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Section 5: Lecture Content and Teaching Notes
Practical Supervision Strategies

4 hours, 30 minutes

TOPIC: DESENSITIZATION
(5 minutes)

New Topic IconWHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE DESENSITIZED?

Note: This issue suggests a careful balancing act between encouraging officers to desensitize themselves and discouraging them from either becoming insensitive (to victims, for example), or minimizing the risk posed by the offender.
Sensitivity is a term in good currency today. We hear much about sensitivity training and how important it is to be sensitive to any number of issues and individuals. However, experienced probation/parole officers advise that to work with sex offenders, it is important to "desensitize" oneself to some degree. Offenders have often engaged in unspeakable behavior that has created life-altering trauma for their victims. Their behavior can be so far beyond the boundaries of civilized human interaction that we are naturally appalled. In the words of a seasoned parole officer who has supervised sex offenders for many years, a supervising probation/parole agent must deal with sex offenders "in a nonjudgmental way. You have to temporarily suspend disbelief and set aside the normal revulsion that we might have for these offenders' behavior."1 This may seem counter to an individual's sense of right and wrong, but probation/parole officers emphasize that it is necessary to suspend judgment to allow oneself to function effectively as a supervision officer. Suspending judgment of the person does not mean losing sight of the fact that the person's behavior is not acceptable, is illegal, and is harmful to victims.

Some techniques for desensitization include—

Use Slide # SymbolUse Slide #4: Desensitization
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  • Becoming as familiar as possible with the case file, nature of the crime, impact on the victim, etc., prior to the first interview to minimize surprises;
  • Deliberately adopting a neutral tone and demeanor during your interactions with the offender, fully anticipating that some disclosure or discussion of the details of the offense may be quite unsettling. One neutral reaction technique is to respond by saying, "Let me write that down," which breaks eye contact, gives you a focus for your attention, and offers a neutral, routine response; and
  • Discussing your cases with another officer who may be involved in sex offender management, which provides you with an outlet to discuss the issues with someone who understands your situation.

Discussion Question? Discussion Question: Are there any other techniques you'd like to add?