Though this blog is was originally intended as a resource for offenders in Massachusetts, much of what I write about is applicable to sex offenders in every other state and many countries around the world, especially in Western Europe. Even other non-sex offenders trying to navigate prison, probation and parole, or employment and education opportunities can glean relevant information from this blog and apply it to help overcome their own struggles.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

You've "Sexually Offended", Never Been Caught, But Want To Talk About It: How To Safely Discuss It and Improve Your Life

Readers note:  This is a tricky post to write without sounding like I want to help people "get away with it".  But there are many in this situation who are unaware of their options.  Check with an attorney and your therapist and know the laws if you decide to go down this path.
Also, I put quotes around the words sexually offended in the title of the post since the definition of a sex offense can vary from state to state, country to country, as well as person to person.

The title is just an example of many people who are in a Catch-22.  Most sex offenses are never reported and a majority of sex offenders will never get their mug shot taken.  With the growing awareness of sex offender laws coupled with perhaps the self help movement and other personal decisions, there are many people who have "deviant attractions" and/or committed sex offenses nobody knows about and who want to address that part of their life in an open and honest manner.  Some are bothered by their past and/or current behaviors; others want insight; or there may be a lifestyle change such as having a family, where he is concerned about, for instance, inappropriate feelings he is having toward his children and fear he might repeat past behaviors.  Whatever the case, these people want to be proactive. They realize the more secretive they have to be about their behaviors and desires, the more of a grip these it will have on them.

Unfortunately, there is an understandable fear in discussing sexual offending, even with a licensed therapist and all of the legal and privacy protections enjoyed in the therapist/patient relationship.  Talking about sex offending is not the same as talking about drug use.  The concern lies in the fear of being reported by the therapist, being arrested, losing one's family, a job, friends, going to prison, having to register as a sex offender, etc... The risk simply isn't worth it for many and the system isn't constructed to facilitate this sort of proactivity.

However, there absolutely is  a safe way if you do want to talk about past criminal/sexual behaviors or deviant thinking without the Gestapo crashing through the door to take you away.

Here in Massachusetts, there is a mandatory reporting law (I assume it's similar with other states) for therapists if essentially they feel you are currently endangering yourself, someone else, or if you give them particular details about sexual offending you may have done.  But, if you leave out identifying information such as the name and relationship of the person you offended against then you can be free to talk without triggering the mandatory reporting responsibility of the therapist.

In my group counseling, there were many guys who had more crimes than they were convicted of and felt safe revealing those episodes in that environment since we knew the parameters to talk with.  The goal being it is better to put this stuff on the table, hash it out, understand the patterns in ones life leading to offending, thereby helping the offender to manage his behavior, which leads to a safer society.  A big part of offending is secrecy and isolation, which can magnify the power deviant thoughts and behaviors can have over oneself, among other things.   In my opinion, if you are able to circulate those things out of your system by at the very least discussing them, it diffuses a significant amount of influence it may have.  This isn't about getting a free pass for past behaviors, but rather a realization that talking about this stuff with a trained professional and maybe similar individuals is most important to ones well being, safety, and happiness.

It's best to verify with (ideally) an attorney and chosen therapist regarding privacy and when they are compelled to contact authorities.  Too many people aren't aware of this option, which at the outset sounds like suicide but in reality can help people lead healthier, happier, more honest lives.