We Have It All Wrong. Shunning Offenders is Not Working: A Reaction to the Woody Allen Story

woody allenI’ve been working on an article about caring for the bad dad, the man who molested my sister and tore my family apart, and what it has been to sift through the wake of my father’s life in photos, scrapbooks, and letters. After he suffered a stroke early in 2013, he couldn’t care for himself and I did something I thought I’d never do — I brought him home to live with me.

I’ve been slow with my writing, but this morning a friend posted an article to Facebook by Lisa Bloom, titled “Six Reasons Why Dylan Farrow is Highly Credible,” about Farrow’s account of her abuse by Woody Allen. Bloom wrote:

“Child molestation is inherently irrational, compulsive behavior. Little girls are commonly molested when family lurks in the next room. Little boys are victimized in homes, hotels, out-of-doors, anywhere and everywhere. The digital sexual assault Dylan alleged can happen in seconds and leave no trace.”

I stared but couldn’t click on the post. Heavy, burning waves hissed up from my gut where they hadn’t been just moments before. I thought I might throw up and then I recognized the feeling as terror. For a fleeting moment I contemplated shoving the feelings aside and ignoring them. This time felt different and I rushed to my computer, adjusted the screen so I couldn’t be distracted by the words, and pounded out my thoughts about telling secrets, supporting humans, and defending actions.

I’ve spent years, waiting for the just-right moment to speak publicly. As a survivor of incest, I’ve wanted a new way of processing the aftermath and a new conversation rather than the old worn-out I’m so sorry for you, you poor dear. I’ve rationalized that I was protecting my sister. I’ve told myself it wasn’t my story to tell which was a lie. I became an expert at dissociating when I was 11 or 12 because there was no other way to survive sharing a room and a bed with my sister. At some point, my father called me into the hallway. We faced one another and I said no. I trembled, and repeated, no. My mother’s voice called from the bedroom asking what was going on. I didn’t answer, instead I rushed back to my completely unsafe bed and shook until I fell asleep.

Lisa Bloom is right. Child molestation isn’t rational. My father wasn’t rational in those years. What is also not rational is that anyone needs to justify a disclosure of child abuse. Sadly, in our haste to find retribution, and in our shaming, blaming, judging, and punishing, the victim and offender are both vilified and neither adequately reintegrated or healed.

We have it all wrong. Shunning the offenders is not working. Locking them up is not working. Settling in court for massive sums of money is not working. Ruining the life of the offenders in the name of justice is not working. Leaving victims to pick up the pieces of their life alone is not working. The sexual abuse of our boys and girls is still going on, generation after generation.

What I’m suggesting is that we have the what-should-we-do all wrong.

I wonder if we could agree, the first goal is to stop the molestation and abuse of children. I used to think it was as simple as finding evidence, separating kids from their parents or abuser, and locking them up. Case closed. But when I was a speech pathologist in a large trauma hospital where I worked with babies and young children who’d been hit or shaken by adults, enough to cause brain damage, I saw a different side of the story. In many situations, removing the child from the parents caused further trauma. That’s when I realized it’s not so simple.

Second, and I don’t expect agreement but I believe this is crucial, we need to stop pursuing vengeance. We must lay down the judgment and shame game.

For there to be any systemic, generational healing, we need to bring secrets out in the open. We need to stop banishing people, offenders or victims. We need to slow down enough to let the healing process take place. We need to support the healing process and let it be a normal part of life. There is clearly no evidence blaming, shaming, and shunning have anything to do with finding our way out of this crisis and the crisis our children are facing today.

Who am I to have the audacity to say we need change? I am a survivor, a sister, a daughter, an aunt, and the caregiver of my father. Yes, I am caring for the same father who molested my sister and tried to molest me. But, let’s be clear, the fact I’m caring for my father does not excuse his behavior. Nor is it my place to absolve him of responsibility for those he has hurt. What is true is that, together, he and I worked on our relationship and I no longer need his penance. Knowing he wakes up every single morning with the shame of destroying his family has taken away any taste I had for restitution.

