment is an important aspect regarding “No More Victims.” Having said that, offenders must be motivated to gain insight into what brought them to offend and alter their lives accordingly to prevent re-offense, as there is no “cure.”


TNF: Are risk assessments and treatment always required by the courts, or is that something that varies by location?


HS: Every state has a different process regarding managing sexual offenders. Although all states have a sex offender registry, the use and type of risk assessments and treatment for sexual offenders vary.


TNF: What kind of motivations do you see from the offenders you work with?


HS: With regards to motivation, those who sexually offend do so for various reasons. Although it’s not possible to share all motivations, I’ll share some. Some individuals sexually abuse children due to their difficulty communicating and interacting with those their own age. Some of these individuals are cognitively delayed, others struggle with a lack of social skills. As human beings, we all have the desire to be liked, feel accepted and comfortable around those we associate. It feels even better when people look up to us. Although not acceptable, it is understandable that, for example, a 33-year-old cognitively impaired male, who is developmentally 10, would want to associate, which could eventually become sexual, with someone on his level… someone who has similar interests and is viewed as an equal. Of course, this child is not an equal, and education regarding this issue certainly needs to be addressed in treatment.

There are offenders, that, as stated above, lack social skills. These individuals may have been shunned by others for most of their lives, experienced various types of abuse during childhood and/or adulthood, and have developed or have always experienced a lack of self-esteem/self-worth. When a child shows interest in this adult, he feels accepted for the person he is and comfortable around this child. It is also more comfortable for the individual because the child does not have adult-like expectations, and often looks up to him. Cognitive distortions develop, leading to sexual crimes.

With regards to an offense perpetrated against an adult female, the offender may have harbored resentment, anger and possibly hatred towards a significant female in his life, possibly his mother, spouse, etc. Due to the offender feeling as though he was unable to express his anger to this woman, he chose to take this anger out, often in a violent manner, on a female that may have looked like or displayed similar characteristics as that significant woman for whom he was unable to appropriately communicate.

Again, these are only a few examples of motivations of offenders. Entire books have been written regarding typologies of sexual offenders. 


TNF: Is there a particular set of emotions that come up with people who sexually offend?


HS: Emotions that sexual offenders present include those displayed by all humans. Many of the offenders I have evaluated and/or treated have experienced significant trauma in their lives. It can be said that many people experience trauma and don’t go on to offend. That is true. It is also true that most individuals who have been sexually abused, don’t go on to sexually abuse others.

As human beings, some people are more resilient than others, and some have encountered positive figures that have helped them turn their lives around, bringing them to proceed on a healthier path. Still more people have been able to turn their own lives around due to various factors, either earlier or later in life. There are others who were not born with such resiliency, did not have guidance to potentially turn their lives around, and others who rejected such guidance and proceeded to live an unhealthy life.  

Countless offenders have shared with me that they wish they could turn back time and not have offended for many reasons including having hurt their victims and countless others. Many also shared that through treatment, they felt more connected to their family. They felt healthier emotionally, having gained a better understanding of their unhealthy behaviors, as well as non-offending behaviors. They recognize their triggers, what they need to look out for to not behave in a manner that will hurt others, including themselves.

Many offenders realize if they don’t take care of themselves, emotionally, physically, etc. they will not be able to live healthy, productive lives. I am beyond pleased when offenders continue therapy after mandated treatment. I believe therapy is typically helpful for all and essential for many to become or remain positive, healthy, and law-abiding citizens. Who can’t benefit from learning from different perspectives, especially an unbiased therapist? They can provide information that individuals are initially oblivious to.


TNF: So, those horror stories we see on the news, like Sandusky, Savile, or the kidnapper in Ohio... Are these cases common? What sets these high-profile cases apart?


HS: Before I begin, it’s important to emphasize that victimization of any type can be or is a horror story. No one asks to be victimized and abuse of any sort should not occur. With that said, the most horrific stories are put on display by the media, as these disturbing events are financially lucrative for these media sources. That is not to say that these horrifying events don’t occur, because they do; we hear about them day-in and day-out on television, in the newspapers, etc., often played and replayed multiple times before another horrific event catches the media’s attention, and the prior one falls behind the scenes. We are somewhat inundated in that way, as these stories are on repeat. With that said, it is important to draw attention to various issues in the world today, as such attention often significantly assists with solving such problems.

On a side note, this makes me think of a period of many years when I cared for my grandmother. I did my best to limit her exposure to the news, as the most devastating and horrific stories seemed to be “on repeat,” hour after hour… flooding, killings, sexual abuse, etc., many of which she perceived to be new events. Being in her 80’s, it was not healthy for her to see such devastation on repeat. To her it seemed the entire world was coming to end. Flooding after flooding, after flooding, all in one day. The problem was that although a terrible event had occurred, this flooding occurred once, not multiple times in one day. Seeing such devastation, repeatedly, can bring us all to have misconceptions. 

You mentioned Sandusky, Saville, and the kidnapper in Ohio… I have evaluated and/or treated offenders many individuals that have committed horrific crimes and often those who have done so repeatedly. Again, it is important that I don’t minimize any type of abuse, as abuse, in and of itself can have devastating consequences, especially those who repeatedly abuse. With that said, the ones that currently stand-out in my mind are those individuals that are psychopaths and those who are hypersexual.

