Supervising Sex Offenders
Parole Officer: Analyzing Risk of Reoffending For Different Types of Child Sex Offenders
“Three conditions are necessary for Penance:
contrition, which is sorrow for sin, together with a purpose of amendment;
confession of sins without any omission;
and satisfaction by means of good works”. ~ Thomas Aquinas
I worked fulltime for seven years within corrections in Australia working with sex offenders. Some were as young as 17 years old and others were in their 70s and had multiple offenses committed over their lifetime.
For the purpose of this article, I will use the terminology used within corrective services when referring to those who have been convicted by the courts of a crime, and use the term “offenders.”
Some offenders were so wracked with guilt they had attempted suicide on numerous occasions and others were hardened and showed no remorse.
I worked in the community in Probation and Parole as a Senior Case Manager.
I was case managing people classified as Serious Violent Offenders (SVO) by the courts.
Offenders can be declared convicted of a serious violent offence under pt 9A of the Penalties and Sentences Act 1992 (Qld) (Penalties and Sentences Act). This declaration is automatic where the offender has been sentenced to 10 years imprisonment or more for an offence listed in sch 1 of the Penalties and Sentences Act.
I also was case managing those deemed to be Sexual Offenders (SO). The sexual offenders were child sex offenders as well as sexual offenders against adults.
In my training, I learned that there are many different types of sex offenders, each with different statistical probabilities of reoffending.
Calculating Risk of Reoffending
As well as conducting:
- a statistical analysis of factors to classify whether someone was of a low or high risk of sexual reoffending,
- their previous criminal history was taken into account, as well
- as other violent nonsexual offenses, and
- general offending or recidivism.
Together, these factors provided a way to classify and manage people according to calculated “risk.”
However, it also was factored in, that people do not fit charts, and that destabilizing in certain significant areas of their life were “red flags” to increased risk in that person’s risk of reoffending(whether sexual, violent or general reoffending).
There were always anomalies, or outliers, those who did not match or fit typical profiles.
Two of the instruments used to determine the risk of sexual reoffending of offenders in Queensland, Australia are the STATIC-99 and STABLE-2007 assessments.
The STATIC-99 consists of 10 items to be scored and produces estimates of future risk based on the total score.
The risk factors scored are based on answers to the following elements (each of the ten factors has multiple questions):
- The presence of prior sexual offenses;
- Having committed a current non-sexual violent crime;
- Having a history of non-sexual violence;
- The number of previous sentencing dates;
- One’s age;
- Having male victims;
- Having never lived with a lover for two continuous years;
- Having a history of non-contact sex offenses;
- Having unrelated victims, and
- Having stranger victims.
The STABLE-2007 assessment (interview) is conducted for all those sexual offenders who score moderate to high on Static-99 evaluation. This interview takes place over a period of about three hours with the offender.
The STABLE-2007 assesses stable dynamic risk factors for adult sex offenders.
Sixteen items are organised into six subsections: significant social influences; intimacy deficits; sexual self-regulation; attitudes supportive of sexual assault; co-operation with supervision; and general self-regulation. Each area is scored resulting in a final score ranging from 0 to 12.
In line with these two risk assessments used to calculate the risk of reoffending for sexual offenders on community supervision, there is also a ROR (Risk of Reoffending) instrument (used with ALL offenders) and ACUTE risk analysis (only for sex offenders) calculated every time the offender reports.
The ACUTE takes into account seven factors:
access to victims
the collapse of social supports
sexual preoccupations, and
rejection of supervision.
They are scored at each report as to whether an offender is at immediate risk or likelihood of reoffending.
All of these assessment tools in conjunction with the officers own knowledge of the offender, based on their supervision and relationship built over time, are used in helping to manage these people within the community.
It is interesting that a 2018 study has shown that offenders released to a period of supervision, reoffended at lower rates than those who were discharged with NO supervision back into the community.
Concerning sexual offenders, the differences in these rates were not as high, as for general recidivism or violent offending, but it still showed less reoffending in the five years following their release.
In relation to what factors indicated a higher risk of reoffending, these are identified as:
Overall, data analysis indicated that:
higher assessed risk,
not participating in a treatment program,
identifying as Indigenous, and
being discharged without supervision,
are all associated in some way with sexual, nonsexual violent, and any recidivism.
I won’t go into them all here, but the typical example of a stepfather molesting a pubescent stepdaughter is one of the “types” least likely to re-offend outside of that situation.
Sometimes we came across stepfathers who also molested friends of that stepchild.
It usually is a heterosexual man who is having issues within his marriage or relationship, who starts to emotionally identify with the stepdaughter elevating her in his eyes to adult status and justifying his actions, especially if he has spent time consciously or unconsciously “grooming” her, and he believes it is consensual (it never is if she is underage).
Some people who sexually abuse children are not preferentially attracted to children at all. The abuse is a matter of opportunity: the child is a sexual surrogate for (what they see is) an unavailable adult or the abuse represents a need to dominate and control another human being.~ The Conversation
A pedophile, on the other hand, is neither heterosexual or gay but a class of their own — only sexually aroused by children, and there are three categories (those sexually aroused by children under 5, between 5–9 years and nine years +).
Some pedophiles never act on their impulses and so never become a child abuser, despite their sexual attraction to a child.
Those who find children on the cusp of puberty sexually attractive are known as “hebephiles”. “Ephebophiles” are individuals who are sexually attracted to children who have reached puberty. ~ The Conversation
True pedophiles who become child abusers, can go on to abuse 100s of children but those who meet this classification do not make up the majority who appear before the court for child sexual assault.
Each category of a pedophile (determined by preferred age of victim) has their rates and risks of reoffending associated with them.
