Georgia Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers​ (GATSA)

F.A.Q

 

How often does sexual abuse occur?


Sexual victimization is unfortunately fairly common in the United States. About one in every five girls and one in every seven boys are sexually abused by the time they reach adulthood i. One in six adult women and one in every 33 adult men experience an attempted or completed sexual assault in their lifetime ii.


Is there a “profile” of what sex offenders look like or the types of crimes they commit?


No, there is no profile of a “typical” sex offender iii. Sex offenders can be male or female, adult or juvenile , young or old. They also vary in terms of their level of education, marital status, and family ties. They may offend against adults or children, males or females, or both. They may have a long criminal history or none at all. Their crimes can range from non-contact offenses (e.g., exhibitionism or “flashing”) to contact offenses (e.g., fondling, rape). The reasons why they commit these offenses, the kind of help they need to try to stop offending, and the risks they pose are different in every case.


Can females be sex offenders?


Yes. While the majority of sex offenses are committed by males, females account for approximately 10% of sex crimes reported to police iv. But in studies in which individuals have been asked confidentially about whether they have ever been sexually victimized, the rates of sex crimes committed by females is often reported to be higher than these arrest rates v. Some believe that sex crimes committed by females are less likely to be reported for a number of reasons, including fear that no one will believe a female could commit a sex crime.



Weren’t most sex offenders abused themselves? Doesn’t this “cause” sex offending?


Not necessarily – some people who commit sex offenses have been victims of sexual abuse themselves, but many have not. Being sexually abused does not cause people to become sex offenders. In fact, most people who have been sexually abused do not go on to sexually abuse others.



Do all sex offenders go on to commit additional sex crimes?


No. Current research varies, but overall the data tells us that between 12% and 24% (or between one and three of every ten offenders) are known to have repeated their crimes vi. However, these rates are commonly believed to be underestimated, since we know that sex crimes often go unreported. It is important to understand that sex offenders pose varying levels of risk to reoffend: in other words, while some offenders are unlikely to offend again, others are significantly more likely to do so.


What makes one sex offender reoffend and another not?


It depends. The likelihood of a sex offender committing additional sex crimes in the future varies from person to person. Research tells us it is not typically a single issue that makes someone more likely to reoffend, but a combination of factors that might include problems in relationships, difficulty dealing with emotions such as anger, having antisocial values, hostile attitudes toward women, or being sexually attracted to behaviors that involve children. These are just a few examples. But again, because sex offenders vary in many ways, so does their risk to commit new sex crimes or other crimes.


Can sex offenders be “cured”?


No. Sex offending isn’t like an “illness” that will simply go away with a certain type of medication or treatment. This doesn’t mean that sex offenders cannot control their behavior. Specialized treatment can help sex offenders to develop important skills that can help them manage their behavior over time, which can reduce their chances of sexually abusing in the future. But whether someone will be successful depends on the person, and whether or not they are motivated to change their behaviors vii.


Aren’t most sex offenders in prison?


No. The courts can impose a variety of sentences for sex offending behavior, depending upon the offender, the facts of the case, and an individual state’s laws. While some offenders are sentenced to prison or jail, others are sentenced directly to community supervision (e.g., probation). For those sentenced to prison or jail, some are released (with parole or probation supervision), while others are released from prison or jail with no supervision at all. The bottom line is that the overwhelming majority of sex offenders will ultimately return to our communities. While many are sentenced to prison each year, between 10,000 and 20,000 sex offenders are released to the community annually viii.


Are there rules sex offenders must follow if they are under probation or parole supervision?