Psychopaths, in general, do whatever, whenever they want. Robert Hare, a world-renowned expert in psychopathy, revealed that psychopaths consist of approximately 1% or 1 in 100 people, of the general population. These individuals are ego-centric, narcissistic, disregard social norms, have poor impulse control and lack empathy and guilt, which all typically become evident at a young age. In my experience, when working with psychopaths, who were on probation, their locations were often monitored electronically. Due to their disregard for rules, behaving as though they are above the law, they typically violate their probation quickly.

As stated above, based on their general disregard for social norms, their crimes tend to be diverse. For example, a psychopath, while in the process of committing a burglary, observes a vulnerable individual, and impulsively fulfills his sexual desires, potentially leading to a conviction of sexual assault. Additionally, psychopaths tend to be hypersexual in nature, and combined with their antisocial personality traits, many commit sexual assaults. Psychopaths tend to be resistant to treatment, and often become better criminals when taking part in treatment. As a result, electronic location monitoring is extremely helpful with such clients. 

Other concerning sexual offenders are those that are have extreme difficulty controlling their sexual impulses, especially those who are resistant to obtaining assistance with treating such impulses. Unless difficulty controlling one’s sexual impulses is noted in previous evaluations, appears clear based on offense history, or the offender voluntarily shares such information, such information often comes to light when an offender completes a sexual history booklet or polygraph. In many states, polygraphs are a part of treatment.

Prior to taking such polygraphs, offenders are provided with booklets to complete which the offenders provide extensive information regarding their sexual history, beginning during childhood. These booklets provide the offender the opportunity to share deviant and/or concerning behavior, the treatment provider to become aware of such concerns and the opportunity for such concerns to be treated. Many of the individuals who have trouble controlling sexual impulses, especially those who experienced hypersexual behaviors at an early age, reported sexual interactions with animals during childhood. This behavior is certainly concerning, but is predictable, considering a hypersexual 8 or 9-year-old, has limited access to others that would be interested in participating in sexual behaviors.

Another concerning behavior amongst individuals having trouble controlling sexual impulses is the amount of times they masturbate each day. Such individuals have shared that they masturbate 6-8 times a day. I empathized with those individuals that shared such information, as, to me, that sounds like a part-time job, not to mention exhausting. Due to such behavior being a significant coping mechanism for stress, these individuals were resistant to being medicated to decrease their libido. At times, these individuals were mandated to comply, as their lack of impulse control contributed to their offending behavior and therefore, was a significant component to their treatment. All individuals that I’ve treated, after taking the medication, were quite pleased with the results. One individual ended up working 20 more hours a week when he was medicated and not consumed with thoughts of sexual activity. 

Another type of type of horror story that comes to mind is preferential offenders, offenders whose primary attraction is towards children. They desperately attempted to hide and contain their sexual desires towards children, but ended up repeatedly abusing them. Many of these individuals had convinced themselves that they were helping children by teaching them about sex, as who better to do so than someone who loves them. Because of various cognitive distortions, many reported hundreds of victims. After learning of such problematic thinking, these offenders typically welcomed various forms of chemical castration, as they realized they were unable to contain their sexual impulses. 

Another type of concerning sexual offender are those that are aroused by significant violence, including stabbing their victims. Changing one’s arousal, depending on how deviant, can be exceptionally difficult and may be impossible. Long ago, I taught a group called arousal reconditioning. While facilitating these groups, I learned that many offenders were not aware of what healthy relationships consist of and how to go about having a healthy intimate relationship. 

Lastly, there are some individuals that, due to their being ostracized during childhood by both family and peers, resorted to sexual behaviors with animals during adolescence and continued such behaviors through adulthood. These individuals, typically mentally limited, shared that these animals were the only living things that treated them well. Much thought needs to be put into treating this specific population of offenders, as helping someone who is developmentally 8 or 9, develop social skills, could potentially bring them to develop sexual attraction to those they identify with most, children at their developmental age rather than their chronological age. 


TNF: Many of my most popular pages are the pages that center around practical advice. What practical advice can you give to people about sexual offending, so that they know how to prevent it before it happens, or respond better to it when it does happen?


HS: I could write a book about practical prevention, so I’ll choose a few topics. Bear in mind that Stop It Now is an excellent organization that provides a great deal of information regarding how to handle various situations, from how to talk to a child about sexuality to steps to take when a child has disclosed abuse.

With regards to primary prevention, I recently wrote a short article, 5 Tips to Teach Children About Consent. This article focuses on primary prevention, with the goal of educating children about consent within relationships and the importance of respecting “NO MEANS NO,” beginning at a young age.

It is important to note that the research indicates that approximately 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 7 boys are sexually assaulted prior to reaching adulthood. It is also important to know that over 90% of children are abused by someone they know, such as a family member, including siblings, or neighbor. Approximately 7% of such abuse is perpetrated by a stranger. There is no typical profile of a sex offender, as they can be male or female, any age- young or old, from any ethnic, religious, or educational background, of any marital status, and can be of any relationship to the victim.

It is essential to be aware of inappropriate behavior between adults and children. I’ve worked with many individuals who have stated something like, “I knew something was not right.” Often the individual reported keeping quiet for fear of upsetting the individual or family dynamics. Very often, incest takes place for multiple generations because of the above concerns. Although one would think otherwise, it is not uncommon for individuals to think that the family member has “changed” and, although the family member molested them as children, they would not do so to their child. The same thought process often takes place with other types of abusers, not only sexual abuse.

