Understanding the offender: Who child predators are, and why it matters
Earlier this fall, 8 of our Darkness to Light Facilitators gathered for a discussion with Lisa Hunt, Executive Director of The Center for Clinical and Forensic Services, Inc. Our facilitators gather quarterly to keep up to date on the issues surrounding child sexual abuse and to discuss topics that will help us be effective facilitators and responsive to those we train. When we gathered in September, we met with open minds so that we could better understand sexual offenders and sexual abuse dynamics.
Dr. Hunt explained that in order to move forward in the conversations surrounding child sexual abuse, we needed to have a better understanding of the offender. First of all, there is no “look” for a child sexual offender, there is no one profile that fits all, and sexual offenders are male and female, young and old. However, there are common factors that can underlie the motivation for the offending behavior such as power, control, feelings of inadequacy, social skills deficits, and deviant sexual arousal.
Society’s generic views of sexual offenders are not justified or helpful. Offenders are villainized and this can be particularly harmful for the children who love their offenders. When we villainize the offenders, we are shutting the victim down and creating a persona about the offender that is so big the child cannot gain mastery of their abuse.
The primary goal of treating sexual offenders is that the individual will take responsibility for their behaviors, develop the necessary skills and techniques that will prevent them from engaging in sexually abusive and other harmful behaviors in the future, and will lead them to productive and pro-social lives. Sexual offenders are our husbands, wives, relatives, neighbors and friends. And although we certainly do not condone what they have done, we must understand that when those who offend are treated with current approaches, they are less likely to offend again. Treatment needs to be a combination of accountability and hope.
– Tracy Leonard