Saturday, May 27, 2017

Lessons And Thoughts From The 2017 Moore Center Symposium

My First Symposium... Via Youtube

In case you did not know, I watched the entire symposium via Youtube, and for my sake, I am glad I did. I was able to pause, go back, and rehear things that I found interesting and catch nuances that I missed the first time. Perhaps I have been missing from the academic world for too long, but I would almost certainly miss things if I had been sitting in the audience. Therefore, I am very grateful to the Moore Center for generously putting their symposium on Youtube.

Three Big Ideas

To me, there were three big ideas shared at the symposium:

  • Current policies are failing, and failing hard if you take any kind of a close look at the research.
  • We need to do a better job at outreaching to those that share the goal of prevention as well as the general public, so that sexual abuse can be prevented and handled effectively if it does happen. 
  • Most sex offenders have some kind of trauma in their childhoods, so paying more attention to children from difficult backgrounds can aid prevention just as much as a formal intervention.
These three ideas were present throughout the symposium, and were illustrated in a variety of ways via a variety of new research presentations and discussions. 


Two Opportunities For The Average Person

There are two great opportunities that the average person can take (yes, you, random person that just stumbled onto my blog, and you, person that subscribed to my posts).

The first is seeing the documentary Untouchable, which does an even more fantastic job than I can at telling a story. I could tell you my story, but it will almost certainly be limited forever to the written word, and those stories have limits. Untouchable can tell a story that I cannot: The story of a father whose daughter was abused and what he did about it, the story of a daughter who was abused and what she did about it, and the stories of those whose lives were affected by what this father-daughter duo did. While Untouchable does weave boring facts and statistics into the stories it seeks to tell, I can promise that it will be the most thought-provoking 104 minutes you will spend watching a film.

The second is learning more about the subject of child sexual abuse, why you should learn more, and how you can help end child sexual abuse once and for all. Maybe you were sexually abused, and are working through the pain it caused you. Maybe someone you know was sexually abused, and you want to know how to help them through their pain. Maybe you know someone who was sexually abused, and you just do not yet know it. Regardless, sexual abuse has affected everyone. The trauma of abuse is not limited to just the one in four girls and one in six boys that experience it before they turn 18 years old, it also affects the friends, neighbors, and family members of those children. That trauma needs to be a thing of the past, and the only way we can make that happen is by learning about the issue, learning about what we are currently doing to solve it, and coming up with new ideas that are based in research.

One Thing Advocates Need To Do

Tell stories. You need to share your story (and yes, I realize I have not yet shared the full brunt of my own story, and for many reasons, that must wait a few months). People need a person, a face, a name that they can identify with. They need you to paint them a picture of how child sexual abuse has affected you, and they need to know what you think can help solve the epidemic. They need to see that the issue of sexual abuse does not need to be scary and that anyone can tackle it.

Zero People Are Unaffected By This Issue

I touched on this in one of the two opportunities: If you were not directly affected by sexual abuse, you know someone who was. Maybe they are your best friend. Maybe it was a spouse, a brother, a sister, a mother, or a father. Maybe it was an uncle, or that guy you play tennis with. Whether they have said anything or not does not matter, because most victims take years to talk about it, if they do at all. The fear and the stigma drives this issue under the rug, and that is where it thrives. By realizing that we all know someone who has faced this issue, we can help shine a light on this dark and scary subject.

Why Does The University of Minnesota Not Have A Sexual Abuse Prevention Division Of Some Kind?

Yes, I learned the other day by calling the University of Minnesota's School of Public Health that they do not have any division or organization that addresses child sexual abuse. They have a program in human sexuality, but that is not nearly the same thing. I think the University of Minnesota needs to step to the plate, and for the next few weeks, I will be determining what it might take to make that happen. Oh, of course that project is bigger than I am. Yes, I am idealistic in thinking they care about some guy with a weird pseudonym. Maybe you can help me succeed in convincing them why it is needed. Just try not to steal my idea before I get the chance to implement it!

Moore Center Sex Abuse Symposium: Part Five: "Untouchable" Panel Discussion and Founder Comments

In case you missed the other parts for this series, please see part one, two, three, or four.
As a refresher...
So, What Is This Symposium?

The Moore Center Symposium is a "meeting of the minds" on the prevention of child sexual abuse. It  offers professionals (and advocates) an opportunity to learn more about the issue of child sexual abuse and how it can be prevented. The Moore Center for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse is a subset of Johns Hopkins' Bloomberg School of Public Health, which is a major educational institution in Maryland that is well-known for its work in the public health sector (as its name should indicate). The Moore Center is currently being directed by Dr. Elizabeth Letourneau, who used to be the president of The Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers (ATSA), and is a researcher that studies a myriad of topics within the realm of sexual abuse prevention. I am watching these admittedly dry and boring speeches to pull the essential parts out and communicate them to you. If you want to view them yourself, by all means, just be forewarned that they are dry and can be triggering. 

Beginning Introductions

The symposium starts with an introduction by Johns Hopkins' President, Ronald Daniels, regarding some of the reasons for the symposium and the keynote speaker at the symposium, Patrick McCarthy, who is the president and CEO of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, an organization that focuses on improving the lives of children in a variety of ways.  Other speakers at the symposium were Dr. Elizabeth Letourneau, Dr. Bruce Taylor (an expert in criminology), and Jill Levenson (expert in sociology and social work), followed by a showing of the film Untouchable, which I have talked about on this blog before. Following the film, there is a panel discussion about the film and closing remarks by Stephen and Julia Moore, the founding donors of the Moore Center.


Untouchable Panel Discussion (Dr. Fred Berlin, Dr. Ryan Shields, Dr. Jill Levenson, Director David Feige)

The first few minutes of the video are introductions of the moderator, Fred Berlin, and the panelists. In short, David Feige (pronounced FAI-GUH) being the exception, all involved are extremely smart and extremely relied on for their expertise in this area, both in the media, and with numerous other organizations, including the White House.

Note: If you have not yet seen Untouchable, this may not make much sense. So go see it! Find a non-profit that is hosting it, see it at a film festival, or host a screening. You can also request a personal screening at that link as well.