Awareness is important, as is open communication with children. Speaking with children about various, difficult to discuss topics such as sexuality, using appropriate names of body parts, the difference between appropriate and inappropriate touch, that it’s okay to say “no” if they feel uncomfortable, regardless of who is touching them, is important. Informing children about sexual abuse in an age-appropriate manner and allowing them to ask questions brings children to feel more comfortable and willing to share such concerns, if such concerns arise in the future.

If a child informs an adult about inappropriate sexual behavior, it is essential that the adult remain calm, listen to and believe the child, as false accusations are rare, thank them for telling you and let them know that you care about them. It is also essential that the child is told, often repeatedly, that they are not to blame, that the abuser is wrong and needs help so that he does not hurt others. Planning with other trusted adults to keep the child safe is of utmost importance. Safety includes ensuring that the child is not alone with the abuser. If the abuser is an adult that is responsible for the child’s care, child protection services should be contacted. If the adult is not a caregiver to the child or any other child, the police should be contacted. Another option is contacting a child advocacy center. 


TNF: What would you say are the biggest myths about sex offenders that most people believe, but are not true from your experience?


HS: 1. Most sexual assaults are committed by strangers.
Research indicates that approximately 27% of all sexual offenses are perpetrated by strangers. Most sexual offenses are committed by someone known to the victim such as a family member, friend, neighbor, intimate partner, or acquaintance
2. Most people who have been sexual abused, sexually abuse others.
Although it is true that some victims of sexual abuse go on to sexually abuse others, this is not typically the case. Most victims of sexual abuse do not sexually offend others.
3.  Alcohol causes people to sexually offend.
Alcohol does not bring one to sexually offend. Alcohol is a drink that may assist one to do what they really want to do. Although certainly an inappropriate term, alcohol, at times has been referred to as “liquid courage.”
4. Sexual offenses are typically impulsive.
Sexual offenses are most often planned. Although sexual offenders often initially state that they just “did it,” through treatment they later realize that they were either in denial or unaware of the amount of planning involved. Perpetrators who offend impulsively, with very little forethought, are often quite dangerous, as they have minimal time to prevent an offense.


TNF: You said that sexual offenses are usually planned. Why would someone sexually abuse a child, and how are they planned? Are there any examples that come to mind?


HS: As stated above sexual offenses are most often planned. This is important to know, as this indicates that offenses don’t “just happen.” There are several “road blocks” that an offender must get through in order to offend. Dr. Finkelhor developed the Four Preconditions Model (1984) that reveals preconditions that must exist for a sex offense against a child to occur. Such conditions consist of the motivation to abuse, followed by overcoming internal inhibitions, external inhibitions, and victim resistance. The following will provide some information regarding each precondition:

1. MOTIVATION: The first precondition consists of the desire to sexually offend. This desire may be the result of a need to feel powerful, inability to get one’s sexual needs met due to inept social skills, sexual attraction to children, etc.
Finkelhor noted several ways which motivation can develop related to emotional needs, sexual arousal and blockage. The following concepts will be explained further below:

Emotional Needs can consist of a desire for power and control or a desire to relate better with children, due to not feeling comfortable being social with peers. Some feelings may consist of loneliness, insecurities, anger and/or fear of rejection.  

Sexual Arousal towards children can be a result of multiple factors including issues that have not been resolved due to having been molested as a child, early sexual experiences that were arousing, including viewing of pornography, etc. Although Finkelhor did not mention the following, some research indicates it is very possible that some individuals are born with a sexual preference towards children.

Blockage occurs when a person has sexual urges but various factors prevent the individual from expressing such urges in a socially appropriate manner. Such factors may consist of difficulty developing socially appropriate relationships due to not having been taught good hygiene, not having good social skills, feeling uncomfortable in social relationships, or having been taught it’s morally wrong to masturbate.

2. INTERNAL BARRIERS: This preconditions follows motivation, the belief that one should commit a sexual offense. Internal barriers that need to be overcome in order to commit a sexual offense include the following:

          1. Overcoming the fear of getting caught          
                                                 
2. Determining that the victim’s feeling don’t matter or are not as important as one’s own desires

          3. Disregarding the fact that such behavior is wrong.

Such barriers can be overcome due to poor impulse control, using alcohol and/or drugs, etc. Ultimately, one’s desire to offend needs to be stronger than their conscience telling them not to commit the offense.

3. EXTERNAL BARRIERS: This condition comes into place after the offender wanted to offend (motivation) and decided to do it (internal barriers). This precondition requires the offender to feel confident that he will be alone with child. Such access can occur when babysitting, asking permission to spend time with the potential victim, such as going on a hike, etc.

4. VICTIM RESISTANCE: Following feeling confident that a situation exits where an offense can occur (external barriers), an offender needs to overcome the victim’s resistance in order to offend. This can consist of taking advantage of a trusting relationship, manipulating, and bribing potential victims. Typically, offenders choose children whose resistance is easy to overcome, including those that are less likely to report an offense.

It is important to note that the above preconditions model is used to assist perpetrators in becoming aware of the barriers to prevent re-offense. If one barrier is crossed, there is still time to stop an offense because there are many barriers that need to be crossed for an offense to occur.

The following consists of a few examples based on my experience of those ultimately going through the four conditions described above in order to sexually offend:

Joe, a 40-year-old man, who is developmentally 12, desires a sexual relationship. He does not interact well or feel comfortable associating with adults, as he thinks and acts like a child. It is understandable that Joe, who thinks and acts like a 12-year-old, would desire a relationship with someone who thinks and acts similarly. Based on Joe’s chronological age of 40, sexual interactions with whom he feels comfortable interacting sexually, is not acceptable.