Yes. If a sex offender is allowed to stay in the community under supervision – or is released from prison and returns to the community under supervision, restrictions and rules are always set. Some of the rules or expectations might include the following:


  • No contact with victims; 
  • No or limited contact with minors; 
  • Attend sex offender-specific treatment;
  • Limited or no Internet access; 
  • No use of alcohol or drugs; 
  • Restrictions on where they can live and work; 
  • Restricted movement within the community and within and across state lines; and 
  • Report to
  • probation/parole officer as required.​                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

Are there restrictions on where a sex offender can live?                                                                                                                     
It depends. Sex offenders who are under probation or parole supervision must have their home approved in order to make sure that it is appropriate (for example, not near or with children). Those offenders who are not under a court order or correctional supervision, however, and who are in the community without supervision have no such restrictions (unless they live in a jurisdiction that has residency restrictions).


What are residency restrictions? To whom do they apply?


Residency restrictions identify certain locations as “child congregation areas” (e.g., schools and childcare facilities, parks, playgrounds, churches, gyms, swimming pools, libraries, school bus stops). A distance around those areas forms a “zone” that is legally off-limits to sex offenders. These are often referred to as “child safety zones.” Sex offenders who live in places with these restrictions typically cannot live within 500 to 2,000 feet of places where children congregate. Some communities do not allow sex offenders to travel through their zones on foot, or by bus or car.


Isn’t it true that sex offenders aren’t allowed to live with children?


Sex offenders (particularly those who have victimized children) who are on parole or probation, or who are subject to other court mandates, may have restrictions that limit their contact with and/or ability to reside with children. Sex offenders who have served their time and completed their community supervision have no restrictions on who they can live with.


How do I know if a sex offender is “safe” enough to live in a home with children? Isn’t it probably safe if he/she only offended against an adult?


Questions about whether an offender may be "safe" are best answered by someone with expertise in sex offender issues (such as the offender’s treatment provider or a qualified evaluator). It is important to remember that no one, even an “expert,” can guarantee that an offender will not reoffend, no matter who he or she has offended against in the past. Decisions about safety (especially when contact with children is involved) are best left for a qualified team of professionals.


What is sex offender registration?


In every state, law enforcement agencies must maintain certain convicted sex offenders (e.g., offenders’ names, addresses, photographs, and crime of conviction). In order to maintain accurate lists, or registries, sex offenders are required to report routinely to their local police agency. How long an offender remains on the registry varies by state (e.g., certain offenders may be required to register for ten years, others may be required to register for life). How often the offender must update his/her information with law enforcement agencies also varies.


Is it true that all sex offenders will always be required to register?


No. State laws vary in terms of which offenders are required to register and for how long. For some sex offenders, they may be required to register for life, but for others, registration may be limited to a specific number of years (e.g., 10 or 15 years). Some states also offer “relief” from registration, which means that when certain requirements are met, offenders are able to ask the court to allow them to stop registering as a sex offender.


How can I find out if someone is on the sex offender registry?


The Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Web site (http://www.nsopr.gov/) is a search tool that allows citizens to submit a single query to obtain sex offenders through a number of search options:

  • By name 
  • By ZIP code 
  • By county (if provided by state) 
  • By city/town (if provided by state) 
  • By state (one or multiple) 
  • National

Where can I find out about my state’s sex offender registry requirements? 
Visit the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) National/State Sex Offender Registry Web site athttp://www.fbi.gov/hq/cid/cac/registry.htm. Clicking on an individual state’s link will take you directly to that state’s registry. The information contained in the national registry and the state registries is identical; the national registry simply enables a search across multiple states.


What do I do if I believe a registered sex offender is violating the law?


If you have concerns about a registered sex offender in your community, please do not attempt to take matters into your own hands. Contact your local law enforcement (police) agency. It is important to remember that sex crime laws vary by state and specific questions about what an offender can or cannot legally do must be answered by a qualified law enforcement officer in your state or city.


How are citizens notified about sex offenders who are living in their local community?


States can either provide information passively (such as posting information on the state registry Web site), or actively (where steps are taken to distribute certain sex offenders – such as advertising information in local newspapers, or door-to-door notification by law enforcement). For high risk sex offenders, police may notify the community widely or even conduct a community notification meeting. For a lower risk sex offender, information may be restricted only to those individuals or organizations that may be especially vulnerable (e.g., schools or daycares).


