By ROBERT WEISS LCSW, CSAT-S
Perverts and Rapists and Creeps, Oh My!
A couple of weeks ago my colleague Jenner Bishop posted an open letter on the IITAP (International Institute for Trauma and Addiction Professionals) listserv about clinician prejudice toward sex addicts and sex offenders. Jenner had just come from a “suite meeting” for an office she’d recently rented, at which she’d been bombarded with angry questions from the other therapists about how they were supposed to protect their clients from her “unsupervised” sex addicts and offenders. She had explained that she doesn’t work with violent offenders, and that the offending behaviors of her clients were typically something along the lines of hiring prostitutes and/or looking at illegal pornography – which the other therapists’ clients were probably also doing, even if the therapists weren’t aware of it – but Jenner’s fellow professionals just wouldn’t let it go.
I was shocked. Eventually someone admitted that – despite the landlord sending around an advance email informing tenants the potential new renter is a Certified Sex Addiction Therapist – they wish they’d further investigated what a CSAT does, because they’d have informed the landlord that my practice is incompatible with theirs. You know, I just forget. We’re on the front lines of healing such a grossly misunderstood population. And it’s not just the masses, it’s fellow clinicians with these massive prejudices and blind spots.
Jenner is absolutely right. The world is filled with sexual prejudice of all types, and even highly trained professionals are not immune to this bias. I face this fact every single day both in my educational efforts and in my practice. Honestly, even the most basic and factual of my blogs is likely to draw “friendly fire” from certain colleagues. And only a year ago I had to host a three-day staff training session at one of the addiction treatment facilities I work for, the sole purpose of which was to calm the staff’s fears about working with a sexually addicted, potentially offending population. And their concerns – their prejudices if you will – were exactly the same as what Jenner recently faced. In other words, they were convinced that the facility’s sexually addicted clients were monsters who were going to be molesting and raping all over campus. Never mind the fact that they’d been treating these same people for years as part of the chemical dependency population.
Ignorance = Fear
The good news when it comes to clinicians is proper education can help to alleviate concerns. While it is true that some people’s prejudices toward sex offenders are simply too deep to overcome, for the most part therapists are open-minded individuals who respond well to unbiased, factual information. And that is my goal with this blog – to present the facts about who sex offenders are and the risks these men and women do and don’t present.