John is a 30-year-old man who has worked on family farm, ever since he can remember. He had always been a social outcast based on facial disfigurement and lack of social skills. During childhood, he was severely ridiculed and after many years of maltreatment, dropped out of school and retreated to the farm where he felt most comfortable. He felt accepted by the animals of whom he took good care. Throughout his year of working on the farm, he viewed the farm animals as friends. These animals showed him unconditional love and he felt these animals were the only living things that did not view him differently, based on his disfigurement. After breaking his leg, he was unable to work on the farm and was given the responsibility of caring for his young nieces and nephews. John found that these young children did not judge him and even seemed to look up to him. John felt comfortable around other humans for the first time in his life. He felt loved. When looking after his nieces and nephews, he would play “tickle” games and “wrestle around.” After a period, John began developing cognitive distortions/thinking errors when the children would laugh while accidently touching his genital area while playing. He began to think his nieces and nephews were intentionally touching him in his genital area. Over time, John convinced himself that his young nieces and nephews wanted to have sexual contact.

The above are just two examples of many that provide some information regarding reasons child sexual abuse occurs.

_________________________________________________________________________________

Dr. Holly Silva is a member of the Connecticut Association for the Treatment of Sexual Offenders (CATSO). She has a private practice in CT where she provides therapy and education to various populations both in-person and through video-conferencing. Dr. Silva can be contacted through email at drhollysilva@gmail.com. She can also be found on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Practicing Boundaries For The Holidays

The holiday season is a fantastic time to give gifts, relax, eat, and enjoy the companionship of your friends and family. For families with children, it can also be a time of preventing child sexual abuse- before it happens. Yes, you read that right.

The holidays are a time when families with children have relatives over, and what child has never heard something like, "Give uncle Bob a hug!" Or maybe, "Snuggle with grandma." Chances are, most children have been told, at one time or another, that it is appropriate to ignore how they are feeling and show affection or receive... even if they do not want to.

While showing or receiving unwanted affection may seem harmless, this can violate a child's right to their body, as well as interfere with their ability to create healthy boundaries for themselves. It can teach them the message that if an adult asks them to do something, they have to do it, even if they do not want to. It can lead a child to believing that they have to show or receive affection when asked, even if they are uncomfortable with doing so.

Why is this a bad thing? Because without these boundaries in place, a sexual abuser or potential abuser will not raise any flags by grooming the child, or by being sexual with the child. If the child cannot say no to minor things like a hug, tickle, or snuggle, they also cannot say no to major things like a pat on the chest, a grope on the buttocks, or being unclothed. A child who has healthy boundaries can more easily spot when someone is breaking those boundaries and tell a trusted adult.

So, stay safer this holiday season: If you are around children, and you want them to hug you, stop and ask first. Ask them, "Can I give you a hug, or would you rather I didn't?" Respect their response, and regardless of what they say, respond with, "I want you to be able to be honest with me. Thank you for telling me how you feel." There will be other times when they will want hugs, and they will value for life the boundary skills you are teaching them.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Russians Like Primary Prevention (And Donald Trump)

Yes, you read that correctly. For the past week and a half, I have gotten many pageviews from Russia, and they are Trump supporters. How would I know that? Well, I have evidence. Evidence number one:


Yes, the main language is "Secret.ɢoogle.com You are invited! Enter only with this ticket URL. Copy it. Vote for Trump!". No lie. Screenshot proves it. That is not all. How do I know they are Russian? Well... evidence number two:


Okay, granted: Not all of them are Russians. But a fair number are.

Is this conclusive proof that Russia messed with the election? I have no idea, and I rather doubt it. I would guess that a knowledgeable person could spoof country ISO codes, though I have no idea why the language would come up as a plug for Donald Trump. And frankly, I doubt the country data could have been faked. Why? Because it came from many Russian cities:



But it is certainly fascinating that a healthy percentage of pageviews in the last week and a half or so have been from Donald Trump supporters, mostly in Russia. Does this mean primary prevention is trending in Russia? Does this mean that Trump supporters actually care about primary prevention? Or is this just the retribution I get for calling Donald Trump out as a groper? You decide.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The United States Elected A Groper

Yesterday, we elected a president. We elected a president who has admitted to groping women and has been accused of groping women. We elected a president who has viciously attacked anyone he did not agree with, and will likely continue to do so. We elected a president whose values clearly have nothing to do with valuing other human beings as equals. We elected a bombastic man who has no business serving as a role model for this country. That is not to say the alternatives were the best, but certainly would be better for preventing sexual crimes than the man we chose. 

We elected a president who will hinder the prevention of child sexual abuse and sexual assault. That should sicken us.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Annual Halloween Sex Offender Witch Hunt

It is that time of year again! The time of year when media outlets across the United States (and beyond) publish lists and maps of where sex offenders are in your community, ostensibly to keep children safe from sex offenders. The part they conveniently leave out is that Halloween puts children at a much higher risk of being injured or killed in traffic than they are for being kidnapped or molested by a registered sex offender.

Take a look at four facts and the studies they come from:

A study looking at 67,307 sexual offenses committed against 67,045 victims and found no significance between Halloween and the rest of the year in regards to sexual offenses.

One meta-analysis looking at 45,398 offenders across 16 countries found that the average sexual offender repeats their sexual crimes at a rate around 11.5%  45,398 offenders across 16 countries. A similar meta-analysis found a lower sexual recidivism rate for child molesters (12.7%) compared to rapists (18.9%), as well as lower nonsexual violent recidivism (9.9% for child molesters and 22.1% for rapists) and lower general recidivism (36.9% among child molesters, and 46.2% for rapists).