Do adolescents commit sex crimes?


Yes. Juveniles under the age of 18 make up just under 20% of those arrested for sex offenses ix. Each year, there are approximately 2,200 arrests of juveniles for forcible rape and an estimated 9,200 arrests of juveniles for other types of sex offenses x. More than 90% of the juveniles who are arrested are male xi.


Will juveniles who offend sexually go on to become adult sex offenders?


Not necessarily. In general, juvenile sex offenders appear to have lower recidivism rates and perform better in treatment than adult sex offenders xii. Reoffending rates for youth over several years are approximately ten percent xiii.


How common are sexually-based Internet crimes?


It is estimated that one in seven youth (between the ages of 10 and 17) will receive an unwanted sexual solicitation over the Internet. 4% of youths have experienced an “aggressive” solicitation, where someone attempted to contact the child offline. Experts agree that the best way to protect children from online solicitations and exposure to pornography is to supervise their online activity, or at a minimum to ensure that parental controls, such as “filtering” or “blocking” software, is installed on any computer used by children.


Where can I find treatment for adult or juvenile sex offenders in my area?


The Safer Society Foundation provides free treatment referrals for juvenile and adult sex offenders. Referrals are made Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. You can download a referral form from their Web site at http://www.safersociety.org/refer.php or call (802) 247-3132 during the hours listed above for a referral.


Are there any resources available to help sex offenders get appropriate employment?


Many states offer services to help employers hire, retain, and train workers. Visithttp://www.careeronestop.org/ for more information on One-Stop Career Centers, which can help offenders to look for work. Finding employment is a challenge for all offenders, but it can be very difficult for sex offenders in particular xvi. Being employed is important for sex offenders because not having a job is associated with reoffending xv.


Sexual violence means that someone forces or manipulates someone else into unwanted sexual activity without their consent. Reasons someone might not consent include fear, age, illness, disability, and/or influence of alcohol or other drugs. Anyone can experience sexual violence including: children, teens, adults, and elders. Those who sexually abuse can be acquaintances, family members, trusted individuals or strangers.


Who can I talk to if I or a loved one has been or is experiencing sexual assault or abuse?


If you need help or support call the National Sexual Assault Hotline (1.800.656.HOPE) to be directed to the nearest sexual assault program. Your call is anonymous and confidential. You may also contact a counselor using an online hotline at http://www.rainn.org/get-help/national-sexual-assault-online-hotline. The online hotline provides live, secure, anonymous crisis support for victims of sexual assault, their friends, and families. Both resources are free of charge and are available 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. If you would like to search for a specific crisis center in your area, visithttp://centers.rainn.org.


Who should I contact if I suspect or become aware of an instance of child sexual abuse?


If you suspect that a child you know is being sexually abused, contact your local child protective services agency or law enforcement agency. For what to do if a child reports to you that they have been sexually abused, visithttp://www.aacap.org/cs/root/facts_for_families/responding_to_child_sexual_abuse.


Where can I report suspected child sexual exploitation on the Internet?


Child pornography or suspected acts of child sexual exploitation should be reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) athttp://www.missingkids.com/missingkids/servlet/PageServlet?LanguageCountry=en_US&PageId=169 . Information submitted through this site will automatically be forwarded to law enforcement.


Is there a statute of limitations for prosecuting sexual assault or child sexual abuse?


Statutes of limitations on prosecuting sex crimes vary by type of crime and state. For more the laws in your state, visit http://www.rainn.org/public-policy/sexual-assault-issues/state-statutes-of-limitations.


