Sunday, May 15, 2016

What Is A Sexual Predator?

We have all heard it: The sexual predator molested a 5-year-old girl at a bus stop. The sexual predator is in a civil commitment program. Predatory offender registration. Guard your kids against sexual predators. How many times do you use a word before it starts to lose its meaning and its impact?

Varying Meanings

The trouble with the term "sexual predator" is that it means different things to different people. To law enforcement, it means one thing. To a therapist, it means something different. To the average person, it means anyone who has committed or is at risk for committing a sex crime. Just like the words "sociopath" or "psychopath", there is no universal understanding of what the word means.

My Definition

I have long hated words that appear to describe people as what they do for several reasons: Such descriptors are inaccurate, bigoted, dehumanize people, and can easily lead people into thinking that every person fitting the term, does whatever the description indicates and only that behavior. "Child molester" seems to indicate that the people it describes do nothing but molest children. Yet that even sounds ridiculous, right? I have just as much of a problem with the term "sex offender" or even the vague "child abuser". It does get tiring to say "someone who sexually abused a child" or "someone who was a victim of child sexual abuse", but those terms are much better at ending the myth that people are defined by their behavior.

However, a sexual predator is someone who continuously goes after people for sex, and seeks out victims to assert control over. Someone who keeps a sex slave for 21 years would certainly fit the definition of what I think a sexual predator is. Essentially, I would define sexual predator as someone who has numerous sexual crimes against a specific profile of people (multiple victims fitting a generally specific description) and feels little to no remorse or empathy for their actions and their impact, likely but not necessarily, this lack of empathy is due to an antisocial personality disorder.

Mental Illness Plays A Role

Antisocial personality disorder, commonly understood as psychopathy or sociopathy, essentially describes what I just defined: "Antisocial personality disorder, or dissocial personality disorder (also known as psychopathy or sociopathy) is a personality disorder, characterized by a pervasive pattern of disregard for, or violation of, the rights of others. An impoverished moral sense or conscience is often apparent, as well as a history of crime, legal problems, and/or impulsive and aggressive behavior."

Extremely Rare

According to this source, this disorder affects about 1% of the population. We know that about .27% of the US population are sexual offenders from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Obviously, if antisocial personality disorder is so rare in the general population and half are treated (this source again), and if 88% of sex offenders do not reoffend (see recidivism study and article links on right in desktop view), then it can be estimated that about 12% or less of sex offenders have an antisocial personality disorder. In other words, less than .0324% of the population are sexual predators with an antisocial personality disorder.

In other words, sexual predators are extremely rare, not only among sex offenders as a whole, but in society as a whole. Treating all sex offenders as if they are sexual predators not only puts the offenders themselves at increased risk of mental health issues that heighten their risk factors, it also distracts the public from the vast majority of people who do commit sexual offenses: Ordinary, everyday people who are struggling in life. Many researchers have long said that people commit sex offenses when they are at their most desperate. That was certainly true for me. You would not have ever been able to tell, except that my friends and family knew I was struggling and knew I did not have many friends. They knew something was wrong.

No Profile For A Child Molester

The cold, hard, shocking reality that I reiterate over and over again is that there is no profile for a child molester. There is no profile for who sexually abuses a child. I say it. Stop It Now says it. ATSA says it. The best you, I, or anyone else can do is to pay close attention to how people behave, and to not be afraid to ask questions. Ask people how they are doing, if they need help. Be concerned for your fellow man. Primary prevention starts with being able to help people struggling with mental health issues, of any kind. Desperate people do desperate things. Get rid of the desperation...

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