A New York study done in 2008 found that over 95% of sexual offense arrests were of first-time offenders with no criminal history on no registry. Studies done in other states have found a similar 95-99% rate of the same.

A study looking at crimes against juveniles found that 90% of child sexual abuse is perpetrated by those known to the victim, not strangers.

In light of these four facts, there is no evidence to support the idea that sexual crimes against children are a higher or lower risk around Halloween compared to any other time of the year. In fact, these facts indicate that the biggest risk to children does not come from sex offenders, but from those trusted in the community with no criminal record. That holds true on any day of the year. That begs the question: What can you look for? Behavioral signs are the best bet.

Because of these facts, I believe it is time to stop using "sex offender" so commonly and openly, and use the more accurate "sexual abuser" instead, or some other term that does not imply that the majority of those who commit sexual crimes are registered sex offenders. That implication is a myth that flies in the face of the above facts, and puts communities in more danger by focusing their attention on a population that commits less than 5% of sexual crimes against children, and indeed, sexual crimes in general.

In short, because of the facts about sex offenders, child sexual abuse, and the rates of crime around Halloween, it is time for our fear over sex offenders nabbing children off the street to end. Strangers present minimal danger in terms of sexual crimes, and Halloween is a time for some to celebrate all that is spooky and scary... but sex offenders are not the scary part of sex crimes. The scary part is how we focus on the people who are not threats at the cost of detecting those who do present risks.


Sunday, September 18, 2016

Primary Prevention Tactics

Controversial And Emotional

Primary prevention is an extremely controversial and emotional area for most people to handle. In order to calm that controversy and dull the passions aroused from the subjects involved in primary prevention, it is necessary that facts and research around the primary prevention take priority, as well as observing a number of tactics in making the focus on facts and research as effective as possible. It is also necessary for there to be credibility. These tactics are not only observable by advocates, but by researchers, educators, and ordinary people who wish to contribute to furthering preventing child sexual abuse before it happens.

Make It Real

Many people wish to believe that child sexual abuse could never impact them or anyone they care about. They would prefer not to get involved. However, the reality of that is very different. Advocates, researchers, and most involved in sexual abuse prevention know that the true horror of child sexual abuse is how secret it stays for most people. The goal of advocating is to drive home the point that this issue is a real issue that affects real people, and that is why people need to be prepared to prevent it, handle it, and engage their communities over the epidemic of child sexual abuse. Personal stories, anecdotes, plays, books, questions, and discussions can all play a role in making the issue of child sexual abuse real for people.

Answer The Trolls

This goes against the conventional wisdom of the internet, which is to ignore trolls and let them have their bridges. However, your goal is not to convince individual people of facts, and when a troll rears their ugly head, it is a perfect opportunity to convince not the troll, but the onlookers reading the exchange. Most rational people can spot a troll, so your ability to remain calm and collected while bringing facts and reason to an otherwise emotionally charged exchange will be a noticeable contrast. This brings me to my next point.

Fact And Reason, Over Passion And Insults

One of the first and foremost necessities in primary prevention is to never, ever insult someone no matter what they say. Taking the higher road gains you instant credibility. Calling out logical fallacies, such as ad hominem attacks, as you see them rather than attacking the person who is insulting or questioning you is far preferable. Everyone who is anyone insults someone on the internet. Politicians do it. Teenagers do it. College students. Researchers. Cops. Lawyers. Anyone who can hide (or not hide) behind an internet account to insult, mock, belittle, or bully people can and will do it. It is extremely tempting, completely ordinary behavior to insult in return someone who is insulting you.

That is why not doing so, and sticking exclusively to the argument being made and attacking the argument, or what the other person is saying, is so noticeable. When you ignore the jab or call it out, you stand out.

The best course of action that is both noticeable and noble is to ignore the insult, and call it what it is: A logical fallacy, an error in reasoning, or an off-topic attempt to undermine the facts or arguments being presented. Some examples:

Example 1:
Troll: "Well, Mr. TNF 13, you are quite the arrogant jerk, thinking you can tell us that abusers should be pitied. Abusers should be hung from a tree by their balls, and anyone who defends them by their toenails."
TNF 13: "Ad hominem attacks do not make your argument stronger, and the death penalty costs money. Would you like to be the one to suggest raising taxes for your vengeance?"

Example 2:
Troll: "You are only saying that because you are a sex offender. Will we find your name on the registry?"
Advocate: "Who I am does not add or reduce credibility to the facts I have presented, and the sex offender registry does not protect children before they are abused, it punishes those who have already done so."

Example 3:
Troll: "You must be a pedophile to defend pedophiles like that."
Advocate: "A logical fallacy that fails to address the facts I have presented does not make the facts less factual. Perhaps you could remain on topic?"

Use Studies, Not Lists

Lists of statistics can be valuable. But the simple fact of the matter is, people do not buy statistics. Some do, if they have taken the time to see where the statistic is coming from and how valid the source is. Statistics, in most people's minds, can be presented for either "side" of any issue (of course, this is a false dilemma, assuming that all issues have only two sides). The use of studies can trump the use of statistics. For example, if I am talking about the low recidivism rate for sex offenders, it is highly valuable to cite a link supporting my statement. Which of these three says more?

