Section 1: Introduction
1 Hour, 25 Minutes

(20 minutes)

Why are We Here?
(4 minutes)

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We know that sexual assault can be a devastating crime. We know it affects victims in different and profound ways, ways that are both visible and invisible to the larger community. It can affect their behavior, their relationships, their sense of safety and well–being, and their ability to engage in daily activities (such as work or school) for the rest of their lives. Sexual assault also affects the larger community: parents who must be concerned for their children, women and girls who avoid engaging in activities alone because they feel unsafe, schools and other youth serving organizations that must be on guard against potential perpetrators wanting to work with children, and communities that are fearful of sex offenders.

We are here today to talk about the relationship between the work that we do and those who are affected most by sexual assault—the victims and potential victims of sexual assault crimes and members of the community. We will begin by spending some time talking about why this is an important conversation to have, then spend most of our time talking about what we know about victims and how they are affected by sexual assault, and how we can use this knowledge to do a better job of managing sex offenders in the community. We expect that you will leave here today with the tools you need to take steps toward applying this information to your work, and the beginnings of an action plan for implementing or providing additional support to a victim–centered approach to sex offender management in your community.

Listening to Victims
(4 minutes)

The prevention of a sexual re–offense by an offender is our primary goal, and is one of the most difficult tasks facing us as professionals who are working with sex offenders who are under community supervision or are in treatment. However, collaborating with victims and victim advocates represents one of our best opportunities to both prevent future victimization by known perpetrators and to promote healing of past victims. By taking the time to listen to victims, we can learn a great deal about the offenders that we are supervising. Victims often know more about the perpetrator and how he/she operates than anyone else, and are often more cued in to danger signs than those supervising or treating the sex offender. Having some kind of connection to the victim can help a supervision officer manage a sex offender more effectively.

Additionally, many victims have a strong need to be heard, individually and/or collectively. Being listened to and taken seriously by the criminal justice system, having their safety concerns recognized and responded to, and knowing that the perpetrator who offended against them is going to be prevented from hurting them or another victim in the future can often help a victim to heal.

Note: The male pronoun is used throughout this curriculum for ease of use because the majority of sex offenders are male. However, we recognize that females can and do offend sexually; this will be discussed later in the curriculum.

Note: Patterns of offending refers to the pattern of behaviors that precede a sexual assault, which are specific to each offender and which constitute the target of relapse prevention treatment. Information about pattern of offending and relapse prevention can be found in the CSOM curricula, Supervision of Sex Offenders in the Community and An Overview of Sex Offender Treatment for a Non–Clinical Audience. These curricula are available on the CSOM Web site at or can be ordered from CSOM using the document order form provided in the Trainer’s Resources section.

Note: For another important resource on how victims, advocates, and supervision and treatment staff can work together effectively to manage sex offenders in the community, see “Partnering in Response to Sexual Violence: How Offender Treatment and Victim Advocacy Can Work Together in Response to Sexual Violence,” referenced at the end of this section.

Around the country, jurisdictions that are applying a multi–disciplinary model of sex offender management are learning that no single entity alone can effectively minimize the likelihood of future re–offense. Only through the use of a collaborative model of sex offender management can those responsible for sex offender management effectively manage these offenders and minimize the risk of future sexual victimization.1 Victims and victim advocates can be a valuable part of these collaborations. The information that the victim can provide about an offender’s behavior can be very useful not only to supervision agencies, but also to treatment providers, who can address with the offender how this behavior fits into his pattern of offending and what the implications of his behavior could be. When supervision officers and offender treatment providers engage victims and victim advocates in their work, the chance of increased victim and community safety is much more likely since the information available is more specific and accurate to each given offender.