Resources


SART (Sexual Assault Response Teams) Toolkit.

http://ovc.ncjrs.gov/sartkit/
NSVRC- National Sexual Assault Violence Resource Center

http://www.nsvrc.org/


Protecting Yourself and Your Family and What You Can Do to Prevent Sexual Assault 

What can I do to help protect my child from sexual abuse?

xvi
Here are some things that you and your family can do to prevent the sexual abuse of a child:

  • Set and respect family boundaries. 
  • Speak up when you see behaviors that violate a child's personal boundaries or make children vulnerable. 
  • Watch for signs of sexually inappropriate behavior in adults, between adults and children, and in children. 
  • In your own life, demonstrate to your children that it is okay to say "no" when someone you know and care about does something you do not like. 
  • Practice talking about difficult topics such as sexual abuse with other adults before talking to your kids. 
  • Be sure that you are comfortable saying the proper names of body parts before you teach them to your children.
  • Teach children the difference between okay touch and touch that is not okay. As they get older, teach the more subtle differences between green light (appropriate touch), red light (inappropriate touch), and yellow light (questionable touch) behaviors. 
  • Teach children that secrets about touching are not okay.
  • Set up a family safety plan that is easy to remember. 
  • Know who to call for advice, information, and help in the event of a concern for your children.

Report anything you know or suspect is sexual abuse to your local law enforcement agency.


Are there warning signs I should be looking for that might suggest someone is sexually abusing a child? xvii


The following behaviors could be cause for concern:


  • Making others uncomfortable by ignoring social, emotional, or physical boundaries or limits. 
  • Refusing to let a child set any of his or her own limits. Using teasing or belittling language to keep a child from setting a limit. 
  • Insisting on hugging, touching, kissing, tickling, wrestling with, or holding a child even when the child does not want this physical contact or attention. 
  • Turning to a child for emotional or physical comfort by sharing personal or private information or activities that are normally shared with adults. 
  • Frequently pointing out sexual images or telling inappropriate or suggestive jokes with children present. 
  • Exposing a child to adult sexual interactions without apparent concern. 
  • Having secret interactions with teens or children (e.g., games, sharing drugs, alcohol, or sexual material) or spending excessive time emailing, text messaging, or calling children or youth. 
  • Being overly interested in the sexuality of a particular child or teen (e.g., talks repeatedly about the child's developing body or interferes with normal teen dating). 
  • Insisting on or managing to spend unusual amounts of uninterrupted time alone with a child. 
  • Seeming “too good to be true” (i.e. frequently babysits different children for free, takes children on special outings alone, buys children gifts or gives them money for no apparent reason). 
  • Frequently walking in on children/teens in the bathroom. 
  • Allowing children or teens to consistently get away with inappropriate behaviors.

If you observe these behaviors in someone you know, talk to that person. For more information and guidance about starting a conversation with someone, please call the STOP IT NOW! confidential, national, toll-free Helpline (1.888.PREVENT), Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.


How can members of the public be involved in educating others about sexual assault and prevention?


Community members can take the following steps to educate themselves and their families about sexual assault xviii:

  • Learn about what rape crisis services exist in your community. Many volunteer opportunities are available. 
  • Talk openly about the sexual assault of adults and children, men, women, boys, and girls.
  • Assume preventing sexual assault is ours and not someone else's responsibility. 
  • Talk to your children about personal safety issues as they relate to child sexual abuse. Do this when you talk to your children about bike safety or crossing the street. It is, in many ways, just another personal safety rule about which children need to be aware. 
  • Increase your knowledge about risk reduction measures you can take to protect yourself. 
  • Invite your local law enforcement, probation/parole department, rape crisis center, child abuse prevention organization, and/or missing and exploited children’s organizations to a neighborhood discussion group to learn about the issue and to process people's emotions. 
  • Get to know your neighbors. 
  • Organize neighborhood block watches, if desired by your neighbors. 
  • Get involved in primary prevention, or educational efforts that seek to stop the behaviors and attitudes that allow sexual assault to occur.
    For more information, see: CDC NSVRC
     
  • Find out what the statistics on child sexual abuse, adult sexual assault, offender arrest, and incarceration are in your community. 
  • Do not wait until you are informed that a sex offender is living nearby to begin educating yourself and your family on issues of sexual assault. 
  • Be aware of the media's ability to sensationalize the most horrific of stories concerning the sexual assault of children or adults. These stories, while real and very frightening, are not the norm. Discussing these sensationalized cases can be used as teachable moments to talk to children and calm their fears. 
  • Learn about what rape crisis services exist in your community. Many volunteer opportunities are available.