Option 1: Sex offender's sexual recidivism is 11.5%.
Option 2: Sex offenders re-offend sexually at a rate around 11.5%, according to Hanson and Morton-Bourgon (2009).
Option 3: The average sexual offender repeats their sexual crimes at a rate around 11.5% (Hanson and Morton-Bourgon, 2009: DOI: 10.1037/a001442 : Sample size: 45,398 offenders across 16 countries).

Obviously, I just asked a leading question, and the first and third option will be more believable. Not only did I cite the low recidivism rate, I explained what re-offense type is being studied, what the sample size was, and where to find the study. Anyone can copy-paste the DOI into Google and read the study, with all of its methods, references, and data. Not every site can accommodate links, so a clear reference to the study where the statistic or fact can be found is preferable. Anyone can likewise click the link and see the study for themselves, and for forums of communication that allow links, they can be essential.

Know The Facts

It is not enough to have a casual knowledge of the subjects pertaining to child sexual abuse. You have to know your material, so that when people question you, you can provide answers. It is also useful for some of the cruder suggestions for how the issue of child sexual abuse can be solved (death penalty, castration, or some variation on the two). These suggestions easily be countered by the fact that over a third of sexual abusers are juveniles, or that around 90% never repeat sexual crimes. No one listening to such a conversation is likely to condone shooting or castrating children who engage in sexually abusive behaviors, and knowing that fact and using it, while it may not change the mind of the person making the suggestion, will bring more attention to the issue for the average listener.

While some people may think it is creepy for someone to know the facts about child sexual abuse, such knowledge is essential to being able to educate and advocate. While it is obviously impossible to know everything about the subject, the level of knowledge you have gives credibility to your statements, both with and without citations and studies. People would be hard-pressed to rationally argue that I have no idea what I am talking about if I can cite sources or statistics at the drop of a hat.

Have A Mission Statement

Having a mission statement can help deflect some of the vitriol and trolls that might otherwise be attracted to some of the topics surrounding primary prevention, and it will show people that you are serious about preventing sexual abuse. While a mission statement is a recent addition to this blog, it is nonetheless essential for anyone wanting to put themselves in the public sphere. It can also help clarify what your specific target area is within prevention. Do you advocate? Are you a political activist? Do you protest? Defining yourself can also help deflect some criticism.

Be Passionate

The best thing you can do to show people you are sincere about something is to spend time on it and add a tone of urgency. People need to do something, sure, but it is best for the children if they do it now. If you start a discussion, and then remain silent, people will question just how important the issue is to you. This passion needs to show, and people have no idea how much time you spend on advocating against sexual abuse if you make it an infrequent project. That is partly why I have something in the works, amidst a family emergency, that will be announced sometime next year. Look forward to that announcement!

Summing It Up

The best thing you can add to the voices for changing the systems that allow child sexual abuse to happen is your voice. Speak up. You do not need to make advocacy a part time job in order to make a difference. For each person that reads your contributions and decides to look more into the issue, you make a difference. And while you may not know how many people you are reaching, you can know that you are making a difference. For each person that disagrees with you, you are making one person think harder about the issues.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Areas Of Concern In Sexual Abuse Prevention

Introduction

There are a great many challenges to tackling sexual abuse prevention, and these challenges must be addressed so that sexual abuse prevention can even be effective.

Terminology

This may be obvious to anyone who has read much in this blog, but people just do not use words right. The incorrect use of terminology can lead to people believing myths about child sexual abuse that simply are not true, sometimes dangerously so. Some obvious examples:
Child pornography (instead, use child sex abuse images or child sexual exploitation material
Pedophile (instead, use sex abuser, child rapist, preferential offender, etc.)
Pedophilia (pedophilia is a condition, a noun, not the act of child sexual abuse)
Child sex worker (children cannot consent, use sexual exploitation victim)
Sexual predator (most do not really fit the category of a true predator, and seems to imply that all abusers are the dangerous recidivists when most are not)
Sex offender (most people who abuse children are not on any registry)

For a full list, check my specificpost on the subject. The media is notorious for using improper terminology, because they attempt to bring pertinent facts about a very wide range of subjects… which means their knowledge in any one subject is extremely limited.

Underreporting... And Methods That Seek To Correct It

The bottom line is that most children do not disclose when they are sexually abused. It is estimated that for every one child that does come forward, another eight do not. In the United States, there has been a big push to pass Erin's Law (predictably named after a sexual abuse survivor named Erin). The idea of Erin's Law is that children are taught fire drills, tornado drills, car safety, water safety, etc... but not about body safety and how to get away from a sexual abuser. The message to children is to get away and tell an adult.

The problem with these educational methods is that it puts the responsibility on children not only to stop abuse, but to overcome the fear and confusion enough to tell an adult. It is a method that I do not endorse or agree with. It is one thing to teach boundaries and body safety, to teach children that they have a right to their bodies and they and only they can decide what is okay and what is not (be it hugs or anything else, the ability to set healthy boundaries is a great thing). But teaching a child, directly or indirectly, that it is their job to get away from an abuser will add to the confusion of sexual abuse.

Any methods involving the education of children must be well-researched and based in factual research, not feel-good methods that sound like a good idea. Plus, it relies on abuse to be occurring to be effective, which makes it a tertiary prevention method, not a primary prevention method. Teaching junior high and high school students about consent, the availability of mental health help for sexuality and sexual issues, and how to find resources to help them with a variety of topics would go a long ways when integrated with a sexual education program.

Disgust

This may be another obvious factor, but most people refuse to touch the subject of child sexual abuse with a ten-foot pole, never mind talk about it. This means that myths abound, no one is aware that it is a serious issue even in their community, and the veil of secrecy that enables abuse to happen is firmly in place.