Four major patterns of offence behaviour have been identified within those who are sexually attracted to children: seduction, introverted, sadistic and diverse.
We have child sex offenders who target:
- same-sex victims,
- opposite sex victims,
- someone they have only met on a few occasions,
- or family members.
It is important to remember that nearly 90% of children sexually abused KNOW their attacker. Less than 10% of children sexually abused are abused by a stranger. It is most often a family member, a neighbor or someone known to the child.
The most dangerous to the community and MOST likely to re-offend statistically are those child sex offenders who target:
- under the age of 5 years
- who are strangers to them
It is also important to remember that statistics deal with “bell curve” analysis and there are always “outliers” those people (or offenders in this instance) who do not fit the bell curve and are anomalies.
However, within the bell curve the 70–80% projectile is what we are talking about concerning reoffending.
Each assault case, of course, is unique and has to have its unique circumstances taken into account.
The American Psychiatric Association (APA) says only people aged 16 or older can be classified as paedophiles. There must also be an age gap of five years or more between the subject and the children they are attracted to.
Treatment For Sex Offenders
Within those offenders I saw on probation and parole who were sexual offenders, the way to assist them was to help them identify those factors in their life that provided stability and support, and help keep those stable.
Referring them to other agencies and counseling services in the areas they needed extra support in, and helping them identify ways to strengthen these supportive factors were all ways that assistance and monitoring occurred.
It was always a two-hat process. Monitoring the risk of reoffending, and assisting rehabilitation.
Circles of Support and Accountability (CoSa) is a proven method of support for assisting sexual offenders who wish to rehabilitate and not re-offend. Evaluations of offenders who had support given in this way showed up to 70% statistically significant reductions in reoffending amongst them. There are limitations in the study results to date, given the limited number of countries and programs operating.
The only way for sex offenders to have reduced risks of reoffending (besides incarceration) is to have proven treatment methods funded, and provide support for those who seek treatment before offending.
Providing treatment options for those who recognize they are sexually attracted to a child and wish to get treatment before they act on the impulse is important but rare to find.
The Dunkelfeld project in Germany aims to allow people who feel they may offend access to professional mental health treatment and attempts to modify their behaviour.
The Charité’s institute for sexual medicine has been running the program for a decade. It has developed since 2011 into a nationwide program called “don’t offend.”
Statistics gathered by the Charité’s therapists indicate that, of 440 paedophile patients they have so far treated, the average age is 37, 71% are employed, 39% are in relationships, while 36% are the caregivers for one or more children. They are almost always male. “We have been contacted by 17 women in the last decade.
The Christian Democratic Party (CDP) in Germany is supportive of the program. The CDU argued that the best protection for children “would be for people with a paedophilic disposition (of whom it is estimated there are around 250,000 in Germany) not to become offenders in the first place.”
But experts like Kuhle say the popularity of Dunkelfeld among paedophiles is proof of how vital it is.
Although Dunkelfeld has come in for criticism for focusing on the potential abusers rather than the abused, it has been supported by victims’ groups in Germany and elsewhere.
The family of April Jones, the five-year-old Welsh girl who was murdered by Mark Bridger in 2012, have appealed for help for paedophiles who seek it.
“If someone says to the doctor: ‘I have these feelings, can I have help?’ it would be better to try to help them before they ruin someone else’s family,” Coral Jones said this year.
It is interesting that when the project was first started and reported on in a television program in Britain, the phone lines in Germany were flooded with requests from those seeking help for their “child sexual attraction predispositions” who lived in the UK and the center was frustrated as they were unable to offer assistance.
Just Over Age of Consent (Sex Between Teenagers Where One is a Few Months Younger)
In Australia young boys who are just over the age of consent can get charged and labeled a sex offender by the courts for having consensual sex with their girlfriend who may be a few weeks younger.
They are then lumped into the sex offender register even though they are NO threat to young children in their neighborhoods.
In the eyes of the public, they see the label “sex offender” and think this person is a threat to their child and yet that boy/man who is only just above the age of consent himself — is NOT sexually attracted to anyone’s child.
Issues around what should be the appropriate age of consent, and moving the age of consent, and what constitutes consent are a whole OTHER conversation given that amongst teenagers there is such a wide variety of physical, and emotional maturity.
It is essential to be able to separate and treat people according to their risk, and until the public are educated in this regard, it is difficult to be able to have reasonable public discourse surrounding the subject.
Meanwhile, within secrecy, fear, and panic more children are offended against.
Working with those who have committed sexual offenses either against children or other adults, to help PREVENT them from reoffending is both an important but usually utterly thankless role.
The majority of the public who condemn “help” do not see that preventing more victims by targeting those who are victimizing is a way to try and prevent this from happening again.
A tiny percentage of child sex abusers have also experienced childhood sexual assault in their past.
The more conversations we can have around this topic the better the outcome for everyone.
Given that I have written extensively on Medium, and self-published a book on my own experiences of surviving childhood sexual abuse both from within my family, from a stranger and from a minister of the religion I grew up in, I am sympathetic to the lack of funding and treatment options for victims of abusers.
However, a conversation around, treatment options for offenders who wish to have treatment, and being able to assess the success of these different treatment programs — is an area still lacking in most countries around the world.
Given the high rates of victims, especially females, and the ongoing often lifelong detriment effects of abuse, it is imperative that treatment options and practical strategies to help reduce reoffending be not only discussed but made available and researched.
The likelihood of this occurring anywhere in the present economic climate is virtually nil, but it is still an important topic to think about and discuss for those of us who are serious about wanting to reduce the levels of sexual abuse of children in our communities.