Treatment of Sex Offenders
Every person despite age and gender can face sexual abuse from acquaintances and/or strangers. Every act of a crime on a sexual basis is followed by the variety of negative consequences to victims, offenders, and the entire society. Together with committing a serious crime, a sexual offender receives damage to his or her personality, which may result in repetitive sexual offense of other people. Once the fact of committing sexual violence is officially confirmed, the offender must not only receive a legal punishment for actions but also must undergo a course of treatment to eliminate the possibility of relapse. Since sex offenders’ treatment is a highly important problem that remains being topical in the modern society its types and effectiveness should be considered more closely.
In general, sex criminals can be divided into two groups: people who had committed sex crime one time without planning it beforehand and being under the influence of drugs/alcohol, and individuals who had made violent actions more than once on purpose. Because of the difference in the nature of sex offenders, types of their treatment should be chosen individually. Treatment of sex offenders must always cover different sides such as drug/alcohol abuse, anger management, collaboration with other people, etc. In addition, all programs targeted to sexual violence prevention must not only provide proper mental treatment of sex aggressors but should also educate about the causes of their violence and the following consequences, and assist with self-evaluation.
Treatment of sex offenders may be performed in different forms such as group or individual therapies (cognitive-behavioral treatment), victim-offender mediation, biological therapies, alternative treatment (for example, operant conditioning), etc. (Stinson, & Becker, 2012).
Every type of therapy can be applied to a sex offender only after his or her close examination and evaluation by the professionals in order to assign the most efficient treatment.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy is one of the most popular and is aimed at reducing sex abuse relapse by cognitive restructuring (Dolan, 2009).
Such approach in treating sex offenders implies considering several sides of the problem but instead of concentrating on the causes of violent behavior it mostly covers the present condition of the offender. Obviously, defining the exact individual cause or causes that had led to sexual harassment of another human being is highly important in the curing process. However, even though the causes may vary (for example, experiencing sexual abuse in childhood, personality disorders, anger management issues, family violence, etc.), all of them has a similar feature, which is a serious shift in the brain activity. The causes mentioned are also responsible for the present mental condition of offenders, and since any negative situation in the past cannot be changed only the current state can be transformed or partially modified.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy uses different approaches (Jennings, & Deming, 2013), the main are individual and group therapies. Individual therapy can be the best choice for treatment because of few factors. Typically, the topic about the offender’s childhood or negative moments he or she had faced through life is raised at least once in the terms of the treatment course. Many sex offenders had a difficult childhood and this topic can be very sensitive to tell about it or discuss it in front of a group of strangers who also have behavioral problems.
Individual therapy is a suitable choice for treating young sex offenders because their age often affects the stability of the mental state. In addition, individual sessions imply full attention of a professional psychologist to the offender under treatment, which cannot be achieved in a group type of cognitive-behavioral therapy. Proper patient-therapist connection can be established only in terms of individual sessions as there is less amount of items for distraction.
Individual type of cognitive-behavioral treatment may include family therapy. Presence of family members can be a necessity if a sex offender experiences communication problems with a therapist. Also, in the cases when family issues are the basis of sexual harassment, a therapist as a mediator can assist in helping to overcome misunderstandings and grievance within the family. Since sex offenders usually communicate often with their family members such subtype of therapy is a good measure that prevents from relapse. In terms of family therapy, relatives are taught what actions they should take once they see change in offender’s behavior to prevent him or her from committing crime again.
Group therapy is also among the common types of sex offender treatment. To make such therapy effective a group should have not more than ten members. From an organizing perspective, group therapy is harder to arrange as the individual one because every participant should be considered as a part of a group and a separate unit at the same time. Every group session involves active and passive participation as every participant should express thoughts and feelings through telling personal stories and/or making comments regarding the stories of other group members, and consuming information through listening (Jennings, & Deming, 2013).
Group cognitive-behavioral therapy has an advantage over other types because an offender can look at himself or herself from the outside.
While listening to the stories of the group members every offender can make a comparison and analyse own violent actions. The reason why this type of therapy is not the most widely used in practice is because of its weak sides. Admitting the existing problem and telling about it puts the troubled offender in an emotionally vulnerable condition. In this case, an abusive or sarcastic comment from a group member can ruin the expected results of treatment.
