Sunday, November 14, 2010

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Sex Offenders Revealed

Original Article

In this article, I refer to sex offenders in the masculine he, him, his. This is for two reasons; most sex offenders, by a very large margin, are male; and it makes the writing of the article easier. The reader needs to know that everything I am writing applies also to female sex offenders, who make up approximately two per cent of the sex offender population in America.

As I sit here watching a certain newsrag program on a certain cable news channel, I hear an obnoxious woman start quoting statistics about sex offenders that are appalling! It makes me think to myself, “If they are so dangerous, why do we let them back on the streets? Why don’t we just lock them up for life? If it is true that almost all sex offenders re-offend, we should never let them out of prison again.” And this line of thought led me to my favorite question: Why are we doing it?

When the woman on the news show started spouting her statistics, I wrote them down to verify them. Here were the claims that were made: 90% of sex offenders will re-offend. 90% of sex offenders will commit a new sex crime within 3 years. Sex offenders cannot be treated. All child molesters are pedophiles. The only treatment that works for sex offenders is execution.

I immediately suspected there was some sort of conspiracy here. I thought for sure that the government was hiding something from us and releasing sex offenders back into the population for some nefarious purpose. I was determined to get to the bottom of it and report this information to you, the public.

Surprisingly, I did find a conspiracy after all. But it isn’t the one you think. The conspirators turned out to be news media. Newspapers, cable networks, magazines and even public networks. It seems that it is more expedient to MAKE UP the news than report on the truth. The media is responsible in a very large part for the myths and misconceptions surrounding these individuals. By misreporting information over the years, the media has been able to instill enough fear into our society that the mere mention of the term sex offender on their network increases ratings. Increased ratings mean more advertising dollars. Since we are willing and actually desire to hate sex offenders, we are also responsible for perpetuating these myths.

Sex offenders are amongst the worst of the worst of our society. We love to hate them. I will not make any excuse for them such as “they are misunderstood individuals,” or they are a “product of their society.” They aren’t. They are perverts with mental deficiencies who have chosen to commit crimes of the most despicable nature. They are sick people who need treatment, but not in the way a cancer patient is sick. Rather, they are sick in the way a drug addict or alcoholic is sick.

The myths and misconceptions surrounding sex offenders usually result in a stereotype of a grizzled old man hiding behind a bush and drooling over children in a park and offering a pocketful of candy (as in, “I have some candy in my pocket little girl, just reach in and grab some.”) The truth is, this kind of offender is very rare; most child victims will be molested in their own home or in the home of a trusted friend or relative. Most rape victims will be assaulted by a spouse or trusted friend. But, by perpetuating the myths, the media and general public can make themselves feel better about demanding the worst types of vengeance. It is easier to punish the stranger than the person we know and love. In doing this, according to the Hindman Foundation, a nationally recognized leader in the treatment of sex abuse victims, “many problems emerge with the detection, prosecution and management of sex offenders.”

So, let’s discuss the FACTS about sex offenders.

According to the Bureau of Justice, “Sex offenders were less likely than non-sex offenders to be rearrested for any offense: 43 percent of sex offenders versus 68 percent of non-sex offenders.” Remember, the loud-mouthed news reporter said it was 90%. Where did she get this fact? The truth is, she made it up. I found absolutely no corroborating evidence anywhere to support her claim. In fact, the most reputable agencies who track these statistics don’t even support the claim that “most” sex offenders will re-offend.

The Bureau of Justice further reports that, “Within 3 years of release, 2.5% of released rapists were rearrested for another rape.” Additionally, when it comes to child victimizers, they report that “An estimated 3.3%… were rearrested for another sex crime against a child within 3 years of release from prison.”


