9 thoughts on “Clinician Prejudice Toward Sex Offenders

  • April 25, 2013 at 8:40 am

    This is an excellent and easily understood explanation of the nuances of sexually offending behavior. I will be keeping up with the blog; thank you.

  • April 26, 2013 at 9:40 am

    The idea of NIMBY or Not in My Back Yard, is not singular to the mainstream population, but unfortunately can be seen in the professional population as well.

    Thank you for identifying, defining, and giving a prognosis report on the various types of offenders.

    I opened and ran a woman’s recovery home for more than 20 years, and had to look at over 20 pieces of property before finding a residential area that would allow this; never mind that treatment providers, courts, city and county officials were on board and all legal and zoning ordinances were in place.

    It was my experience that NIMBY existed due to misinformation, fear, and in some cases, a faulty perception that the facility, or in your friend’s case, their practice, is somehow going to impact the reputation, revenue or value of those in proximity to the services.

    We also faced the stigma of these “addicts” would somehow influence other people in the area to begin shooting up heroin in the driveways.

    Unfortunately, there is no cure for the negative imaginations of some people or professionals, except to continue putting out factual information that may help reduce the prejudice, biases, and misinformation.

  • April 26, 2013 at 11:48 am

    Wonderful piece. The major psych organizations, from APA right through NASW, should all take a public position admonishing practitioners in their organizations not to react to the real or perceived clientele of other licensed practitioners.

  • April 26, 2013 at 9:32 pm

    It has long been my contention that sex offenders differ in degree, not substance, from the sexually addicted. If a Tiger Woods can be helped for sexual addiction, then it follows that those who have committed similar acts can also be helped. Statistically, only 5.3% of registered sex offenders are re-arrested for another sex crime, and only 3.5% are re-convicted. The rate is further decreased by effective therapy. Yes, there will always be some who simply cannot be successfully treated, but even there coping skills can help the individual to prevent recurrence of the bad behavior, particularly if proper support such as a job and housing, as well as the treatment itself, are available. I find it interesting that even treatment providers are prey to the myths that surround people on the sex offender registry.

  • April 29, 2013 at 1:01 pm

    When my husband was arrested for possession of child porn, I found a therapist the usual way: throwing a dart at a list. Fortunately for me, she was completely wonderful about my husband’s sex offense–not approving, of course, but she knew enough about sex offending to know that looking at pictures is very different from touching children. I would have felt (and truly been) undermined if she had taken an “eww, nasty” attitude toward him. Instead, she was willing to see him the way I see him (as a good man who made a terrible mistake stemming from his own treatable issues) which made me feel very comfortable with her.

    A therapist’s attitude toward sex offenses has a broader influence than on just the therapist and the offender. Families of sex offenders suffer considerably when someone we love is in trouble and we all fear/experience public humiliation as a result. Therapists can make that suffering worse. A friend, whose husband is also in prison for CP possession, did not have the same luck with therapists as I did. Her therapist made the ugly and incorrect assumption that the husband had also molested children. Not a therapeutic approach, to say the least.

  • May 2, 2013 at 10:14 pm

    “The odds … are infinitesimally small; it’s about as likely as a recovering drug addict robbing his or her therapist’s office … to pay for his/her next fix. It’s possible, sure, but it doesn’t happen.”

    Ok, I like the article. I appreciate the clarification and the information – a LOT! It is considerably concise and helpful.

    However, I MUST take issue with the above quoted portion of this article. I would have to insist that your analogy is NOT drastic enough to suggest how unlikely it would be that a client would bother someone in the waiting room.

    Drug addicts (recovering or not) are MORE than capable of robbing the therapist’s office, the therapist, the people in the waiting room, etc to pay for their next fix! I’ve watched it happen. Unless the addict is WELLLLL into recovery – and I mean like 10 years or more – I believe the chances of them doing this are “infinitesimally” GREAT!

    Now, I would not THINK that your clients would offend against other people in the waiting room; I could see how the chances of THAT might be considerably small. But I’ve known too many who just “play the game” and all along are still looking for a vulnerable person to make contact with.

    I’m sorry, but I think you are sharing a BIAS that encourages false security for others. NO, I would NOT suggest that everyone huddle in the opposite end of the room to avoid this person – good grief! But there should be a healthy balance between these two extremes.