Recently, I was sorting my father’s belongings and came upon a picture of him at two years of age, about the time he began bed-wetting. The family lived in eastern Oregon with no indoor plumbing. With no way to clean him up and no clean sheets to remake the bed, his young mother, in desperation, began to punish him. She brought a bucket to the side of the bed and screamed at him to piss into it.

I remembered that when my father was nearing 75, he insisted he tell me about his recent nightmare. He’d been dreaming of a time when he was seven or so, and he’d awakened to find the bed soiled with feces. He remembered the terror he felt when he awoke and he needed to make sure someone else heard the story.

When my brother and I cleaned out our father’s house to move him nearer to us so we could take care of him, we came across a small trunk pushed back on a shelf in dark recesses of the shed. We opened it and found a bear rug we had played on as kids.

I carried the bear rug to my father, thinking he would be glad. He became white-faced and speechless. Where did that come from? You had it in your shed, Dad. I thought that was long gone!!! No, it’s there, you saved it for some reason. Get rid of it, I don’t want to see it again! Tears streamed down his face as he told me about deer hunting with his father when he was nine. They came upon a black bear and her cub in a tree and his father shot the mother. She fell out of the tree and ran away. Then he turned to my father and insisted he shoot the cub. He yelled and belittled and ridiculed until my father pulled the trigger.

Listening to his story, finding the photographs, reading old letters, has confirmed everything I’ve found as I’ve progressed through my own healing. What if, instead of three or four decades to process an abuse, it only took one or two? What if, instead of the 70 years my father has needed, we could grow healthy processes to educate, support, and repair a person’s self-worth?  How do we know we can’t? Have we tried?

Instead of hating (which I think of as genocide of the spirit) or locking people up, we could gather policy makers and mental health workers, legislators, and others who could insist insurance companies reimburse for family therapy as well as individual therapy. Mental health workers would create enough momentum that group work would become the new normal. Right now, the crowd inertia is to sit back in the arm chair and throw insults at the TV. Perhaps it is possible to steer that inertia toward action for the betterment of our communities.

I’ve held my tongue all these years, the same way most people who’ve survived a family marred by incest remains silent. Maybe, I was hanging on and hoping it would all smooth over, as if a bad dream. Or, that someday we could reconnect as a family. Most importantly, for the longest time, I thought it was someone else’s story. It isn’t. It happened to me. And, just as important, I’m now in my 50s. I’m tired of dragging this silence around with me like it happened yesterday. I’m so burdened, it burned it’s way out of me in no uncertain terms when I read the Facebook post.

Lisa Bloom is right, child molestation isn’t rational. People who feel worthy, valued, and whole don’t molest children.

We know where to begin to heal our families and our country. We know what to do. And yet, we’re not doing it. We’re giving in to fear and looking for a quick fix.

When we reject and shun the offender, often a person who’s been integral to a family or church or community, we are behaving like my grandmother who held the bucket and screamed for her son to piss in the pot or like my grandfather who belittled his son until he shot the bear. We are using a remedy that will never solve our problem and will only make it worse.

Kim Cottrell is a Feldenkrais® practitioner, educator, and former speech pathologist, living in Portland, Oregon. Kim blogs at ahealthystepmother.com and contributes regularly to Walk About Magazine. She has run from just as many traumas as she has faced but one day she was inspired to lay down her anger and rage and forgive her father.

Image via Wikimedia Commons/Colin Swan/CC License

  • Lisa

    Thank you so much for writing this. This is a beautiful and very healing piece. I really agree with you. I work with young pregnant and new mothers who very often have had violent, disorganized childhoods and have babies in order to find love they crave and never received. Yet, they have no skills to handle the stresses of poverty and new motherhood and sometimes become abusers themselves- of drugs, or even their own children. Punishing them? makes no sense. And yet we take their children away; and judge when they get pregnant again trying to heal their pain. We want justice – or vengeance as a nation. And we miss the much bigger picture. We were all small, defenseless children once. Punishment and shame are the real cycles that need to be broken. Thank you so much for this wise, beautiful article. I plan to share it and hope many others will as well.

