Section 6: Conclusion
20 Minutes

Lecture Topic TOPIC: CONCLUSION

Use SlideUse Slide #1: Understanding Sex Offenders: An Introductory Curriculum

We’ve covered a lot of material in this training. Before we leave today, I would like to summarize some key “take–away” points from the training and talk about some of the important implications that they have for our work.

Based on what we reviewed about the incidence and prevalence of sexual victimization, we know that it is a significant problem in our society, and that it can have a tremendous impact on victims, families, and communities. Yet unfortunately, we also know that reporting rates for sexual assaults are quite low. As we talked about earlier, victims have many unique reasons for not reporting, including fears and doubts about the criminal justice process itself. One of the implications, then, is that those of us who work in the criminal justice system—in fact, all of us who are involved in the sex offender management process—can alleviate some of these concerns by taking a more victim–centered approach to our work.

Use SlideUse Slide #2: A Victim-Centered Approach

A victim–centered approach to sex offender management takes into consideration victims’ safety, needs, and interests at every step of the sex offender management process, and prioritizes and responds to those needs accordingly. It should begin at the point when individuals first disclose that they have been victimized—we must make sure that our investigative processes are sensitive to them and that our court proceedings do not re–traumatize them. I’m sure you’ve all heard of cases in which child victims were interviewed repeatedly by multiple parties, which causes them to relive and relay their victimization experience over and over unnecessarily. Or perhaps you’ve heard about cases in which the credibility of an alleged rape victim was called into question, or even when they were somehow blamed for what happened to them during the course of the trial. These are just a few examples that occur early on in the criminal justice process and that can have a significant impact on whether individuals will be willing to come forward when they are victimized.

A victim–centered approach can also enhance the effectiveness of our intervention efforts with sex offenders throughout the criminal justice process. For example, when we collaborate with victim advocates and listen to the voices of victims, we can learn more about the offenders and their modus operandi, which can ultimately help us manage offenders more effectively. So the benefits of a victim centered approach are twofold—it allows us to be better informed and in a better position to manage sex offenders appropriately, and it gives us the opportunity to make participation in the criminal justice system—or in the sex offender management process as a whole—a more inviting, validating, and empowering experience for victims.

When considering the victimization data, we were also reminded that, contrary to commonly held myths, most victims of sex crimes are targeted by someone known to them—not by strangers. An associated implication here is that we really need to think about how we educate our communities about sexual victimization and how we approach prevention efforts.

In terms of the individuals who commit these crimes, we acknowledged that what we know about sex offenders is limited primarily to those who come to our attention in the criminal justice system. Even though sex offenders represent a significant and growing proportion of the individuals in our prisons and under supervision in our communities, they still represent only a fraction of the problem. Nonetheless, through decades of research on these known offenders, we’ve learned quite a bit about them. Perhaps most importantly, we have come to understand more and more that although the label of “sex offender” can imply that they are all alike, the reality is that they are not. Individuals who commit sex offenses do not easily fit into any one profile, either in terms of what they “look like” or why they do what they do.

As a group, they have some common characteristics and risk factors, but the extent to which any one offender has those characteristics or risk factors can vary considerably. In the same vein, the research has also helped us to see that there is no single “cause” of sex offending behavior. In fact, it seems to be quite the opposite. Sex offending behavior is not likely to be explained fully by any one single factor, trait, motivation, or characteristic, but rather by a multitude of interacting factors that may be present in differing degrees from one offender to the next. This also illustrates that sex offenders don’t all follow the same “path” to offending. Rather, there are multiple pathways for individuals who commit sex offenses.

Use SlideUse Slide #3: Implications

And this definitely has important implications for our work. It means that we simply cannot establish blanket or umbrella policies and practices for sex offenders as a group that assume that these individuals are all alike – “one size fits all” strategies, so to speak. Given what the research and professional literature tells us about sex offenders, we know that there is no simple solution for such a complex problem. The good news is that some of the research and literature on etiological theories, offense pathways, subtypes and typologies, risk factors, and recidivism can help us think about our sex offender management approaches in a more tailored and refined manner. So let’s talk for a moment about some more specific ways in which this might play out.

The bottom line with all of this is that we need to consider what the data tells us about different types of sex offenders and which strategies will lead to the best results in terms of public safety. Put simply, our approaches to managing sex offenders should be informed by the research about the nature and scope of sexual victimization, the heterogeneity of sex offenders, the costs and benefits of specific approaches, and “what works” to reduce recidivism. And researchers and other experts in this field are well positioned to help policymakers and practitioners understand these and other important issues as they critically examine our current policies and the ways in which they are carried out.

This brings us to the close of this training. Does anyone have any other questions?

I hope that you will leave today with a better understanding of what is known about this complex issue, and that this information will prompt you to consider some ways—above and beyond those that we’ve discussed today—in which the material that we’ve covered might impact your day to day practice in managing sex offenders.

Thank you for you participation.

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