What do you think of when you think of child molester? Monster. Dirty old man. Disgusting. Pervert. And the list went on.
Joan Tabachnick began July’s web conference with this question, focusing attention on the deeply emotional component of this topic. During the online event, titled Preventing the Perpetration of Child Sexual Abuse [listen to the recording], Joan and co-presenter David Prescott covered emerging research and the use of this research into prevention programs. David’s incredible overview of the research highlighted the wide variety of adults, adolescents and children who sexually abuse children. David also noted that despite widely and strongly held opinions, the research shows that most who commit sex offenses do not re-offend. This is true for both juveniles and adults who offend. And when they do re-offend, they are more likely to re-offend for non-sex crimes.
Why is this so difficult to get across? One key reason is that the stories seared in our minds are of the most monstrous offenders with many victims.
David also pointed out research findings that show the need to have treatment options that reflect the range of motivations for those who do perpetrate child sexual abuse. He shared research indicating that “punishment only” approaches don’t impact re-offense rates, while sentencing that combines treatment combined with supervision works best.
In addition, David described how emerging research about risk factors suggest that multiple risk factors without the buffers of protective factors create situations requiring clear intervention. Joan translated that research into a story: As one man in prison for sexual offenses said, “All the signs were there and no one – no one in my family, none of my friends, and no one at work – ever bothered to ask me about them.”
Both presenters provided a wealth of information about treatment, management and prevention. They also agreed that as people who care about the prevention of child sexual abuse, we must understand the signs and the conditions that allow children to be harmed and contribute to the development of perpetration behaviors. As the speakers noted, no child is born a sex offender.
Learn more about the Ending Child Sexual Abuse Web Conference Series.