  • Kate

    I spent this evening on the phone with a friend of mine since I was 19 years old and that tops fifteen years ago. She knew my history of child abuse and this evening as I walked the streets of Paris she told me hers. I agree with you that forgiveness is the only way to live among and beyond harm. The problem in the headline is, Woody Allen is not shunned. Most offenders, most molesters, most abusers will never live in any kind of shame like those harmed. We turn to shame first. Because no one wants abuse to be their reality. Who wants that as their story? Not me. Not you. Not us. I wanted love and safety. Now. Then. Always. Embracing forgiveness is the essence of healing. But, understanding the psyche of the molester is NOT the job of the person who was hurt. Taking care of ourselves is.

  • Thank you for writing this. This is amazing.

  • Vern

    Thanks Kim. Dealt with this at work today. 3 young children. Children Services and Police were great. My sister was molested by my mom’s brother.

  • Vern

    Thanks Kim. This is epidemic. Had to deal with this at work today. Girls ages 9, 7, and 5.

  • This is one of the most important and powerful posts I’ve ever read. Thank you, Kim, for sharing.

  • Karla McLaren

    Gorgeous, and beautifully felt and written. You’re right. I was molested for many years, and grew up “like a tree in the wrong soil.” I needed to go through many a decade or so of rage and blame so that I could reset my own sense of self, my voice, and my emotional life. When I had done that and retrieved my own anger, forgiveness was easy, because I had the strength necessary to show mercy.

    I did take it upon myself to understand molesters and abusers. For me, that was the next logical step, and I’m grateful that I did.

    I worked as a prison arts instructor with men in maximum security prisons, and was briefed about their inhumanity, their viciousness, and their intrinsic untrustworthiness. I was looking for monsters, and voila! But what I met were fellow trauma survivors who didn’t make it all the way back out. I met people who were injured in the areas of love, of family, of opportunity, of betrayal, and especially of education. I also met intensive grief and loss — it was pouring out of them along with the art, the music, the poetry, and the hope.

    “If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”
    ― Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago: 1918-1956

    • This is exquisite. The Solzhenitsyn quote, your words… thank you for sharing them.

      • Kim Cottrell

        I agree….I was very moved.

        • Kim, I am just reading your post about shunning the sex offender and you are so right. I am a sex offender of course there are many types of sex offenders but none the less sex is sex no matter what weather thinking about it, sext, having actual victims or what have you it all comes down to Sins of the flesh.
          One has to take a look at there own self as they did a stupid thing and one is only human call it the nature of the beast or what have you its still wrong for anyone to take liberties upon another person.
          I am very enlightened by your article and it has the essence of a God like quality that mankind should become aware of.
          Yes, we need to forgive and we also need to not downgrade others for there past mistakes and hold them prisoner for the rest of there lives. We are all accountable for our actions but forgiveness is forgiveness.
          America doesn’t want to forgive the sex offender and wants to stereotype them with these registries, these discriminating laws, this stigma that they will carry the rest of there lives and the pressures’ that go along with this stigma are unbearable at times.
          God changes peoples lives man doesn’t change peoples lives. Man doesn’t show compassion in these sex law’s so man needs to rethink what they are doing to others.
          Now I did something wrong the first time and others have did something wrong also if we don’t learn by our mistakes in everything we do than we are hopeless people but for the sex offender it seems that man wants to make them more of an example than any other crime…. where is the love in that?

    • Tonya

      Very true! Those hurt! Hurt!

  • Kim Cottrell

    Several things come to my mind. First, it is wonderful that there is so much support for an unusual opinion about our current seemingly epidemic problem of violence against children. Both here and on my FB wall and the FB wall of The Broad Side, there’s been nothing but interest. For that, I’m grateful, I want to keep the conversation going.

    Karla, I’m very interested in your story about working in prison with men. I had a similar experience taking my Feldenkrais (self-image) work into a women’s medium security prison near Portland. I taught 3 classes, the first two probably pretty milk-toast, but I was just getting the sense of the place. The 3rd time I read them a poem I wrote about not apologizing any more for the things that had happened to me, and for not saving my sister. I cried as I read. They cried with me. I knew in my bones they needed to begin their true “rehab” with writing their own “no more apologies” and share the traumas in their lives they’d always blamed themselves for. Then, after that, they could work on repenting for the current reason they were in jail. The prison authorities said, no…if we let you teach this class we will be sending them the message they are not responsible for what they did. I was flabbergasted. First, you heal that child that was assaulted, and almost all of them were. I could see it in their eyes when I read to them.