NY - New York Senate Committee Points in a New Direction for Sex Offender Management in New York State

Original Article

11/14/2010

The New York Senate Committee on Crime, Crime Victims, and Corrections has just published their 2009-2010 report (PDF). The report's section on "Effective Sex Offender Management in New York State," points in a new direction for sex offender management in the state. This new direction is based on facts and research, rather than mythology and hysteria. Reforming the laws in the ways this report suggests will make our communities safer and will potentially be more cost effective.

XIV. EFFECTIVE SEX OFFENDER MANAGEMENT IN NEW YORK STATE

In March 2010, the Committee conducted two roundtables which included experts in the field of effective sex offender management. Staffs of both parties were present and engaged in a question and answer period. From these meetings the following policy goals were suggested and we now share them with our readers.

1. Convene public hearings on effective sex offender management and public safety to begin to develop comprehensive legislation that will better facilitate the goal of improving public safety and reducing the risk of sexual assault. After fourteen years of sex offender registries and a growing list of restrictions in place in New York, there is little evidence that any of these measures have contributed to a decrease in sexual assault. There is, however, a growing body of research suggesting that some laws relating to registration, notification, and overly harsh laws restricting where sex offenders can be and how they can engage with their communities may exacerbate the risk that they will reoffend. We should engage in a conversation to consider developing a comprehensive sex offender management plan that embraces new research and is aimed at reducing recidivism.

2. Re-examine the method of assessing risk of re-offense among registered sex offenders currently used by the New York State Board of Examiners and appoint a commission to choose among the various assessment tools available today one that would provide the most reliable determination of risk. New York’s Risk Assessment Guidelines were developed more than fifteen years ago, at a time when experts in the state knew far less about how to measure the risk that someone once convicted of a sex crime would reoffend. It is our belief—one shared by many experts—that there are far too many people in New York who are misclassified in the higher levels of risk, and therefore unnecessarily diverting limited resources away from likely re-offenders.

3. Reject additional further residency restriction proposals and instead reinforce the ability of individual probation and parole officers to assess whether there are residences that are inappropriate for certain individuals such that they would pose an unacceptable risk of re-offense. The legislature should also pass affirmative legislation that would require counties to create plans for safe and stable housing for sex offenders. All of the empirical research examining the effectiveness of residency restrictions shows that residency restrictions do not work to reduce the risk of harm to children. They have been shown to discourage offenders from reporting their whereabouts to law enforcement, and they destabilize offenders’ lives, creating roadblocks to successful re-integration into society and increasing the risk of recidivism. Housing stability is a key to reducing recidivism, and a comprehensive sex offender management plan must include provisions to ensure stable housing for offenders.

4. Many states have declined to adopt the federal Adam Walsh Act that would expand community notification via the state’s Internet registry to include registered offenders who pose the lowest risk of re-offense; require that anytime affirmative community notification is undertaken that law enforcement concurrently conduct community education to ensure that risk is communicated in a way that makes sense; monitor acts of vigilantism and take action against anyone found to have abused the use of the Internet registry to harass or harm a registered offender or his family. Community notification has been found to have no demonstrable impact on sexual recidivism. In fact, some studies suggest that community notification may aggravate stressors that lead to increased recidivism32, and requiring broad community notification via the Internet may discourage some victims of sexual abuse from reporting incidents to the authorities. Victims may be reluctant to report offenses out of concern for a perpetrator who is close to them (a relative, a step-parent), or out of concern for their own privacy.33 The Adam Walsh Act would take New York in a dangerously opposite direction, besides the fact that experts agree that it would cost more to implement than the state would stand to lose in federal grant money.

5. Pass the Healthy Teens Act34, a bill pending in both the Assembly and the Senate, which would establish an age-appropriate and medically accurate program of comprehensive sex education, including instruction on avoiding unwanted verbal, physical and sexual advances. Each year, New York adds another restriction on those already convicted of sex offenses as a means to prevent sexual violence against children. However, the overwhelming majority (around 95%) of sex offenses, including rape and child molestation, are committed by those who have never before been convicted of an offense. This means that New York concentrates all of its legislative efforts on preventing only 5% of all sex crimes against children, and completely ignores the threat posed by first-time offenders. The Healthy Teens Act would provide young people with age-appropriate comprehensive sex education that would include instruction about how to avoid becoming a victim—perhaps the .most valuable and effective tool way to reduce the incidence of child sexual assault.