Specific Cases or Concerns


How can I get a specific sex offender’s case?


If you have questions about a specific case, contact your local criminal court to determine whether the records about that case can be made available to the public. In some states, this information is provided to the public, but the type of information made available varies from place to place.



References:
i Finkelhor, D. (1994). Current information on the scope and nature of child sexual abuse. Child Abuse and Neglect, 4, 31–53


ii Tjaden, P., & Thoennes, N. (2006). Extent, nature, and consequences of rape victimization: Findings from the National Violence Against Women Survey, special report. Washington, DC: United States Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, National Institute of Justice, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


iii Becker, J., & Murphy, W. (1998). What we know and don’t know about assessing and treating sex offenders. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 4, 116–137.


Hunter, J. A. (2006). Understanding diversity in juvenile sexual offenders: Implications for assessment, treatment, and legal management. In R. E. Longo & D. S. Prescott (Eds.), Current perspectives: Working with sexually aggressive youth and youth with sexual behavior problems (pp. 63-77). Holyoke, MA: NEARI Press.


​Marshall, W. L. (1996). The sexual offender: Monster, victim, or everyman? Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment, 8, 317–335.


iv Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) (2005). Crime in the United States, 2004: Uniform crime reports. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation.​



v Schwartz, B., & Cellini, H. (Eds.) (1995). The sex offender: Corrections, treatment, and legal practice. Kingston, NJ: Civic Research Institute.


vi Hanson, R. K., & Harris, A. J. R. (2004). Sex Offender Recidivism: A Simple Question, 2004-03. Ottawa, Ontario, Canada: Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada.


​Hanson, R. K., & Morton-Bourgon, K. E. (2005). The characteristics of persistent sexual offenders: A meta-analysis of recidivism studies. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology,73, 1154-1163.


​Hanson, R. K., & Morton–Bourgon, K. E. (2007). The accuracy of recidivism risk assessments for sexual offenders: A meta–analysis, 2007–01. Ottawa, Ontario, Canada: Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada.


​vii Aos, S., Miller, M., & Drake, E. (2006). Evidence based adult corrections programs: What works and what does not. Olympia, WA: Washington State Institute for Public Policy.



Gallagher, C. A., Wilson, D. B., Hirschfield, P., Coggeshall, M. B. & McKenzie, D. L. (1999). A quantitative review of the effects of sex offender treatment on sexual reoffending. Corrections Management Quarterly, 3, 19-29.


Hanson, R. K., Gordon, A., Harris, A. J. R., Marques, J. K., Murphy, W., Quinsey, V. L., & Seto, M. C. (2002). First report of the collaborative outcome data project on the effectiveness of psychological treatment for sex offenders. Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment, 14, 169-194.


​Lösel, F. & Schmucker, M. (2005). The effectiveness of treatment for sexual offenders: A comprehensive meta-analysis. Journal of Experimental Criminology, 1, 117-146.



viii Center for Sex Offender Management (CSOM) (2007). Managing the Challenges of Sex Offender Reentry. Silver Spring, MD: Author.


ix Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) (2005). Crime in the United States, 2004: Uniform crime reports. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation.


​x Ibid


​xi Ibid


​xii Alexander, M. (1999). Sex offender treatment efficacy revisited. Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment, 11, 101–116.


​Becker, J. V., & Hunter, J. A. (1997). Understanding and treating child and adolescent sexual offenders. In T. H. Ollendick & R. J. Prinz (Eds.), Advances in clinical child psychology (pp. 177–197). New York: Plenum.


​Caldwell, M. F. (2002). What we do not know about juvenile sexual reoffense risk. Child Maltreatment, 7, 291–302.