Victim-offender mediation therapy is not widespread because it must imply the presence of the assaulted person. Despite the fact that this kind of treatment is helpful for both sides it is also very risky to the mental health condition of victims. Sex offenders usually do not want to know about the physical and mental health of their victims. In this case, victim-offender mediation programs can be considered as an effective part of treatment program. The essence of this therapy is communication between a sex offender and his or her victim in the presence and under close control of a professional therapist (Wright, 2014).
Mediation programs may have different benefits for sex offenders. Looking at the victim and hearing about the consequences this assaulted person faces after the crime gives the sex offender the opportunity to analyze and make a logical sequence between the reasons of aggression, actions taken, and the following result. Since the victim can choose an active participation, he or she can ask questions and demand a detailed explanation about the reason for being involved in a sex crime.
Sometimes, people who had experienced sexual harassment by themselves can become sex offenders for different purposes (for example, revenge, reestablishing dominance of own personality, etc.) or because of psychological condition worsening. Victim-offender mediation programs vividly show the victim all the consequences sex offenders face, which prevents the victim to transform into a sex criminal.
Successful result of victim-offender mediation programs always depends on the sex offenders’ mental condition because serious mental disorders make them experience pleasure when observing their victims suffering.
The variety of psychological therapies within sex offenders’ treatment for correcting their behavioral patterns may not show positive results in hard cases. Since medication treatment is also applied to correcting sex offenders, biological treatment should also be covered. Sexual arousal, anger, and other strong emotions refer to biological processes within human bodies and it would be logically to suppress them with biological products and changes.
Medical intervention into treatment of sex offenders can be radical (castration) and less invasive (medication). High level of testosterone is often responsible for committing sexual crime, and in the case, if cognitive-behavioral treatment based on psychological therapy does not show positive results and the offender is resistant to medications, castration may be the only suitable choice for violent male sex criminals. In fact, since castration is a one-time surgical procedure it cannot be fairly considered as a treatment but is more of a punishment like imprisonment (Grubin, 2008). Despite the fact that surgical castration reduces the testosterone level, which, in its turn, reduces the possibility of committing sex crime in the future, it may bring even more serious damage to the sex offender’s personality and result in other types of violence (for example, homicide). Unlike castration drug treatment is more humane and effective. A proper combination of medications can successfully suppress anger and libido by bringing a testosterone level to individually normal condition (Dolan, 2009). Hormonal agents, tranquillizers, anti-depressants and the terms of their use are prescribed only after carefully detailed examination of sex offender (Grubin, 2008).
Usually, in the cases, when the officially used widespread treatment techniques do not show the expected positive results, family members and professional therapists try to apply alternative treatment. Operant behavior correction technique had been examined; however, since such treatment implies changes in behavioral pattern with the help of unique combination of medications and therapeutic sessions the results may be negatively unexpected. In terms of this proposed treatment, sex offender is conditioned to experience certain feelings and emotions in situations that may lead to sexual offence (for example, when feeling anger, the offender may start to feel sleepy or tired). This approach in treatment of sex offenders requires more researches but since experiments on humans are prohibited by ethical and legislative norms it will not become widespread in the nearest future.
Hypnosis can be counted as an alternative form of sex offenders’ treatment. It also implies reconditioning of the brain activity responsible for tendency to sexual violence. Hypnosis is the least effective among the abovementioned therapies. First, if a person does not want to be hypnotized and reprogrammed it is very difficult to do. Second, many people are immune to hypnosis, which brings serious problems to treatment. Therefore, when dealing with sex offenders, alternative treatment should be used only after every official and acknowledged types of therapy are eliminated.
Taking into account all mentioned above, it can be said that sex offenders must not only receive legal punishment for their crimes but also must be treated. Treatment of sex offenders is a highly important problem for modern society that must be solved. People become sex criminals due to different factors, and their combination determine negative behavioral pattern towards other people. Every considered type of treatment implies both positive and negative aspects that affect the eventual result. For this reason, a combination of psychological intervention and medical treatment should be arranged individually. Once an individual experienced emotional and physical dominance over another human being, there is a high possibility that this person may commit repetitive sexual assaults and even start killing or torturing victims. The goal of sex offenders’ treatment is teaching how to live in balance with other human beings as well as how to change own predisposition to sex violation.