Questions from Moderator:
  1. Moderator Comment: Invitation to make whatever comments they wish/opening comments
    1. Dr. Shields (2nd time seeing film): No lack of strong opinions, varying perspectives harnessing energy to react to sexual abuse... what if we harnessed the energy seen in the film and directed it towards prevention? Still in a reactive frame, however.
    2. Dr. Levenson (6th time seeing film): Film does not hit you over the head, it lets you come to your own conclusions. Powerful to see screening with homeless registrants. 
    3. Director Feige : Deeply saddened by irrelevance of limitations of film ("just a movie") where people are hungry and need basic things like a place to pee, place to shower, etc. Need to change policy in a way that is evidence-based and responsive to reality... and find port-a-potties for homeless sex offenders. Film was designed to start a conversation and stay balanced so that the film can appeal to everyone: Victims, registrants, families of registrants, policymakers, etc. Value in creating solutions to the problem. 
  2. Moderator comment: Not just a movie, about life, perceptions, caring about human beings we need to know about, disagrees with Director Feige in saying it was just a movie.
    1. Director Feige: Most audiences do not turn on Ron Book until much later in the film, cites screening at MSPIFF. People are far more empathetic towards Ron and Lauren Book until much deeper in the film. 
    2. Dr. Levenson: Film forces us to look at big picture and ripple effects, you cannot solve problem of sex crimes by creating more trauma on sex offenders and family/friends of sex offenders. Film drills home that having a home is fundamental, and not having one impacts the stability of every other area of life. 
    3. Dr. Shields: Imagine a world where registration policies were effective and inexpensive... the fatal flaw is that we are waiting for harm to occur and then react to it. Unacceptable policy position, because it does not effectively reduce child sexual abuse. Lots of energy towards ineffective policy.
  3. Moderator Question: How do we go beyond preaching to the choir? Challenge of multiple perceptions/perspectives, how do we reach people at a personal level? How do we get public perceptions to change?
    1. Director Feige: Central conundrum, taking on THE least popular, THE most difficult, THE most marginalized subject... and go beyond just looking at a young female sex offender in an unfortunate situation. People empathize with faces, stories, so storytelling is important. Hoping that film is a way to open people up and wrestle with the subject in a way that is ultimately grounded in science and fact. Open invitation to show the film to legislators, invitation to non-profits for screenings (has real human being whose only job is to set up non-profit screenings). Tells story of how Ron Book hated the comic at the initial screening, Ron Book says that the comic makes fun of the issue.
  4. Moderator Question: Are there things you wish you could have put in the film that you struggled with including/not including in the film? Are there things that the panel would have wanted to see in the film?
    1. Director Feige: Civil commitment, overview of what civil commitment of sex offenders and the case in Minnesota. Also penile plethysmograph and overview a few deleted scenes and lots of compelling stories from other people. Lots of issues, lots of characters that were all compelling, but he had to pick an issue to keep the film within reason.
    2. Dr. Levenson: She states she is sure she will think of them when she is driving home.
    3. Dr. Shields: When the director asks of Ron Book, "Which of these laws would have protected your daughter?" Was there additional pushback?
    4. Director Feige: Ron likes to talk, very successful at convincing people of his point of view, very smart, very cagey. He liked the question. Ron Book stated multiple times an intent to murder Waldina, the abuser of Lauren Book. 
    5. Dr. Levenson: Lots of guilt and pain for Ron Book, and the only way to deal with that is by doing what she is doing with legislation. 
    6. Director Feige: Talked about trying for two years to get Patty Wetterling to interview for the film, constantly refused... film was slated for the Tribeca Film Festival, and the producer asked director Feige to try again, calls, hands Mr. Feige the phone... and she said yes. Including Patty Wetterling adds a great aspect to the film, captures Ron Book being trapped in his anger and drive to push changes much better.
  5. Question from audience: Please share thoughts on 1) if a child molester lived next door to you, and 2) if your child got molested and the offender got to live and work near children?
    1. Director Feige: You can have an emotional reaction, but that is separate from creating policy. We do not just let one lone individual express their anger in policy. Knowing what he knows now, he would probably not be angry, but it is crucial to understand that our society needs to aspire to be greater than its base instincts to do better collectively than we do as individuals. Anyone would be angry enough to kill the abuser. Personally, knowing what he knows now, director Feige would not be worried, but without that knowledge there is still the distinction between policy reaction and personal reaction. 
    2. Moderator comment: False question, there are already those who have molested living in our communities and of course everyone wants to protect children. The issue is how to make that protection happen.
    3. Dr. Levenson: People have to live somewhere and those with prior sex crimes are already living around us. Her daughter was victimized as a young adult, and everyone has faced that to some degree. Children just want the abuse to stop, and to feel safe and normal. Adults who are victimized want an acknowledgment of accountability and harmfulness. Trying to view things with compassion and empathy can help figure out healing without vengeance.
  6. Moderator comment: Do we as adults sometimes not allow children to really express what they're actually feeling when they are abused?
    1. Director Feige: Super-draconian laws inhibit reporting because there is no opportunity to solve issue of an abuser without totally breaking up the family unity and community.
    2. Dr. Levenson: The pain and damage done to children and families by policies like the requirement of parents to give up their parental rights if they are convicted of a sex offense adds a different aspect/dimension to reporting. 
  7. Moderator comment: Comment about prevention, people are coming forward out of worry that they or a loved one is accessing sexual abuse imagery, but there are new mandatory reporting laws to require these people to be reported to police, and these mandatory reporting laws can depress reporting.
    1. Dr. Shields: Help Wanted project in line with the idea of when we provide help: When someone has been hurt, or before that point? We need to confront this question, and the Help Wanted project is aimed at getting help to adolescents with pedophilia before anything happens. 
    2. Dr. Levenson: New mandatory reporting laws regarding sexual abuse imagery, but these laws damage the therapeutic relationship and hurts a caregiver's ability to provide confidentiality and trust in their office. Another area is helping counselors respond to those with sex abuse imagery concerns help these clients effectively without freaking out, without overreacting, and without shaming... that being able to help these people is what prevention is about.
  8. Audience question: What can everyday people do to try to do more about prevention? 
    1. Dr. Levenson: Take any opportunity you can to be a role model in the life of a child, whenever we come across children, like a child being berated by a parent at the store, to treat them with kindness so that they feel special, important, and worthy so they feel adults can be trusted. Every instance helps the child understand the world, which builds empathy and helps them avoid becoming people who harm others. 
    2. Director Feige: Be a champion of truth. Be courageous in dispelling myths that are so pervasive and commonplace. Be an advocate for truth, be an advocate for science, and be an advocate for challenging myths.
Founder Comments

Those interested in hearing the Moore couple talk about their story, and the founding of the Moore Center, should absolutely watch this couple talk for themselves. It is 17 minutes, and is well worth your time. I am not going to butcher their presentation by summarizing it.