​Hanson, R. K., & Bussiere, M. T. (1998). Predicting relapse: A meta-analysis of sexual offender recidivism studies. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 66, 348-362.


​Hanson, R. K., Gordon, A., Harris, A. J. R., Marques, J. K., Murphy, W., Quinsey, V. L., & Seto, M. C. (2002). First report of the collaborative outcome data project on the effectiveness of psychological treatment for sex offenders. Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment, 14, 169-194.


​Prentky, R. A., Knight, R. A., & Lee, A. F. S. (1997). Risk factors associated with recidivism among extrafamilial child molesters. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 65, 141–149.


Righthand, S., & Welch, C. (2001). Juveniles who have sexually offended: A review of the professional literature. Washington, DC: Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.


Weinrott, M. (1996). Juvenile sexual aggression: A critical review. Boulder, CO: University of Colorado, Institute for Behavioral Sciences, Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence.


​Worling, J. R., & Curwen, T. (2001). The ERASOR: Estimate of risk of adolescent sexual offense recidivism. Toronto, Ontario, Canada: SAFE-T Program.


​Zimring, F. E. (2004). An American travesty: Legal responses to adolescent sexual offending. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.


​xiiiCaldwell, M. F. (2002). What we do not know about juvenile sexual reoffense risk. Child Maltreatment, 7, 291–302.


​Chaffin, M. (2006). Can we develop evidence–based practice with adolescent sex offenders? In R. E. Longo & D. S. Prescott (Eds.), Current perspectives: Working with sexually aggressive youth and youth with sexual behavior problems (pp. 119–141). Holyoke, MA: NEARI Press.


​Fanniff, A., & Becker, J. (2006a). Developmental considerations in working with juvenile sexual offenders. In R. E. Longo & D. S. Prescott (Eds.), Current perspectives: Working with sexually aggressive youth and youth with sexual behavior problems (pp. 119–141). Holyoke, MA: NEARI Press.


​Prescott, D. S. (2006). Risk assessment of youth who have sexually abused: Theory, controversy, and emerging strategies. Oklahoma City, OK: Wood & Barnes Publishing.


​Weinrott, M. (1996). Juvenile sexual aggression: A critical review. Boulder, CO: University of Colorado, Institute for Behavioral Sciences, Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence.


Zimring, F. E. (2004). An American travesty: Legal responses to adolescent sexual offending. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.​


​xiv Center for Sex Offender Management (CSOM) (2001). Educating the Community about Sexual Assault and the Management of Sex Offenders in the Community. Silver Spring, MD: Author.


​Levenson, J. S. & Cotter, L. P. (2005a). The effect of Megan’s Law on sex offender reintegration.Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice, 21, 49-66.


​Levenson, J. S. & Cotter, L. P. (2005b). The impact of sex offender residence restrictions: 1,000 feet from danger or one step from absurd? International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 49, 168-178.


​Phillips, D. (1998). Community notification as viewed by Washington’s citizens. Olympia, WA: Washington State Institute for Public Policy.


​Tewksbury, R. (2005). Collateral consequences of sex offender registration. Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice, 21, 82-90.


Hanson, R. K., & Morton-Bourgon, K. E. (2005). The characteristics of persistent sexual offenders: A meta-analysis of recidivism studies. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 73, 1154-1163.


xv Hanson, R. K., & Morton-Bourgon, K. E. (2005). The characteristics of persistent sexual offenders: A meta-analysis of recidivism studies. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology,73, 1154-1163.


​xvi ©Stop It Now!® 2008. Reprinted with permission from Stop It Now!, www.StopItNow.org, last accessed November 8, 2008.


​xvii ©Stop It Now!® 2008. Reprinted with permission from Stop It Now!, www.StopItNow.org, last accessed November 8, 2008


​​xviii Center for Sex Offender Management (CSOM) (2002). Time to work: Managing the employment of sex offenders under community supervision. Silver Spring, MD: Author.