    One of my friends who travels often to Alaska for work, shared this with me. I was blown away by it. I’m going to write another piece outlining more of my ideas about what a healing process could look like (from a survivor’s viewpoint) but I want to share this here, given the comments. http://www.cnn.com/interactive/2014/02/opinion/sutter-change-alaska-rape/index.html?hpt=hp_bn7

    Finally, the thing that any person can do….anyone, in any position, in any point along the process, is this. Listen. Stop what you are doing in the moment and say, “I hear what you are telling me. I have _(some/no/a little)_ experience with abuse/molestation/incest, but I am listening to what you are telling me and I hope you are getting support.” Of course, it depends on the situation, but you get my drift. That is what we are longing for, maybe as humans in general, but as survivors, to be heard and not told we are lying, causing trouble, and all the other things people say to shut us up.

    I feel cleaner now that I have given voice to the story. Thank you for reading and being so respectful.

  • Walter

    I applaud your courage to speak your truth. I am in total agreement that mainstream culture’s approach is ineffective at best and damaging at worst. I am reminded of another approach from another culture that I believe is kinder and gentler. I’m speaking of the Hawaiian tradition that offers a practice of “Ho’oponopno” which translates into “to make right”. There are different variations of this approach. I’m told that in the long ago time, families would hold council to include all family and/or community members who would meet with the perpetrator and the aggrieved/victim to resolve whatever issue was present and get to a place of reconciliation and forgiveness. This sequestered process would take as long as it would take until resolution was accomplished. I’m thinking these folks who lived on an Island had it figured out. We all have to live together and on an Island, banishment doesn’t work because there is no “away”. Even if you kill the perpetrator, business is not finished as traumas and memories remain, a perfect breeding ground for more disease and further dysfunction. Increasingly we are reminded of how our globe is a lot like an Island… there is no “away”… it all comes washing back ashore with the next incoming tide or unearthed with the next construction project and we are all connected to one another in one way or another. Six degrees of separation I think has grown to be much smaller. We MUST take care of unfinished business or suffer the consequences. Thank you so much for your courage to be taking care of business. As each of us continue to heal, it gives permission for someone else to follow the example and exponentially increase global consciousness.

    • Kim Cottrell

      That’s a great example. And, I couldn’t agree more. I just finished reading yet another article about the Allen/Farrow case and was thinking what a different world it would be if there had been that kind of mediated “make it right” situation rather than the devolving and ongoing “who is right.” Thank you for your thoughtful example. I think being on an island and being in Alaska are a similar thing, hence the link I posted on a previous reply. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  • Myriad research confirms your view. Legislative efforts to stop sexual offending include strict sentencing laws, enhanced registration and community notification requirements, and residency restrictions, all of which have discouraged reporting by victims. Citizens and legislators have disregarded or purposefully ignored evidence based practices which would promote community safety. Governments waste limited resources tracking registrants who have an extremely low recidivism rate of about 3.5%. Legislators routinely destroy their citizens by allocating resources to punitive approaches after the fact, instead of encouraging healing the family unit when its members would prefer that alternative, both before and after abuse has been acknowledged. A recent Department of Justice study found that 95 percent of all new sex offense convictions involved people never previously known as sex offenders, regardless of the state’s sex offender registration laws. And we all know that the overwhelming majority of abuse is committed by people we know – family, friends and acquaintances.

    • Kim Cottrell

      Thank you, I’m working on a post about what it could look like if we listen to the child and provide a different level of support within the community. Your comment certainly validates my experience and my thoughts about what happens when the offender and victim belong to the same community.