Friday, May 26, 2017

The Cherry-Picked Statistics Of Parents For Megan's Law

Yes, Another Fun Exercise

In case you forgot about the last time I fact-checked a list of statistics, see here. This time around, we will do Parents For Megan's Law, which has a short list of scary-looking facts. Yes, scary-looking. Almost all of them, off the top of my head, are garbage or come from garbage sources that do not even come close to a comprehensive look at the issue. Fortunately for us, PFML has decided to tell us where they are getting their bogus information from so we can have an easier time of nitpicking their erroneous statistics.

The List... And Its Counters

For Adults

  1. The New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) reports the results of a 2004 Harris and Hanson study which indicates that rapists have a 24% rate of re-offense, child molesters targeting girls 16%, and child molesters targeting boys, 35%. Offenders with a previous sex offense conviction have a 37% re-offense rate. 
    1. Source Cited (NOTE: DISABLE your javascript when following this link, as it is infected with a virus)
      1. Why should I trust a link that tries to infect my computer with a virus? Just no. 
      2. They cite a long list of information, so their "source" is just a garbage way of linking you to a second list of information. 
      3. The actual study can be found here, and the sample size is rather small at 4,724. The study also uses estimates for some of their information, and multiple studies have been done since that have very different results. Also, we have the statement of R. Karl Hanson himself about recidivism rates. Women Against Registry has a nice list of recidivism rates for sex offenders and the studies that source them that range from .8-12%, most being around 3-4%.
      4. Child molesters have generally lower rates of recidivism compared to rapists, and the 37% recidivism rate does not differentiate between any new crime committed and sexual recidivism (which a New York study puts at 8% with an 8-year follow-up period, and is generally much lower than general recidivism).
  2. Rapists repeat their offenses at rates up to 35%; offenders who molest young boys, at rates up to 40%; and those rates do not decline appreciably over time.
    1. Source Cited: Godfrey and Botelho v. John Doe. Brief for the United States as Amicus Curiae in Support of Petitioners. 01-729.  Page 3. 
      1. I will take your brief and raise you the statement of R. Karl Hanson: "Once convicted, most sexual offenders are never re-convicted of another sexual offence.  First-time sexual offenders are significantly less likely to sexually re-offend than are those with previous sexual convictions. Contrary to the popular notion that sexual offenders remain at risk of re-offending through their lifespan, the longer offenders remain offence-free in the community, the less likely they are to re-offend sexually. Eventually, they are less likely to re-offend than a non-sexual offender is to commit an “out of the blue” sexual offence."
      2. See also: 95% of new sex crimes are not committed by registered sex offenders, but by first-time offenders, those new to the criminal justice system. Citing the recidivism rates of specific offender types do not make those types the norm. 
  3. “Reported recidivism rates vary widely depending on the length of follow-up period employed, the methods used to calculate recidivism, and, perhaps, the sample size of the study.”
    1. Source Cited.
      1. This is common knowledge, and frankly speaking, not every study is done the same with the same results. Studies with larger sample sizes find higher recidivism rates, but the larger sample sizes also include a broader definition of what is considered a sexual offense. Some states include kidnapping and first-degree murder, where others call indecent exposure and public urination a sex offense. 
      2. Recidivism can also measure three things: Rearrest rates, reconviction rates, and re-incarceration rates, and findings will be higher for rearrests and lower for re-incarceration. 
      3. They just refuted their first two statistics by saying that they may be false representations of recidivism. 
  4. “In his study of 561 sex offenders, Dr. Gene Abel found pedophiles who targeted young boys outside the home committed the greatest number of crimes with an average of 281.7 acts …molesters who targeted girls within the family committed an average of 81.3 acts…”
    1. Source Cited: Child Molesters: A Behavioral Analysis for Law Enforcement Officers Investigating Cases of Child Exploitation (1992) Kenneth V. Lanning
      1. Dr. Gene Abel is not a serious researcher by any stretch of the imagination, and his pseudo-science has been thoroughly debunked. I know of one study where the man defined pedophilia in part as the act of child molestation, and then he asked about 5,000 people if they had molested a child and if they had a sexual attraction to children.  He then concluded that 95% of child molesters "have a sexual attraction to children". Meanwhile, another study has shown around a third of child molesters have pedophilia, as measured by science, not flawed survey-taking. 
      2. In short, no one can take Gene Abel seriously these days.
  5. 46% of rapists who were released from prison were re-arrested within 3 years of their release for another crime: 18.6% for a violent offense, 14.8% for a property offense, 11.2% for a drug offense and 20.5% for a public disorder offense.
    1. Source Cited: Recidivism of Sex Offenders Released from Prison in 1994. US Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics.
      1. In other words, well over half committed an offense that had nothing to do with rape? Okay, what is the point? Rapists do not make up the majority of sexual offenders.
      2. I think we have thoroughly looked at recidivism. It varies by offense, but generally, most sex offenders do not commit future sex crimes.
Offender Characteristics:
  1. The average age of a rapist is 31-years-old and 52.2% are white males.
    1. Source Cited: U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Statistics. 1997 Sex Offenses and Offenders Study. 1997.
      1. Okay, tip when citing a study: You only need to cite the year once. 
      2. Another tip: The title of the study should be verbatim what the title of the study is.
      3. That particular tidbit of information, along with most of this entire list, is refuted by the numerous organizations (Darkness to Light, Jacob Wetterling Resource Center, Stop It Now!, and many others) who say there is no profile for those that sexually abuse or rape others. You cannot profile them, yet PFML is trying to mislead people into suspecting white 31-year-old males. Half of child sexual abuse is perpetrated by juveniles, not adults, and 70% of sex offenders have offenses against children. If you run the math on that, I doubt you come up with most people being 31 years old and a white male to boot.
  2. One-Fourth of Exhibitionists Commit Additional Sex Offenses.
    1. Source Cited.
      1. It is quite well-known that exhibitionists often have higher sexual recidivism rates (often, further exhibitionist displays) than the average sex offender. It is also well-known that exhibitionists make up a very small portion of sex offenders. 
      2. Citing one single study to support the conclusion that all exhibitionists are a threat is like citing a single political poll to say that Donald Trump will lose the 2020 election. 
      3. That 1/4th of exhibitionists commit new sex offenses means that 75% do not.
      4. How is this a characteristic of a sex offender? 
  3. On a given day in 1994 there were approximately 234,000 offenders convicted of rape or sexual assault under the care, custody, or control of corrections agencies; nearly 60% of these sex offenders are under conditional supervision in the community.
    1. Source Cited: Sex Offenses and Offenders an Analysis of Data on Rape and Sexual Assault. (1997) U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics.
      1. Citing the same source in a different manner, over 20 years after the fact is relevant, does not make the fact more relevant.
      2. Most sex offenders are in the community, and most never reoffend or are even a risk to the community. The biggest risk to children does not come from sex offenders.
      3. They obviously did not bother reading past the first page for this statistic, as it is copied almost verbatim from the title page. Lazy.
  4. An estimated 24% of those serving time for rape and 19% of those serving time for sexual assault had been on probation or parole at the time of the offense for which they were in State prison in 1991.
    1. Source Cited: Sex Offenses and Offenders an Analysis of Data on Rape and Sexual Assault. (1997) U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics.
      1. This is completely irrelevant.
  5. Of released sex offenders who allegedly committed another sex crime, 40% perpetrated the new offense within a year or less from their prison discharge.
    1. Source Cited: Sex Offenses and Offenders an Analysis of Data on Rape and Sexual Assault. (1997) U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics.
      1. This is also fairly irrelevant. 
      2. A relevant statistic might be that, in a study of over 64,000 sex offenders, only 3.1% of males and 1.8% of females had zero adverse childhood experiences in their childhood. In other words, most sex offenders have trauma in their childhood, which means we could intervene long before they commit a sex crime.
  6. Overall, an estimated 61% of violent sex offenders in State prisons have a prior conviction history that resulted in a sentence to probation or incarceration.
    1. Source Cited: Sex Offenses and Offenders an Analysis of Data on Rape and Sexual Assault. (1997) U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics.
      1. What is the definition for a violent sex offender? 
      2. This statistic seems abnormally high in the face of more recent research, particularly the low sexual recidivism rates nationwide and the study of 21 years of arrest data out of New York finding that 95% of sex crimes were committed by first-time offenders (those with no prior record). Which brings us back to...
      3. What do they define as a violent sex offense? Forcible rape, statutory rape, lewd acts with children, forcible sodomy, and "other sexual assaults", whatever that means.
  7. Only 2% of the Catholic clergy sexual abusers were ever jailed. The number of victims reported were 10,667 with an estimate of 4,392 abusers.
    1. Source Cited: Hamilton, Marci (2004) Shockingly, Only 2% of Catholic Clergy Sexual Abusers Were Ever Jailed. Find Law, March 11,2004.
      1. The population of the United States is currently 321.4 million people. Of those, it is estimated that one in six boys and one in four girls faces child sexual abuse, alternatively phrased by many researchers as one in ten children. 10% of 321.4 million is 32.14 million people, which is many, many times 10,667. 
      2. In other words, there are many more abuse victims that are not abused by Catholic clergy.
      3. And frankly, it is estimated that 38% of sexual abuse cases are reported to police, which would be a much better statistic to cite.  
Juveniles:
  1. The average adolescent sex offender will, without treatment, go on to commit 380 sex crimes during his lifetime.
    1. Source Cited: Howard E. Barbaree, Stephen M. Hudson and Michael Seto (1993) Sexual Assault in Society: The Role of the Juvenile Offender. In The Juvenile Sex Offender. Guilford Press, NY. Page 11.
      1. 97% of juvenile sex offenders will never commit another sex offense.
      2. The cited source is a book, and it sounds like something Gene Abel would say.
      3. I debunked this in the last fact-check as well.
  2. 20% of all rapes and 30% to 50% of child molestations are perpetrated by adolescent males.
    1. Source Cited: Howard E. Barbaree, Stephen M. Hudson and Michael Seto (1993) Sexual Assault in Society: The Role of the Juvenile Offender. In The Juvenile Sex Offender. Guilford Press, NY. Page 11
      1. Which means we obviously need to be doing a better job of raising children and intervening in sexual crimes before they happen. Thank you for making my point, which is that...

