(warning: this article may be disturbing to some readers. Take care of yourself and call the Sex Abuse Hotline at: 800-656-4673 or chat online at: online.rainn.org)
Ask therapists who they definitely don’t want to work with and the majority will say, emphatically, “sex offenders!”
Why? Well, they often have some preconceived about who and what sex offenders are. They think about the guys in the mugshots on the sex offender registry. They think about the celebrities who have been arrested after years of predatory behavior. They think about men and women doing unspeakable acts on children. And they are often victims of sex offenders themselves.
So, when I teach classes on Risk Assessment and Treatment of Sex Offenders and know that I have quite a few sexology/sex therapy students wondering why they need to take these classes, I tell them what I’m going to tell you now.
First, sex offending is an umbrella under which are child molesters, pedophiles, rapists, sex traffickers, sex harassers, voyeurs, and exhibitionists. The predatory, violent child rapist is the one who gets the most media attention and on whom our fears and anger is placed, but that person represents just a small fraction of sex offenders. Making laws and basing our behavior on these few, although extremely devastating, psychopaths does the opposite of what we really want, which is to protect victims, especially children.
As experts in the field of sexology, we want to understand the nature of sex offending so that we can best protect the public. Helping the offender is with that primary goal in mind, so it’s a win/win. We want to know what motivates each type of offending, so we can tailor our treatment to that. For instance, a rapist is motivated primarily by power and control while a voyeur is motivated by sexual excitement.
Here's something a lot of people don’t know: Not all child molesters are pedophiles and not all pedophiles are child molesters!
Treating them both the same will not be the most effective way of helping them to not offend again.
There is a segment of the population referred to as MAPS – Minor-attracted persons, or non-offending pedophiles. People, almost all men, who fall into this category of recognizing their urges but resisting acting on them have, until recently, been completely invisible. They have been scared to death, rightly so, to seek professional help because most therapists wouldn’t want to treat them, would judge them and be repulsed by them, and would be thinking that they have to report them (they don’t if the person has not acted out). Fortunately, there are now websites dedicated to supporting MAPS (https://www.b4uact.org/ and https://www.virped.org/) and therapists who are specializing with MAPS to help them live healthy lives and never touch a child.
Next, even if a therapist doesn’t work with sex offenders, they will undoubtedly work with victims of sex offenders, whether children, parents, partners, or others whose lives have been affected. Not everyone who has been a victim is willing or able to just cut all ties with the offender and knowing the nature of the offenses can help us treat all of our clients. If I am working with a person who was the victim of a parent and is still trying to have a relationship with that parent, it will be critical to know if that offender is a pedophile or a child molester who is not a pedophile.
Finally, certified sexologists/sex therapists are experts in this field and need to be voices of reason. Sex pushes people’s buttons in many ways, as evidenced by restrictions on sex education, censorship, and shaming coming from religious and other groups. This intensifies when people talk about sex offenders. Fear and anger replace rational thinking, with the result that not only are people harmed directly, but we fail to effectively protect children. We need to speak up and speak out as knowledgeable experts whenever and wherever we can.
So go ahead and sign up for a Free Class and gain more insight and understanding into this misunderstood area. Maybe, like a few of my students, you will even decide to specialize with MAPS or sex offenders.
Be In Light,