    I’m sorry; I’m too darned tired to expound adequately. This IS the only thing I took issue with in your article though. I wanted to share the rest on FB in fact, but it was an EMAIL. I am glad I figured out how to get to the web page! 🙂

    Have a super weekend everyone – TOMORROW’S FRIDAY! 🙂

  • May 4, 2013 at 9:11 pm

    This is an interesting conversation, deserving of serious consideration on several levels. The issue of clinician prejudice toward any individual or group of individuals with a particular mental illness or disorder warrants concern, regardless of the specifics of the diagnosis. The effects of prejudice are well-known, particularly by those who are on the ‘receiving end’ of such negativity. The potential for causing harm to others by casting aspersion on their self-image, sense of safety and security, feelings of acceptance and belonging, and belief in their ability to change and recover, is considerable-whether clinicians express their prejudices overtly or simply harbor such attitudes in a more ‘covert’ manner. Given the significance of the quality of the therapeutic alliance forged between client and clinician as related to healing and recovery, it is all the more alarming and disappointing to consider the barriers and obstacles created by clinician prejudice and the impact on the development of trusting relationships and open communications. This fragmenting and alienating effect is as onerous and real within the relative confines of the clinical setting as it is when ‘writ large’ within and beyond community and cultural settings.

    When (and if) any clinician becomes aware of his or her prejudice towards an individual or group, it is that clinician’s duty (at the very least) to make a referral to ensure the client receive the best possible treatment and care. It is also professionally sound for that individual to seek professional assistance and/or consultation to explore the beliefs and attitudes that limit them professionally and personally.

    There is what is referred to as “gallows humor,” which is sometimes expressed among those who treat ‘difficult’ clients or dire conditions. This is a fairly common means of relieving the stress and anxiety that result from participating in challenging or arduous work. However, if expressed, it must be done privately and discreetly and not without awareness of its function, and must always be held in awareness and honestly assessed for indications of “burn-out” and/or indication of problematic prejudicial attitudes and cognitions in need of addressing and proactive measures.

    The topic of attitudes towards sex offenders is, for me, an issue that also includes other similar prejudices and the individuals and groups with these diagnoses. The topic of sex offenders and the fears and misinformation held by professionals as well as the general public, also warrants discussion, examination and more ‘mindful’ consideration. This population is not one that all clinicians are able or fit to serve. Just as there are those who cannot or should not work with other individuals/populations whose behaviors or diagnoses carry a particular stigma-such as those diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, or certain pathologies that carry considerable stigma Self-knowledge and honest self-evaluation are professional and ethical obligations to which every clinician must hold him or herself accountable and address pro-actively and continuously.

    As some of the content of previous comments suggest, there is a lot to be considered and understood in regard to this population. The issue of supervision of sex offenders in a waiting room or other setting (public or semi-private) is not necessarily or solely a consideration of the safety of others who are in the proximity-clients or family members or pubic-and needs to be understood and recognized as also being a (sometimes) necessary precautionary measure taken on the behalf of the sex offender. In the treatment of sex offenders, it is not uncommon for staff or clinicians to accompany or chaperone those in treatment to serve as an extra set of eyes and ears in order to monitor potential “triggers” that may affect the sex offender. A client may be doing very well in treatment, but may still be vulnerable to encounters with others that may cause distress, triggering, or re-traumatization. Someone in a waiting room may resemble a victim, may in fact BE a former victim, a family member or friend of the offender or victim, or may be someone whose own behaviors, conversation, dress, or conduct may be a threat or trigger a negative experience for the offender. The assumption that the sex offender in the waiting room is the individual most likely to pose a potential danger to others may be understandable, yet it is an assumption that belies a lack of experience and knowledge. One might expect this perception to be prevalent within the general population fed on ‘crime and cop’ television, but is disconcerting it comes from trained professionals. It is an unfortunate assumption on many levels. Many sex offenders — if not most, are keen observers of others and often have uncanny perceptive faculties when it comes to “reading” other individuals, situations, and dynamics going on around them. Even seemingly subtle indications of fear or bias or hostility towards these individuals is not likely to be missed by them or “fly under the radar” of their perception. The shame and stigma many offenders come to expect and sense from others can be the most difficult obstacle they have to learn to deal with, practice skills to regulate, and work to accept in their course of treatment and recovery. This is a “skill” that they may have developed in the course of their past history of abuse and offense. Many are themselves also victims of sexual and other forms of abuse, which complicates their own vulnerability to others. Many offenders go through strict and vigilant treatment programs in residential settings, in which they are monitored and observed and have to pass through phases of assigned tasks and testing in order to ‘graduate’ or be released. And even then, there are stepping stones for reintegration back into the community. It is uncommon for a sex offender who has not been discharged and/or has not been professionally determined to no longer be a threat to society, to be allowed to go out in public unaccompanied if there is a concern for the safety of others. Juveniles are incarcerated and registered as adult sex offenders if they do not make it through a rehabilitative program prior to turning 18 years of age.