Sexual crimes are preventable before they happen by reaching at-risk youth and those with Adverse Childhood Experiences before a victim is harmed. They are not preventable by only reacting after they happen with sex offender policies.





Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Moore Center Sex Abuse Symposium: Part Three: Adolescent Relationship Abuse/Teen Dating Violence

In case you missed the other parts for this series, please see part one, two, four, or five.
As a refresher...

So, What Is This Symposium?

The Moore Center Symposium is a "meeting of the minds" on the prevention of child sexual abuse. It  offers professionals (and advocates) an opportunity to learn more about the issue of child sexual abuse and how it can be prevented. The Moore Center for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse is a subset of Johns Hopkins' Bloomberg School of Public Health, which is a major educational institution in Maryland that is well-known for its work in the public health sector (as its name should indicate). The Moore Center is currently being directed by Dr. Elizabeth Letourneau, who used to be the president of The Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers (ATSA), and is a researcher that studies a myriad of topics within the realm of sexual abuse prevention. I am watching these admittedly dry and boring speeches to pull the essential parts out and communicate them to you. If you want to view them yourself, by all means, just be forewarned that they are dry and can be triggering to certain people. 

Beginning Introductions

The symposium starts with an introduction by Johns Hopkins' President, Ronald Daniels, regarding some of the reasons for the symposium and the keynote speaker at the symposium, Patrick McCarthy, who is the president and CEO of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, an organization that focuses on improving the lives of children in a variety of ways.  Other speakers at the symposium were Dr. Elizabeth Letourneau, Dr. Bruce Taylor (an expert in criminology), and Jill Levenson (expert in sociology and social work), followed by a showing of the film Untouchable, which I have talked about on this blog before. Following the film, there is a panel discussion about the film and closing remarks by Stephen and Julia Moore, the founding donors of the Moore Center.

Copyright note: The images in this post are copyright-protected. I waited on this post to get permission directly from Dr. Taylor to use them, so please ask Dr. Taylor if you would like to use them yourself.



Bruce Taylor's Speech

The third speaker, Dr. Taylor, discusses findings from a study he did on teen dating violence (funded by three grants from the United States Department of Justice), also known by researchers as adolescent relationship abuse, which Dr. Taylor uses interchangeably throughout his speech. I will refer to it as ARA. Much of his speech is about interventions into ARA, and the practicalities around what works in teaching children about boundaries and relationships to further primary prevention of this very serious problem. 