People are also disgusted by anything related to pedophilia, because the mere idea of people finding children sexually attractive is enough to make people run away from any meaningful discussion. This means that the people remaining to discuss abuse, instead of being average, concerned citizens who could do good, are academics, ethicists, researchers, prevention advocates, activists, and those directly affected by the issue like sex offenders and survivors. This is all fine and good, but when the majority of people are not discussing a serious issue that affects 10-20% of children, all the laws in the world will make a very limited difference.

Mental Health Stigma

This is a vast subject all by itself, but the stigma against mental health issues still persists, and it drives people away from seeking a psychologist, therapist, or psychiatrist that could help them. This stigma is create not only by bullies, but by people in everyday speech through the language they use to refer to people with mental health issues. People use challenged, touched, disabled, retarded, nutcase, and many other terms to describe people with mental illness, and often, people with mental illness are defined by their mental illness.

What this means is that the myriad of factors that can contribute to mentally unhealthy people can also contribute to crimes like child sexual abuse. People with pedophilia do not seek help because of the stigma against them, and if they have no support system, their lives can turn into a spiral of depression, suicidal thoughts, and desperation that can make it feel like the only way out is to act out sexually. This potential is not limited just to those with pedophilia, and a great many people act out sexually as a way to cope with the internal strife that their lack of mental health can cause. A great many crimes could be avoided if people were readily able to get mental health help without fear of judgment, stigma, and ridicule. Thus, the stigma against mental health is a barrier to primary prevention.

Policy

Many of the laws that aim to prevent child sexual abuse are ineffective in doing so because they are based not in the facts and figures that experts and researchers know and trust, but by the opinions held by politicians, interest groups, and average parents. These groups largely are unaware that the policies they are pushing are ineffective. Why are they ineffective? They target people who have already acted and are unlikely to do so again, or they target children who are unlikely to be able to stop an abuser. They miss the majority of abusers, those we know and trust who have not yet acted or have not yet been caught.

The rights of sex offenders, while certainly relevant to the concerns about policies that seek to address child sexual abuse, are besides the point. The simple fact of the matter is that many of the sex offender laws and policies in place either do not have evidentiary support, or the evidentiary support for them indicates that they make the problems worse and not better by making it more difficult for sex offenders to engage in the sorts of activities that can keep them from re-offending (like starting a family, getting gainful employment, or finding a decent place to live). If our focus is truly the protection of children, then we must look exclusively at the facts and put policies that are based in these facts in place. In much of the United States, Canada, and Europe, we have not done this.

Politics

This may be another obvious area, but primary prevention is an area that is laden with politics. Not every single group supports initiatives that are based in fact, and some support initiatives and laws that have been shown to have an adverse affect on prevention efforts. In other words, not all prevention groups have done their research to know what works, and many prevention groups support initiatives that do not support prevention. Not everyone is on the same page, and there is often a divide between interest groups that aim to prevent, aim to educate, or aim to help survivors of sexual abuse. Not only this, but there are Republican efforts to prevent sexual abuse, and most of these efforts are tertiary prevention methods, while Democratic efforts tend to lean more towards softer approaches like rehabilitating and making resources available. These efforts appear to be as opposed as the rest of the two-party system is. As long as this divide remains, children will continue to suffer.

Wrap-Up

Primary prevention can prevail, and is a serious trend among many prevention agencies. While it may remain foreign in the minds of most people, it will eventually win out over the "punishment first" mentality that many of our current laws were written with. I believe these challenges will eventually be overcome, particularly if people continue discussing these hard issues.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Resources: Posts About Primary Prevention

"I was sexually abused.": This is a post about internet disclosures that you were abused, and the appropriate circumstances for such a disclosure.

About Grooming: This is a post describing what grooming is, why grooming can be a controversial issue, and what people need to be aware of around the subject of grooming.

Child Sex Abuse Fact Sheet: This post is a basic fact sheet with basic information about child sexual abuse. As child sexual abuse is a very complex topic, readers are reminded that solving the epidemic of child sexual abuse starts with knowing and discussing the facts about child sexual abuse. This is your springboard to becoming involved in preventing child sexual abuse.

Circumcision: Why I Mention It: This post describes why I am against circumcising both boys and girls, and why the issue of circumcision is of importance to the primary prevention of child sexual abuse.

Criminology Myths Debunked: This post tackles many of the myths that some law enforcement/criminology-oriented people have perpetrated in the media about pedophilia and child sexual abuse, and why they are myths and not facts.

Defining Child Sexual Abuse: A Therapeutic Approach: This post defines what child sexual abuse is from a therapeutic, victim-centered perspective and why such a definition is more valuable than a legal definition.

FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions, Myths, and Stereotypes (comprehensive): This post is a long and comprehensive list of questions, myths, and stereotypes that many people believe around child sexual abuse, sexual abusers, pedophiles, and sexual offenders. As the questions are not simple, the answers are likewise complex.

Facts: Child Sex Abuse And The Abusers: This post is an academically detailed description of the negative impact that child sexual abuse has on victims, and the pertinent facts about sexual abusers that people need to know.

For Critics: Why I Discuss Some Topics: This post is an explanation of the difficult and emotional topics discussed on this blog, and why discussing them is necessary to the prevention of child sexual abuse.

Glossary: This is a glossary of terms that I use throughout my blog that may be new to the average person.