    Sex offenders do share some common traits-strategies, behaviors, and predisposing factors in their histories. Most have issues with self-image and esteem, many have been abused themselves, and are charismatic and manipulative. Many are haunted by shame, lack confidence and struggle with feelings of being weak and powerless. Many/most have issues with power and their offenses are very often related to power and not sexual gratification or mere addiction to pleasure. Conflating sex addicts with sex offenders is misleading and can become stereotyping with a very broad brush, leading to ineffective intervention and treatment.

    Thank you for taking the time to clarify pedophilia in particular-as well as other facts and specifics that help to differentiate and define categories that the general public has come to use so interchangeably. Watch any ‘crime’ or ‘cop’ program on television and ‘learn’ that all sex offenders are pedophiles, the “lowest of the low” on the prison ‘totem pole,’ reviled by rapists and murderers, and are doomed to the wrath of gang violence, abuse, and even death at the hands of fellow inmates if incarcerated-thus furthering the stigma and ignorance that feeds the fear that fuels the public perception that not only vilifies sex offenders, but also incites the perpetration of violence upon them. Ignorance, in this case, is not bliss-but hate (and hate crimes) run amok.

    Let us all be more sensitive, self-aware and self-monitoring of our attitudes and biases- and also keep in mind that many of the diagnoses that carry the greatest stigma and the individuals with these diagnoses who are treated with far less than positive regard, are also those who are often the most vigilant, most keenly “tuned-in,” and sensitive- and so are most vulnerable to the not so innocuous prejudices that distort the ‘lenses through which we view them and too often also treat them. Clinicians could provide a valuable public and professional service by leading the way in seeing through the damaging stereotypes, helping to educate the public and their own colleagues, so as to diffuse the prejudice and help alleviate some of the unnecessary pain such attitudes and impersonalizing judgements that only add to the already heavy burden of stigma put upon the mentally ill and the often challenging process that characterizes their journey towards recovery.

  • May 15, 2013 at 2:42 am

    I’m unsure how Jerry Sandusky fully fits into the Fixated Child Offender category because he is married and he has biological children which tells us that he must have been having sex with his wife. Therefore, his sole sexual interest can’t just focus on children.
    Is it usual that Fixated Offenders would be married or in long-term relationships with adults?
    Why would Sandusky bother to marry if he really only wanted to have sex with children? Because a marriage would make him seem more ‘normal’, less threatening?
    When I think of this category I was typically thinking of a perpetual bachelor, someone who has never shown interest in adult men or women.

  • February 7, 2014 at 11:21 am

    3.Regressed (situational) child offenders: With regressed child offenders the sexual interest in kids is not exclusive. Approximately 90 percent of child offenders fall into this category. Usually regressed child offenders are equally or even more aroused by adults than minors. Many have adult sexual and romantic relationships, though others find adult sexuality threatening and avoid it or abandon it. When these people offend against children the behavior is opportunistic, meaning they don’t set up their lives so they can have contact with and offend against minors. When under stress, the influence of substances, or both they sometimes turn to a child/teen relationship as an unhealthy way to meet their need for intimacy. Their sexual offending is nearly always driven by life stressors and/or underlying psychological issues such as depression, severe anxiety, attachment deficit disorders, low self-esteem, etc. Typically these individuals see their victims as pseudo-adults. Because of this fantasy/misperception, they may feel as if they are not actually victimizing the child with whom they are being sexual. Regressed child offenders usually respond quite well to treatment.
    Close quote

    “Their sexual offending is nearly always driven by life stressors and/or underlying psychological issues such as depression, severe anxiety, attachment deficit disorders, low self-esteem, etc.”

    This suggests some sort of analysis and emotional growth in dealing with the disorders.
    In which sex offender programs are these disorders addressed?


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