As many speakers do, he overviews his study:
As well as what he wants to talk about:
How Serious Is ARA?

He then focuses on how serious of an issue adolescent relationship abuse (ARA) is: According to a national study, 68% of youth between ages 10-18 report being victimized by it, and 62% report perpetrating it. The health consequences for adolescent relationship abuse are very similar to those for child sexual abuse. The full overview of what he discusses about the seriousness of ARA:

He then talks about what sort of classroom interventions he used for his studies. Varying approaches have been tried, but there are barriers to these approaches such as parental and school concerns about letting outside organizations like rape crisis centers into schools. In short, schools are reluctant to let people do any kind of mental health intervention. 

Two Main Approaches

The approaches are broken into two categories, interaction-based curriculum and law/justice curriculum:
Interaction-based curriculum focuses on setting and communicating boundaries, developing friendships and relationships and the continuum of the intimacy of relationships in general, as well as identifying wanted/unwanted behaviors and bystander intervention. Law/justice curriculum focuses on laws, definitions, and facts in general around what sort of consequences that inappropriate behavior can have.

Their findings in Cleveland in attempting both approaches and a control group showed that both approaches changed attitudes, but also increased violence and no change in sexual harassment, which he explained could be because of new awareness around inappropriate behaviors. 

Expanding The Approaches

Based on these findings, they expanded their study with more interventions and specialization to schools in New York City. There were a lot of specifics for how and why they expanded their interventions, and how they specialized their interventions for New York City compared to Cleveland that the average person would ignore. Interested parties can see the video for these specifics. Of note is that interventions cannot wait until a child is 10-13 years old, it must happen earlier because by age 10, children are already facing ARA.

Also of note is that one of the expansions was a building intervention, where children drew simple maps of their school with what areas of the building were safe, unsafe, and in between. They refer to this as "hot spots mapping", and those are used to add school personnel to unsafe areas. The results of this particular intervention were very promising.

Resistance To ARA Interventions

Despite nationwide studies being done by multiple groups (besides Dr. Taylor's) showing the effectiveness of these mental health interventions, there is high resistance to interventions around teen dating violence/ARA. This resistance seems to be in place despite offering incentives, such as free but copyrighted materials. They did not have any major guesses as to why there was resistance to implementing interventions. They wondered if state/national education mandates, time restrictions, and budget cuts might be a factor in the resistance to school-based research and interventions into ARA. 

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Moore Center Sex Abuse Symposium: Part One: Juvenile Sex Offender Policies And Effectiveness

In case you missed the other parts for this series, please see part two, three, four, or five.
As a refresher...
So, What Is This Symposium?

The Moore Center Symposium is a "meeting of the minds" on the prevention of child sexual abuse. It offers professionals (and advocates) an opportunity to learn more about the issue of child sexual abuse and how it can be prevented. The Moore Center for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse is a subset of Johns Hopkins' Bloomberg School of Public Health, which is a major educational institution in Maryland that is well-known for its work in the public health sector (as its name should indicate). The Moore Center is currently being directed by Dr. Elizabeth Letourneau, who used to be the president of The Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers (ATSA), and is a researcher that studies a myriad of topics within the realm of sexual abuse prevention. I am watching these admittedly dry and boring speeches to pull the essential parts out and communicate them to you. If you want to view them yourself, by all means, just be forewarned that they are dry and can be triggering. 

Beginning Introductions

The symposium starts with an introduction by Johns Hopkins' President, Ronald Daniels, regarding some of the reasons for the symposium and the keynote speaker at the symposium, Patrick McCarthy, who is the president and CEO of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, an organization that focuses on improving the lives of children in a variety of ways.  Other speakers at the symposium were Dr. Elizabeth Letourneau, Dr. Bruce Taylor (an expert in criminology), and Jill Levenson (expert in sociology and social work), followed by a showing of the film Untouchable, which I have talked about on this blog before. Following the film, there is a panel discussion about the film and closing remarks by Stephen and Julia Moore, the founding donors of the Moore Center.



Patrick McCarthy's Speech

At the beginning of his speech, Dr. McCarthy observes that before he learned about the Moore Center, almost everything he knew about child sexual abuse was wrong. Yes, this is the guy with a master's and doctorate in social work, and the keynote speaker of a child sexual abuse prevention symposium. He says that there are only three things about child sexual abuse that he still believes, now knowing more of the facts:
  • Everyone has been affected by child exual abuse- as a victim or as someone who knows a victim. 
  • The pain of child sexual abuse is long-lasting and can be made less significant, but is still present years later.
  • Whatever our own experiences, we all want to protect children from sexual abuse.
Policies Not Based In Fact And Ineffective

He suggests (as you have heard me say before) that many of the policies we have around sexual abuse seem to be based in common sense, but are completely wrongheaded and ineffective. The example he cites to support this idea the perception among the public that those who abuse children kidnap them off the street, rather than the factual idea that children are abused by people they know and trust, even adolescents. He says that half of child sexual abuse involves an adolescent with the average age of 14. He states that rather than addressing the facts, we teach stranger danger and fail to take the steps that would be effective in keeping children safe. He says again that the policies we have in place too often make children less safe.

Dehumanizing Abusers

He points out that we throw abusers under the bus, because we treat anyone who engages in any sort of inappropriate sexual behavior as a monster we want to protect our children from. We even treat teenagers and children, some as young as eleven years old, like monsters. He discusses that sex offender registration and community notification can isolate abusers away from support systems, and thus make them more likely to reoffend rather than less likely. 

Public Health Approach Vs. Criminal Justice Approach

One of the points made is that the criminal justice approach to stopping sexual abuse, while this approach must be a part of addressing sexual abuse, is failing because we are not integrating facts and research into these policies. He argues that if we treat sexual abuse as both a public health issue AND as a criminal justice issue, more children could be spared the pain of abuse. 

He suggest several ways in which criminal justice system is failing to protect children and are wrongheaded. The first example he uses is that public policy is based on the idea that offenders cannot change, so policies focus on removing offenders from the community through incarceration and community isolation. At the same time, we focus on changing the behavior of potential victims (attempting to increase reporting, in other words), which he says runs the risk of teaching victims and potential victims that they or their families were responsible for the abuse and are re-victimized by believing they could have stopped it. 

Another example is that public policy is focused on predicting and controlling individual behavior, based in the erroneous principle that we can guess and who will and will not commit a crime. He blasts tools like plethysmographs, polygraphs, and risk assessments as not being based in science, and suggests that we instead view sexual abuse as something that is situational and context-specific, so employing community education techniques can help change how the public views sexual abuse as an issue.

