This appeared in Newsday, (Long Island, NY) yesterday, 8/27/02. I have mixed feelings after reading this. I guess I'd like to see as long an article about "The Mind (and Life) of The Sex Offender's Victims".
The Mind Of The Sex Offender
Figuring out who commits these acts and why is one path to prevention
By Jamie Talan
August 27, 2002
Scientists who study the minds of child molesters and rapists are getting closer to unraveling the biological, genetic and social forces that lead to such acts. Identifying similar personality features and shared behavioral conditions could ultimately lead to new and better treatments.
Earlier this summer, dozens of researchers met in Washington, D.C., at a conference sponsored by the New York Academy of Sciences to figure out what they collectively know about sex offenders and whether there are ways to predict and prevent their crimes and to treat the offenders.
Robert Prentky, a scientist at the Justice Research Institute in Bridgewater, Mass., and one of the organizers of the conference, said that there are so many types of sex offenders - including pedophiles, rapists and sexual sadists - it's been hard to develop theories that address all the complex behaviors that drive these different abnormal acts. Scientists know little about the development of normal sexual behavior at different stages of life and what behavior actually poses a risk, Prentky said.
"Twenty years ago, we would have said that by this time we would understand pedophilia [sexual abuse of children by adults], but it remains a black box," Prentky said. This population of perpetrators is much smaller than those who commit rape against adults.
But researchers finally have enough material to define common traits among different kinds of rapists and to develop models for understanding and treating this behavior.
They have found that whether the rapist operates on a college campus or within a prison, they have similar characteristics.
Psychologist Raymond Knight of Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass., said men prone to rape, and those already convicted of sexual crimes against women, have described themselves as impulsive, absorbed by sexual thoughts and promiscuous behavior and are emotionally callous towards women.
Deviant behavior has always existed, and while child kidnappings making national headlines this summer might suggest that these crimes are on the rise, there is no evidence to suggest that they are, Prentky said. In the sex offender research world, social policy drives law and law drives the science, Prentky said. For instance, the public's abhorrence of sex offenders has led to laws forcing such criminals to serve out their sentences with no chance of early parole and then be committed to a psychiatric facility for an undetermined amount of time. Scientists are then called upon to develop tools to assess an individual's risk of re-offending. And once these sex offenders are committed, scientists are called on to develop treatments to correct their abnormal behavior.
So it is with these obligations in mind that scientists have been designing studies to figure out who commits these acts and why.
The first academic de>
If you understand everything, some things are just as they are. If you understand nothing, things are still just as they are.