      • Georgina Schaff

        I have been contacting legislators in SD to draft a bill which would require a “confidential family intervention” when ever an accusation is made against a first time offender and allow a qualified sex behavior therapist to determine if the accused is a threat to the community versus twelve unqualified jurors. Many are a threat to one individual child who does not want to lose the family structure and remains silent to “protect” their family from the “law.” In many cases children DO NOT want to lose their loved ones; they want the behavior changed. These are the children we are failing to protect and until Society takes a Prevention versus Prosecution stand this cycle of abuse will continue. Kim, I would be happy to forward you my work toward PREVENTION. Thank you for taking on such a “difficult topic” which even our legislators are afraid to take on.

  • Mike

    I think your approach would work in SOME cases and for some individuals,but not all. The one oversight I see here is that you assume that all pedophiles and child molesters possess remorse,and that is simply not the reality. Some are no different than habitual thieves or people who have multiple extramarital affairs. They are only sorry that they were caught,NOT that they did what they did. The approach you have taken seems to be best,and I applaud your courage and genuine desire to help. Nonetheless,it should be noted that extending forgiveness to the unrepentant can be a costly and painful error.

    • Kim Cottrell

      Mike, I believe you are right. There are some people who are devoid of empathy and the strategies I’m proposing won’t work. However, in most cases where the offender is a member of the community in which the he/she and the victim/child live, the stakes are higher for everyone involved and the damage continues decade after decade. It’s time to do some creative problem-solving and stop thinking it will all get better if we just separate and punish.

      • Georgina Schaff

        I write to 20 sex offender inmate pen pals and yes, there is a variation of remorse. The majority of them ask one question, “What made me cross the line.” They are remorseful, want treatment, and most importantly the opportunity to ask forgiveness from their victim. Most feel their arrest has freed them and their victim. Dr. Nancy Irwin states: “They do not chose to be who they are. Treatment works!”
        One (1) of these inmates is a repeat offender and he agrees he needed to be in prison and is willing to share his story to protect other children in the future. We must listen to the children and also the abusers themselves to find the solution to STOP this cycle.

        • PS

          I would say, bear in mind that those who are in prison got *caught* and convicted… and bear in mind many convicted felons will tell you anything for their 15 minutes of fame. Those who really do have remorse… well, again, they got caught, and probably wanted to be.

          Bear in mind a scant percentage of pedophiles get caught at all. The rest manage to squeak under the radar masquerading as decent looking citizens – one of my abusers makes six figures, has a nice house, married to the daughter of a rich family, has a kid, and he’s on a pedestal even with everyone knowing what he did. People simply don’t want to believe “someone like him” is capable of being a monster.

          • Georgina Schaff

            Some did get “caught” but rather than deny the charges and demand to go to trial to be convicted they took a “bad plea deal” to avoid making their victim get on the stand to relive their traumatic experience. It was their victim they were trying to protect and I respect them for that. I am so sorry your abuser has not been given the opportunity to speak truthfully to you. If a confidential family intervention was held without the threat of prison and losing everything it would be so beneficial to you and him to help with the “healing” process which is what we are lacking today.

        • Tonya

          God bless you for writing to them!

      • PS

        Thank you for acknowledging that some (actually many) people who molest children are devoid of empathy and that there is no “one size fits all solution.” My abusers to this day still tell everyone I’m lying and I’m crazy, and behind closed doors told me there was nothing wrong with what happened, that it was “normal family experimentation” – there is NO remorse on their end whatsoever. I am of the full belief they will walk to their graves with their noses in the air, insisting they’ve done nothing wrong.

        I do believe there are those who carry the shame and truly regret what they’ve done, and for them your proposal is a good one. However, sadly, I think those folks are in a vast minority. I pay forward the good done for me in my healing journey by helping others who have also been sexually harmed, and it’s my experience that most sex offenders do what they do because it’s easy to dehumanize the victim in their minds. Many pedophiles show signs of being malignantly narcissistic, a condition for which there is little hope for change, and precisely because of their lack of empathy.

        For the rest, it appears, according to the therapist who treated me with EMDR, zapping them in the genitals when they think about getting aroused around children is proving the most effective thing. Cruel? Harsh, you say? Perhaps, and yes I know I’ll sound cold when I say this, but it’s comparatively a miniscule consequence compared to destroying another child’s soul.