His next example is that juvenile offenders who engage in abusive acts are seen as permanently pathological, or "damaged," requiring lifelong monitoring and "coercive treatment". He suggests that the research supports instead the idea that juvenile offenders are engaging in perfectly normal exploratory and experimental behaviors that have gone off-track. He calls these behaviors harmful but preventable. 

He observes the idea that anyone with a sexual attraction to children is a sociopath, someone with no empathy for the victims and families and no interest in controlling their behavior. By contrast, he suggests that the groundbreaking work being done by Dr. Letourneau in the Help Wanted study is challenging that idea, and showing that youth who have an attraction to children often face barriers to getting help with their attractions, and indeed, a desire to get that help. He illustrates that public policy pushes people away from that help, sometimes at risk of arrest and isolation.

His final example is that public policy is based on the idea of high recidivism among juvenile offenders: That idea, he states, is not supported by research, and indeed, fewer than 5% of juvenile offenders will reoffend, raising the question of whether their crime could have been prevented in the first place. 

Need For Public Policy Advocacy

He says the examples show how far we have to go until the evidence from research and practice informs the policies being made by policymakers. He suggests that there needs to be advocates who can inform policymakers on effective policies. 

A Disaster From 25 Years Ago

His next point regards the predictions of a few big names about 25 years ago about the idea that we would see a rise in super-predators, or those with horrifying behaviors that developed during the predator's youth. The policies that were formed in reaction to this prediction, such as zero-tolerance policies, mandatory minimum sentencing, and so forth have set the backdrop for where we are today with policies. The data we have today shows that the prediction was wrong: Recidivism is low, and violent crime rates are dropping, not skyrocketing. These policies that were formed in reaction to this prediction, he says, are harmful and wrongheaded. 

How Do We Change Policy?

He prefaces his suggestions on how we can change policy with the observation that he does not have a magic answer, but suggests that the specific steps to changing policy can depend on what an individual advocate or group wants to accomplish. He recommends two priorities: Reversing course from current public policy initiatives to target and punish sex offenders, and increasing public involvement in developing public policy that is more effective at reducing crime. 

He recommends in regard to the first priority, eliminating the need for juveniles to register as sex offenders, a goal he suggests is very feasible. He proposes eliminating the indiscriminate sentencing of child sex offenders and the "bad science" options of plethysmography, polygraphy, and indefinite monitoring. He suggests instead developing prevention methods that are systemic (schools and community groups) and address at-risk youth to prevent harm before it can happen. In that, he suggests intervention strategies that get help to at-risk youth, whether they are at-risk because of having a sexual attraction to children or for some other reason. 

With that in mind, he comes up with five things he has learned:
  1. Rather than a broad campaign to change public opinion, individual outreach to policymakers and policy implementers (judges, youth-serving organizations, politicians, etc.), and outreach to those that influence these policies, or those that already have relationships with policymakers and policy implementers. 
  2. Linking the data and research to personal experience and stories that are effective in changing perceptions.
  3. Not investing huge amounts into standalone advocacy, but building on existing messaging and advocacy platforms. This means outreaching and partnering with victim advocates, field-leading organizations like ATSA, the National Conference of State Legislators, the National Governor's Association, the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, the National Juvenile Defenders Association, etc. This also means outreaching to organizations to libertarian, conservative, and other "unlikely allies" that can be more powerful in reaching other viewpoints.
  4. Be strategic and opportunistic so that when unexpected opportunities come up through the contacts with other advocacy platforms.
  5. Data, facts, and evidence matters, as is the stories that can display those facts to the general public. 

Public Investment Into Prevention Strategies

He points out the value of individuals and organizations that donate money to researching, developing, and supporting the infrastructure to make prevention a reality. However, he points out that we need policymakers to dedicate public funds to developing the prevention of child sexual abuse because of the great need for funding and research into creating more effective policies. 



Tuesday, May 16, 2017

What Does It Take To Be An Advocate Against Sexual Abuse?

It Is Not As Hard As You Think... Eventually

Frankly, most of it involves reading- news articles, studies, pages with statistics (and verifying that they are correct by hunting down the source), and above all... speaking up! It is not the advocating that will scare you, it is standing up and saying something. The most difficult part of being an advocate is that first step you take where you see a problem with something someone says, or a comment on a news article, and you say something. That first step is hard, but it gets easier and easier with time. Before you take that step, you do need to decide... will you use your real name, or will you use a pseudonym?

Why is that first step hard? Because you are never sure how your statement will be perceived. If you say anything remotely critical of sex offender policies- bam. You are now labeled as a defender of sex offenders, even if you have all the research in the world to back it up. Criticize mandatory reporting, because it means less children and abusers get help to avoid more abuse? You are against getting the police involved, and therefore support sex abuse. No matter what you say, there will be a troll out there who can and will hassle you for it. Everyone has an opinion, especially on the internet. What matters is having the guts to say it anyway.

The Tools In Your Toolbox

The tools you have available to you, and the ability to use them proficiently, will make or break your ability to advocate against abuse. The first tool in your toolbox that you must be able to wield with expert care is balancing your advocacy and not biting off more than you can chew. There is always, always something you can be doing... and the work will never end. No matter how you choose to get involved, you may hear stories that keep you up at night, you may receive comments that totally sideline your thinking... no matter what happens, your work will affect you, and you need to be prepared to take a step back, put it down, and relax.

At the same time, you need to know when to keep talking, even when people are trying to shout you down, and when to just shut up. That is your second tool: The wisdom to know when to say something and when it would not be helpful. There is no guidebook to follow, just your own instinct. This tool gets honed with experience- and making mistakes will happen.

A tool you may not know about is a handy feature of Microsoft Word, and other word processors may have it also: Mail merge. With a mail merge, you can type up a single document, then make a list in Microsoft Excel (or any spreadsheet program compatible with the word processor) of who you want to email (with Outlook, or other email program compatible with the word processor) to a large group of people, yet individualized to each person. You can add more than just names- what department or committee they belong to, their official title, a greeting honorific, etc. Just be aware that some organizations (like politicians that you are not a constituent of) may frown on these, and if not done sparingly, you may get flagged for spam.

Another handy tool is a blog or website, which may sound hard to do, but modern tools like Wix, Zoho, Blogger, Wordpress, and others have made it easier. You do not need to know HTML coding to create a blog or website, and you can do many things with a blog or website. However, by far the most useful tool in your toolbox are...