How Sex Offender Registration And Notification Is Dangerous To Children: This is post is about the laws aimed at sex offenders, the hype surrounding these laws, and why both are harmful to abuse prevention efforts and may actually lead to increased recidivism and more child sexual abuse, not less.

How To Talk With A Potential Abuser: So, you have someone in your life that are exhibiting many warning signs that they may be a potential abuser. Now what do you do? How to you start that conversation? Why should you start a conversation? Many areas are covered in this post. Bear in mind that most sexual abusers are those known and trusted in their communities.

How the Media is Making Abuse Worse: This is a post about how the media stigmatizes the issue of child sexual abuse, perpetuates myths, and uses improper terminology to describe abuse. In some cases, they can out the victims in their communities without intending to. 

Humanizing And Dehumanizing Abusers: This post discusses the ramifications of turning sexual abusers of children into inhuman monsters, and how the dehumanization of sexual abusers can blind people to the facts and realities of child sexual abuse, who perpetrates it, and their motivations for such harmful behavior.

Is Masculinity A Factor in Sex Crime?: This post discusses traditional masculinity, and how masculinity can play a role in sexual crimes like child sexual abuse. It is not written with feminism in mind, but preventing child sexual abuse.

Issues In Mandatory Reporting: This post discusses mandatory reporting laws, and presents some ethical and policy-oriented situations where mandatory reporting enables abuse rather than preventing it. 

Myths: The Brief Version: This post is a shorter version of the “FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions, Myths, and Stereotypes (comprehensive)” post. By contrast, it may be easier to read, though at the cost of fewer sources and less accuracy.

Pornography: This post discusses some of the ethical issues involved both in adult pornography and “child pornography”. It also discusses “child sexual abuse images” as an alternative for “child pornography”, given that children cannot consent, are not paid, and are not acting in such material.

Primary Prevention Basics: This post is a general overview of some of the many topics involved in the primary prevention of child sexual abuse, and why these topics are both controversial and necessary to ending the epidemic of child sexual abuse.

Primary Prevention Defined: This post defines what primary prevention is, why it is necessary, and how it differs from other child sexual abuse prevention efforts.

Primary Prevention Method: This post is an overview of some of the systemic methods that could be used to prevent child sexual abuse before it occurs. For a more complete overview of other methods, please visit the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers.

SORNA: A Crash Course in Sex Offenders: This post is an overview of sexual offender registration and notification laws, their impact on offenders and on the protection of children, and why these laws do not work as they were originally intended.

Secrecy And The Dark: This is a post discussing the role of secrecy in sexual offending, and how secrecy and failing to discuss sexual crimes can contribute to more sexual crime.

Stewards of Children: A Review of Darkness to Light's Prevention Training: This post is a review of the “Stewards of Children” training offered by Darkness to Light. Their training is available for $10 and involves a general overview of child sexual abuse for those completely unfamiliar with it. The review serves as an evaluation and critique of this training from the standpoint of primary prevention.

Ten Things You Do Not Know About Child Sexual Abuse: This post is a list of ten facts that are absolutely essential to preventing child sexual abuse before it happens. Do you know the ten things?

The Politics Of Prevention: This post discusses how the area of child sexual abuse prevention is political, why it is political, and why the two-party system in America enables sexual abuse by making the issue political.

This Blog Is Brought To You By...: This is a brief overview of why this blog exists, and what motivates me to continue posting.

To Catch Sexual Solicitors: This is a post about the “To Catch A Predator”-style shows and vigilantes, and why the term “predator” is often misused.

Using Math To Determine Pedophiles Who Do And Do Not Abuse: This post illustrates approximately how many pedophiles do abuse, how many do not abuse, and how both of those figures compare to US statistics about sex offenders, child sex offenders, and repeat child sex offenders. The end result is an educated guess for illustrative purposes.

What Is A Sexual Predator?: This is a post about “sexual predators” as a term, and why using this term can cause myth-based panic around protecting children from phantoms that only very rarely exist.

What Is The Biggest Factor In Child Sexual Abuse?: This post discusses the biggest factor that allows child sexual abuse to continue, and why no one likes talking about child sexual abuse. It will challenge you.

WhatThe Average Person Must Know About Pedophilia: This post discusses some of the basics about pedophilia, and why pedophilia relates to the primary prevention of child sexual abuse.

What You Need To Know About MAPs, Paraphiles, And SexOffenders: This post looks at MAPs (Minor Attracted Person(s)), those with sexual disorders (paraphiles), and sex offenders and what you need to know about how these three groups of people are different. It will also educate you on the risk that pedophiles pose to children.

Why Does SORNA Matter To Primary Prevention?: This post is a discussion about the relationship between sex offender registration and notification laws and the prevention of sexual crimes.

Why Educating Children Fails: This post looks at the hype that some prevention programs add to the facts they present, and how this hype can not only be inaccurate, but districting to preventing child sexual abuse. It also looks at why making child education a part of sexual abuse prevention is doomed to make no discernable difference, and the proper place that educating children about boundaries has.

Why Myths Are Dangerous: This is a detailed description of why myths are harmful to efforts to preventing child sexual abuse, and why facts about the issue of child sexual abuse matter.

Why Sexual Education Is Necessary To Primary Prevention: This post discusses sexual education from the standpoint of primary prevention, and explains why sexual education is an integral part of preventing child sexual abuse.

Why Words Matter: Child Pornography, Sex Offenders,And Pedophiles: This post looks at some of the material from Abuse Stoppers as an organization, and why their information lacks accuracy in the terminology that they use and the facts that they present.