Section 1: Introduction
1 Hour, 25 Minutes

Lecture TopicTOPIC: AN INTRODUCTION TO VICTIM–CENTERED SEX OFFENDER MANAGEMENT
(15 minutes)

Around the country, the most promising sex offender management practices are based on two basic premises:

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Additionally, working together provides the community a model for how to respond to the problem of sexual violence. In terms of supervision, the focus on the safety needs of victims is not so much a new approach as it is a recommitment to established criminal justice goals. Community supervision has always been about protecting the community from crime—including past and potential victims. Our practices are based on certain assumptions about what that means. With most offenders, we assume that compliance with rules about employment, keeping appointments, and attending treatment or other assigned activities means that the offender is not actively engaged in a criminal lifestyle and is not committing new crimes—but sex offenders are different. We have learned from experience that the above behaviors are necessary but not sufficient. Just because sex offenders appear to be complying with supervision conditions does not mean that they are not engaging in sex offending behavior, and that even seemingly compliant behavior must still be scrutinized. For this particular kind of offender, we need a particular kind of approach. One aspect of that approach is a recommitment to placing the safety needs of victims and the community at the forefront of our strategy, or taking a victim–centered approach. So how do we do that?

A victim–centered approach is both a philosophy of offender management and a method of offender management.

Note: The point about the continuity of goals may be less true for treatment providers who have had to make a more active shift in their perspective away from seeing only the individual client as their responsibility to seeing the client in the context of the community where he poses a danger. The point is the same, however; that the behavior of sex offenders is unique and therefore requires a victim–centered perspective.

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Note: One model management process that you may have heard about, documented by English, Pullen, and Jones (1996), is called “The Containment Approach.” It describes a team approach that includes supervision, treatment, and polygraph to contain the behavior of sex offenders.3 Victim advocates are not explicitly included in this early formulation, but it is conceptually consistent with what we are describing here as a victim–centered approach.

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The victim–centered approach is also a method—it means putting the philosophy into practice. There are three dimensions to the process of implementing this method, or three different ways in which we must alter our thinking and our approach.

Whether we decide to create an informal relationship through which we confer with advocates on policy issues or on difficult case decisions, or we create a more formal structure whereby advocates are part of the jurisdiction’s sex offender management policy team, or we decide to include a victim advocate with the treatment provider and polygraph examiner as part of our individual case management team, the important thing is that those responsible for supervising sex offenders create an alliance with victim advocates that informs the way sex offenders are managed in the community. (We will talk more about this in the next section.)

Note: Define “case management team” for any participants unfamiliar with the term.

A case management team is a group of individuals who can augment the management provided by a supervision officer. A case management team typically consists of a supervision agent, the offender’s treatment provider, and a polygraph examiner. However, variations of these teams exist in communities around the nation. The use of the case management team allows the probation officer to communicate routinely with others who are familiar with the offender’s day–to–day activities.

Working effectively with victims also includes paying attention to the secondary impacts of sexual assault on those close to the victim. Individuals who experience harm by knowing or caring for the victim are usually family members (but may include friends, relatives, acquaintances, and members of the community), who have been significantly affected by the victim’s experience, whether through damage to their own relationships with the offender, or by their secondary experience of the victim’s pain. When we work to manage the perpetrators of child sexual abuse, for example, we may also become involved with the victim’s parents, who may themselves experience a certain level of trauma. This is especially true for incest victims and their non–offending parents, or parents of sibling incest offenders and victims whose home lives may have been severely disrupted and permanently altered by the disclosure of sexual abuse. Although we will spend more time later in the training talking about both primary victims and those who experience harm through their connection to the victim, it’s important to recognize that when we discuss including victim input, we need to include all of these individuals in our thinking.

Many jurisdictions doing this work are finding that the offender’s family members (whether the victim is a family member or not) are another group of individuals significantly impacted by the offenders’ actions, whose participation in the healing process is essential. When family members are in denial, they may permit the offender to have contact with potential victims. They may also be among those to experience the impact of a negative community response to the offender returning home. How we educate and include primary victims and those closest to them in what we do can have considerable impact on the effectiveness of sex offender management.

To summarize then, the victim–centered approach is:

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