Keyboard Shortcuts

Yes, those marvelous little tricks that can save so much time. Here is a handy list that I use all the time (presuming that you use Windows):
  • CTRL+K: Insert hyperlink
  • CTRL+C/V: Copy/paste
  • CTRL+Z/Y: Undo/Redo
  • CTRL+B/I/U: Bold/Italicize/Underline
  • CTRL+F: Find (works in web browsers/documents/PDF's, if you want to search for a keyword)
  • ALT+TAB: Switch between windows
  • ALT+F4: Close whatever window you are in
  • I am sure you can find more...
The point being, if you advocate, yes, a desktop or laptop computer is your best friend- particularly a Windows laptop/desktop. And yes, I have almost no experience with Apple these days, so I could very well be wrong in pointing you to Windows.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

A Message About Prevention For Sexual Abuse/Assault Survivors

Difficult Subject
  
This subject is difficult for me, because I was sexually abused by three separate people growing up: A caregiver, a local teenager, and my mother were the culprits. While that is not my entire story, and as you well know, each of our stories is different, it has served as part of the backbone for why I advocate against child sexual abuse. I have long since set aside using my experiences with sexual abuse as arguments when I am advocating, because most of my advocacy takes place on the internet, where anyone can say anything. It is much harder to argue with verifiable facts than it is to argue with some guy with a weird screenname talking about how he was abused.

This is an especially difficult subject for me to cover, because not only am I limited by my own perspective, I bury my nose in research and news articles far more often than I bury my nose in stories of other survivors. My knowledge of this issue is more academic than it is anything else, so there are things I absolutely cannot relate to. In addition to that, I am not as in touch with my emotions as I could be. Often, it takes me additional time to process how I felt. Just yesterday, I did not realize how tired I was until several hours after I was getting cranky.

Why Facts Are Important

For this, I would like to use an example that may sound a little ridiculous: Let us say that you have a pest problem in your house, but you do not know what kind of pest it is. You have never seen the pests yourself, only the effects: Crumbs, torn packages, that sort of thing. Would you assume it is cockroaches, and buy cockroach spray? Would you keep buying the spray if the pest issue persisted? No, you would attempt to narrow down the suspected pest, so that you know how to deal with it.

Using this example, the first several options are preposterous. You would not use cockroach spray on a mouse, nor a squirrel trap for a cockroach, and you would certainly not buy more solutions for one type of pest if they are ineffective. The best course of action would be to find out what you are dealing with, and then take a next step, so that you can ensure that step is effective at addressing your problem.

This ties into preventing child sexual abuse and sexual assault perfectly, though you would find it difficult to believe. In the 1990's, we began forming policies to address the "pest problem" of sexual crimes without studying who is responsible for these crimes or what impact these policies or "pest traps" would have, and whether they would be effective in solving our sexual crime or "pest problem". Since then, much research has looked not only at these policies, but who is responsible for sexual crimes and what the motivations are. We have identified who the "pests" are, and I will come back to that in a moment.

The results of throwing a pest solution at a pest problem of unknown origin is a shot in the dark at best. Similarly, the results of trying to stop sexual crime with methods that may or may not address sexual crimes are policies that may be completely ineffective at stopping sexual crime. The implications can mean that more victims do suffer from sexual crimes, even though the intent is less sexual crime with fewer victims. I think at this point we can all agree that good intentions, in this case, must be supported by effective policies as well, so that our efforts to stop sex crimes are effective. If more people suffer the pain of sexual crimes because our policies do not do what they are intended to do, that is not a good situation.

Research Is Important

With that having been said, I think there is a lot of value in looking at the research around sexual abuse and sexual assault prevention. In many cases, the facts that exist in research are very counterintuitive to what most people are likely to think about this issue, perhaps even you.

Before I continue, I would like to list five citations for reliable research (among the plethora that exist) that I am familiar with. While it is generally advisable when looking at research studies to look at multiple studies on a subject, I include these because I find them to be representative of the similar studies I have seen, and the academic information available on the subject.

I will list the facts that are drawn from these later, but for now, I want to only include the citations:
1.     Sandler, J. C., Freeman, N. J., & Socia, K. M. (2008). DOES A WATCHED POT BOIL? A Time-Series Analysis of New York State’s Sex Offender Registration and Notification Law. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 14(4), 284-302. doi:0.1037/a0013881
2.     Bonnar-Kidd, K. K. (2010). Sexual Offender Laws and Prevention of Sexual Violence or RecidivismAmerican Journal of Public Health, 100(3), 412-419. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2008.153254
3.     Finkelhor, D. (2009). The Prevention of Childhood SexualAbuseThe Future Of Children, 19(2). 
4.     Seto, M. C., Cantor, J. M., & Blanchard, R. (2006). Child Pornography Offenses Are a Valid Diagnostic Indicator of PedophiliaJournal of Abnormal Psychology, 610-615. doi:10.1037/0021-843X.115.3.610
5.     Buckman, C., Ruzicka, A., & Shields, R. T. (2016) Help Wanted: Lessons on Prevention from Non-Offending Young Adult PedophilesAssociation for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers Forum Newsletter, 28(2).

All of these citations are from prestigious organizations and have been peer-reviewed, which means that other experts familiar with these topics have double-checked them for accuracy and methodological rigor. In other words, not only do the authors of these studies know their stuff, the studies were reviewed by others who likewise know their stuff. I will come back to that list shortly.

An Overview Of Current Initiatives And Policies

Currently, the popular methods of stopping sex crime naturally center around tracking, supervising, and restricting sex offenders. We put them on both public and private lists, so that people and police in our communities know who and where they are. We notify communities when a high-risk offender is moving in. We sometimes prevent them from living and even being near schools, parks, bus stops, and other places where there are children. We seek harsher sentences, in order to deter would-be sex offenders and exact revenge on these people. Sometimes, these sentences vary by location: Larger urban counties tend to use rehabilitative sentences, where smaller urban counties trend towards harsher, lengthier sentences.

Above all of that, we state that only a monster would commit a rape, or a sex crime against a child, and we seek to use the label of “sex offender” to insinuate that these people are monsters. We lump all offenders who have committed a sexual crime into one label: Sex offender.

Many of these policies vary depending on where you live, but all of them are not sentences, but requirements that endure after the completion of whatever sentence the offender was given. In Wisconsin, for example, sex offenders must wear GPS monitors their entire lives, while that is not the case in New York. In California, residency restrictions are being overturned by judges, while in Minnesota, many cities have passed ordinances. In some places, juveniles as young as nine years old are placed on the sex offender registry, and juveniles do perpetrate 35.6% of child sexual abuse cases.