32 Naomi J. Freeman, The Public Safety Impact of Community Notification Laws, Crime & Delinquency (2009) (“Empirical research has suggested that sex offenders do not always commit crimes within their areas of residence and, thus, the areas in which notification occurs. Indeed, studies in Colorado and Minnesota found that sex offenders are unlikely to offend close to their homes and within the area that notification occurs; rather, sex offenders may travel, on average, 3 to 5 miles to gain access to victims.”).

33 Jeffrey C. Sandler, Does a Watched Pot Boil? A Time-Series Analysis of New York State’s Sex Offender Registration and Notification Law, Psychology, Contextualizing Sex Offender Management Legislation and Policy: Evaluating the problem of Latent Consequences in Community Notification Laws, International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology (2001).

34 Assembly Bill 1806A (Assemblyman Gottfried)/Senate Bill 3836 (Senator Duane).


OK - Child victims of sexual abuse usually know their attackers

Original Article

11/14/2010

By MICHAEL KIMBALL

Police and sex abuse experts warn Oklahoma City parents that while recent reports of attempted abductions have raised alarm across the metro, most sexually assaulted children are victimized by people they know.

Police said recent media attention of a man whom police accuse of abducting and molesting girls in Oklahoma City has resulted in an increased number of callers describing suspicious activity.

But parents would be wise to remember, experts said, that the vast majority of sexually assaulted children are victimized by people they know.

While you should never, ever discount the danger that a true predator poses, at the same time, in our communities, unfortunately, we see family members and friends of family members sexually abusing young children,” police Capt. Rhett Brotherton said. “It doesn't get as much attention as the stranger abductions do, but it's a terrible problem in our society.”

Brotherton is in charge of the city police department's units investigating sex crimes, crimes against children and sex offender registration.

Officers have been investigating three reports since April of a man who forced girls into his car and molested them before letting them go. Police arrested [name withheld], 52, on Thursday on complaints of kidnapping, lewd acts with a child and forcible sodomy, thanks in part to tips provided by the public following media reports on the attacks.

Brotherton said officers welcomed the higher volume of tips that came in, but parents should be just as wary of danger to their children posed by people familiar to them.

Between 75 percent and 93 percent of children who suffer sexual abuse know their attackers, according to the University of New Hampshire's Crimes Against Children Research Center. About half of the attackers are acquaintances, and most of the rest are family members.

Similarly, less than 1 percent of missing children cases tracked by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children involve kidnappings by strangers, said Kristen Anderson, director of the center's case analysis division.

California psychologist Barbara Bogorad, who has studied sexual abuse since the 1980s and authored the 1998 paper, “Sexual Abuse: Surviving the Pain,” said uncovering hidden abuse by someone the child knows can be as simple as asking questions.

If your child doesn't want to go to that dentist, or that class, or that Cub Scout meeting, find out why,” Bogorad said.

Talk to the other children, talk to the parents about what is going on. Don't just assume your kid is being difficult.”

Brotherton echoed her sentiment that communication is key.

Be a suspicious parent,” Brotherton said. “Just because somebody may be in a position of authority, for example a schoolteacher or a volunteer at a local church, that in and of itself doesn't make them safe to spend time alone with your child.”

Bogorad recalled an incident that happened years ago, before she moved to California from New York. The school her children attended often circulated newsletters containing information about reported threats by predators to students, and Bogorad was immersed in studying the issue. But it wasn't enough to uncover the threat just a few doors from her home.

One day when I came home, the FBI was arresting my neighbor a few doors down,” Bogorad said. “It turned out he had been contacting little girls over the Internet.”