Skip to Main ContentCenter for Sex Offender Management, Educating the Community about Sexual Assault and the Management of Sex Offenders in the Community:  A Training Curriculum
A Project of the Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice
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I. What Community Members Need to Know
II. Conducting a Community Notification
III. Managing Sex Offenders
IV. The Role of the Community
Other CSOM Curricula
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Section 3: Lecture Content and Teaching Notes
Managing Sex Offenders in the Community

30 minutes

(10 minutes)

Despite the imposition of external controls and the development of internal controls, most offenders have lapses that, especially in the beginning of supervision, may initiate their sexual abuse cycle. The great majority of sex offenders do not commit their crimes impulsively without any planning or forethought. Most (with the exception of the approximately 4 percent who are mentally ill) have an abuse or offense "cycle" that is associated with their offending behavior. As such, their offending behavior begins hours, days, weeks, or even months before the actual crime is physically perpetrated.

Use Slide # SymbolUse Slide #7: What Is a Lapse?
[Click to Enlarge]

If time permits, you may want to share with the audience an illustration of how a lapse can lead to a reoffense. For example, a sex offender, who is already having difficulty controlling his deviant sexual thoughts, experiences stress at work, and goes out to buy alcohol to try to relax. Instead of bringing alcohol home, he stops at a bar, where he proceeds to get intoxicated and fume about his problems. He then begins fantasizing about committing a sexual assault, which propels him into his cycle of abuse. In this example there are a number of places where the offender could have 'interrupted' his path to the reoffense (e.g., not drinking, not going to a bar, talking about his stress with someone).

What Is a Lapse?

  • Lapses are "stumbles" or steps in the wrong direction.

  • Lapses are not necessarily reoffenses in and of themselves and do not necessarily lead to reoffense.

  • A series of lapses may lead to a reoffense.

  • With regard to lapses, a goal in treatment is for the offender to identify their lapse behavior, talk about it, and take appropriate steps to avoid past patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving that have led them to commit sexual offenses.

  • Offenders cannot always be trusted to be able or willing to talk about their lapses, therefore, close monitoring is essential in combination with treatment.

Sex offender treatment and supervision are designed to hold offenders completely accountable for their behavior and to address the problems and issues in their lives that put them at risk to reoffend. Sex offender supervision officers monitor the offender's external activities and sex offender-specific treatment providers monitor the offender's internal thoughts and feelings. Both are intended to assist the offender in developing the skills and the ability to identify triggers in their cycle of abuse and stop his or her inappropriate, abusive, and dangerous behavior.