The overwhelming public opinion is that harsher is better when it comes to policies about sex offenders.

Back To That Research...

Remember that research list? Here are some very short summaries about each article (in the above order), based on their abstracts. If you wish to read the abstracts directly, please feel free to use the links and investigate them yourself (studies 3, 4, and 5 are available full-text while you may have to hunt for the other two).

  1. Sandler, J. C., Freeman, N. J., & Socia, K. M. (2008). DOES A WATCHED POT BOIL? A Time-Series Analysis of New York State’s Sex Offender Registration and Notification Law. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 14(4), 284-302. doi:0.1037/a0013881
    1. This study was a time-series analysis looking at 21 years of arrest data in New York, categorizing arrestees into several categories, determining that 5% of arrests were of registered sex offenders or those with prior sex offenses on their record, and 95% of arrests were of those new to the criminal justice system. 
  2. Bonnar-Kidd, K. K. (2010). Sexual Offender Laws and Prevention of Sexual Violence or RecidivismAmerican Journal of Public Health, 100(3), 412-419. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2008.153254
    1. This study is an evaluation of sex offender management policies including GPS monitoring, civil commitment, community notification, registration, and restrictions on residency, internet, and others. This article looks at the consequences of these policies, and suggests that the effectiveness of these policies is in question and may do more harm.
  3. Finkelhor, D. (2009). The Prevention of Childhood SexualAbuseThe Future Of Children, 19(2).
    1. This article details many current methods of preventing child sexual abuse, concluding that efforts to punish and manage offenders are less effective than primary prevention efforts. A wide variety of methods, including sex offender registration and notification, sex offender residency restrictions, child safety education, and others are covered. 
  4. Seto, M. C., Cantor, J. M., & Blanchard, R. (2006). Child Pornography Offenses Are a Valid Diagnostic Indicator of PedophiliaJournal of Abnormal Psychology, 610-615. doi:10.1037/0021-843X.115.3.610
    1. This study is one of several vitally important studies looking at the prevalence of pedophilia in those who have convictions involving sexual abuse material, and those who have molested children. While the study’s sample size was limited, they found that 61% of those with sexual abuse material convictions had pedophilia, and 35% of those with molestation convictions had pedophilia. It is generally accepted among researchers that roughly a third of child sexual abusers have pedophilia, though there is no one study that demonstrates that
  5. Buckman, C., Ruzicka, A., & Shields, R. T. (2016) Help Wanted: Lessons on Prevention from Non-Offending Young Adult PedophilesAssociation for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers Forum Newsletter, 28(2).
    1. This research update gave a broad overview of the Moore Center for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse's "Help Wanted" study, which was based on a podcast done by This American Life. In short, the study they conducted looked at the experiences of offending and non-offending pedophiles to look at common needs that pedophiles have when they are just discovering their sexual attraction to children. The entire point, which was heavily based on the story in the podcast, is that sometimes those with attractions to children are afraid they might molest a child, and the study seeks to answer the question: How can we help those people so that they do not hurt a child? 

As you can see from this information, there is a wide variety of research available to tell us which methods of preventing and stopping sexual abuse and sexual assault work, and which do not. Overwhelmingly, the research literature supports preventative methods over punitive methods. The first study, and sex offender recidivism studies, suggest that the biggest group of people responsible for sexual crimes overall are those with no criminal background. If interventions could reach these people before these crimes are committed, many victims would be spared the sort of pain you had to experience.

Powerful Voices

Child sexual abuse victims, survivors, and their families have been powerful voices for legislative change in the past three decades and beyond. Many of our current policies have been the result of people like you speaking up, and making the statement that sexual crimes should not and cannot be tolerated by the rest of society. I wholeheartedly agree with that message that sexual crime is unacceptable and needs to stop. However, I believe that if we are to be effective in making that vision a reality, we must pay close attention to what the facts and the research say. As I pointed out earlier, if we form policies that are not based in fact, we run the risk of wasting time and resources and creating more victims.

Taking The Politics Out Of Prevention

The goal of preventing child sexual abuse has been political for many years, and I believe it need not be so. Conservatives, liberals, moderates, independents, socialists, and everything in between: We are all human, and we all know that when our youngest members suffer, we all suffer. The suffering of children at the hands of other children and adults who use them for sexual pleasure needs to stop. We can all wholeheartedly agree on that point. Can we agree that to do so, we must focus on the facts involved in these issues, even if they are complex and difficult to understand, accept, or believe? Can we agree that the facts and the research are important to preventing others from knowing the pain of sexual crimes? If we can agree on those points, then we must speak up and let our politicians hear us: Demand that they focus on the research so that others will not know our pain.

Advocating Prevention Means Sex Offender Policies Must Take The Back Seat

Prevention, particularly primary prevention, means that we seek to stop sexual crimes before they can happen. In other words, intervening in the process that leads someone from a stressful background or event to using someone else as a sexual frustration outlet. That means programs need to be available for those sexually attracted to children who fear they might one day act on it, and it means that children need to be educated on sex, sexuality, consent, and what mental health resources are available to them if they are struggling with an issue (any issue, including being victimized or fearing that they might victimize others). There are a wide variety of areas involved in primary prevention, and you can explore all of them by reading the third study above by Dr. Finkelhor.

While criticizing sex offender policies may seem like a bad move, the reality is that at most, they will only ever address less than 5% of new sex crimes (the first study). Compared to primary prevention, which can address up to 95% of new sex crime, the focus on prevention is a no-brainer. The reality is, in addition to not being effective, sex offender policies have been shown in some studies to increase recidivism rather than decreasing it: In other words, they are correlated with more crime, not less.

The Shorter Version…

The simple version of this can be summed up in four points:

  1. Despite the difficulty of the subject matter, and because of it, we need to have serious and open conversations about what is and is not effective at impacting sex crime.
  2. Research and research-based policies need to be brought into the limelight so that future generations can avoid seeing the kind of pain that survivors of sexual abuse and assault experience.
  3. Current policies are focused almost exclusively on a problem that does not have much basis in research.
  4. Survivors of sexual abuse and assault have powerful voices that have been effective in seeing legislative changes on this issue, and if these voices speak to effective vs. ineffective policies, real change can be seen.

The future is in your hands. How will you act?