The Role of Victims
(5 minutes)

Many of you have already given considerable thought to the role of victims in your work, and some of what we discuss today may already be familiar to you, and perhaps even in place within your community. Others of you may have faced practical or systematic obstacles to working with victims and victim advocates, such as lack of access to victim contact information. Each jurisdiction has different resources and handles the subject of victim involvement differently. Some jurisdictions have designated staff within community supervision agencies to handle victim contact; some routinely get a victim impact statement during pre–sentencing but don’t pursue any kind of further contact; some leave it to other agencies (like the prosecutor’s office), which may already have victim support systems in place to work with victims, help them through the criminal justice process, and determine what their needs are; and, some are mandated by the legislature to provide specific services to victims, such as notification of offender status. Some communities have a variety of resources for victims, while others have very little. One of the goals of this training is help you assess where you and your jurisdiction are in relation to this issue and what steps you might be able to take if you decide to pursue this strategy further.

Managing sex offenders effectively requires us to think about victims sex crimes differently than we might with victims of other kinds of offenders. Most sexual assault victims know their offenders. In addition to focusing on what we are obligated by law to do for victims of sexual assault, effective sex offender management calls for an understanding of what working with victims of sexual assault can teach us in our efforts to more safely manage sex offenders under community supervision.

This training does not focus only on individual victims. In addition to talking about victims, we are also going to explore how victim advocates in the criminal justice system and community–based settings such as a rape crisis center can be involved in managing sex offenders. We know jurisdictions are in different places with respect to how they work with victim advocates. As we will discuss, victim advocates offer a perspective quite different from that of individual victims. Their perspective is informed by working with many different victims, which helps them to see both commonalities and differences among victim experiences.

Common Ground Between Supervision Officers and Victims/Victim Advocates
(5 minutes)

Perhaps the biggest benefit of looking at the work of sex offender management in this way is that it allows us to recognize common ground between victims, victim advocates, and ourselves. In many ways, the worlds of offender management and victim services have seen themselves and been seen by others as oppositional—what was good for offenders couldn’t possibly be good for victims and what was good for victims couldn’t possibly be good for offenders.

The truth is, everyone benefits from ending victimization, including the offender. When we forge this common ground, we create a better, more informed environment in which to manage sex offenders, and we build a network of allies who can help each other reach their professional goals.

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Let’s talk briefly about some of the potential mutual benefits we can expect from working with victims and victim advocates. When we work with victims and victim advocates, we get:

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Victims get:

Victim advocates get:

These benefits can lead to the increased satisfaction of victims within the criminal justice process, which will lead to greater cooperation from victims, encourage more victims to report, and increase the level of healing among victims.

Together we get additional support in our very difficult work, and increased satisfaction that we are more effectively accomplishing our goals.

We will come back to this issue to talk about additional benefits and specific strategies for achieving these benefits. The important thing to note here is that whatever time or energy we expend in working with victims and victim advocates is repaid to us many times over. Our work with advocates can help to achieve many important benefits—most importantly, it enhances our ability to fulfill our mission of increasing public safety through the more effective management of sex offenders.

The Costs of Not Including Victims
(2 minutes)

When considering whether to implement a victim–centered approach to sex offender management, it’s also important to consider the cost of not working with victims and victim advocates. We agreed earlier that our goal is to effectively minimize the likelihood of recidivism through collaborative, evidence-based responses. Despite the best efforts of victim advocacy groups, courts and corrections systems, treatment providers, and others, no one has been able to accomplish this difficult goal on their own. The fact is that we need each other and what each discipline has to offer.

When victims and victim advocates are not part of our strategy, at best we lose out on the potential benefits we just discussed. At worst, these potential allies can become our opposition. If victim advocates do not understand the process of sex offender management and do not understand and trust the process by which we make decisions, victim advocates may be among the first to challenge us or to comment publicly when one of the perpetrators under supervision commits a new offense. Victims who do not see their involvement, information, and safety issues taken into account may experience the criminal justice system as part of their victimization, rather than an effective response to it. In the absence of support and information about supervision, victims who are family members of a perpetrator, or the non–offending parent in an incest case (which we’ll discuss later)—may very well collude with an offender to violate no–contact orders and other conditions that can undermine the authority of supervision agencies and could contribute to additional offenses. In other words, it may not always be easy to add a new element into our sex offender management strategy, but the costs of failing to do so are significant.

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