  • Kim, our entire organization, Reform Sex Offender Laws, Inc., is dedicated to the exact principles you espouse. We advocate for fact and evidence-based laws and practices for those who have sexually offended. With children, an overwhelmingly vast majority of sexual abuse that occurs is within the family unit or the extended circle of trust of family friends and acquaintances. Treatment that espouses family unification where it is desired by all parties involved is proving more and more valuable.

    Research suggests that Mike is correct in the tiniest percentage of offenders. Yes, there are those who either cannot or will not alter their behavior. The rare repeat offense by someone who falls in that category is seen by the public to be the norm when it is sensationalized to the maximum and inundates every media outlet. That is why your story is so important and necessary. Thank you for being such an eloquent voice for reform.

  • Bill

    I have never posted anything like this before – buy, hey, here goes. I have lived my life feeling and believing that I was a good guy – I had a very successful career, had allot of friends, gave myself deeply to my friends and family, and did allot of charity work. On the outside, everything seemed great. The inside was different, I suffered and suffered greatly from being unhealed and unreconciled with all the abuse I experienced at the hands of a crazy abusive father. All that pain came out, and I ended up abusing others – first through the addictive practice of pornography, that then crossed the invisible line into child porn.

    I got caught and spent years in a federal prison and am now in the midst of a 10 year long sentence on probation. I am a registered sex offender, for life. I am shunned, shamed, treated like the worst social leper in society, and have to work every day to rebuild my life in the face of society that is determined never to let that happen. I refuse to be defined by the worst actions of my life, instead try hard to define myself by helping others and making a positive difference on the planet today.
    I have been free for four years and have discovered that being in prison does not help someone with emotional issues – if anything, prison dehumanizes a person and can easily turn the best person into a monster (you almost have to become one just to survive the zoo inside). Instead, when I came out and started to attend therapy, I found several good people who made terrible mistakes, all of which are working hard to try to rebuild their lives. Treatment programs truly help us understand what drove us to make the disastrous choices we made, and helps us to work to never repeat those choices again.

    The registrations, residency restrictions, and all the other societal misguided attempts at making themselves feel safer all do just the opposite. While they make society feel safer, they actually place terrible roadblocks in the way of true rehabilitation and reintegration into society – all of which are key to preventing an offender from reoffending. The truth is that sex offenders rarely ever reoffend, yet have unreasonable burdens and social stigmas placed on them that they often feel they have no other choice than to strike out at the very society that seemingly wants to punish them for the rest of their lives.

    Sex offenders have the lowest recidivism rate among all crimes (many studies have proven). Registrations and residency restrictions do not prohibit new crimes, they contribute to offenders reoffending. Societal ignorance and fear mongering leads to isolation, which in turn greatly increases the chance of reoffending. We are causing the very thing we are working hard to prevent.

    A much more rational approach would be to stop sending offenders to prison, instead send all offenders to proven treatment programs and force them to provide community service. Repealing the registration laws except for high-risk offenders would allow law enforcement and the public to concentrate on the few people that truly warrant that attention. Repealing residency restrictions would allow offenders to find good housing and allow them to reintegrate into society easier. A more rational approach would allow society to be safer, spend allot less scarce resources, and would ultimately allow us to protect our children far better than we are now.

    • Kim Cottrell

      Sigh….I believe you are right, the hunt simply escalates the problems the offenders had to begin with. Taking a person away from their community does nothing to help a victim and family reconcile and reintegrate. On a side note, my father used to visit prisoners after he was sober and working toward redeeming himself. He kept notebook after notebook of his conversations with them, or at least of the things he wanted to talk with them about.

      And, I visited him on Thursday, after this article was published to tell him what I had written. He hasn’t read it, but he nodded and told me he was glad the secret was out in the open. He has felt he couldn’t become close to anyone, there was a wall and behind the wall the massive list of things he could never talk about, but had to keep himself hidden. That is why I disagree with some who think offenders get to go free. There is no free. There is the living hell of what you have created and until you make it right it is never away from you. Or so I’ve witnessed.

      I wish you well and hope you are successful in resolving your own childhood trauma, thank you for commenting.

    • Bill, your comments on the sex registry and all you spoke of are very therapeutic and make since. Reading your comment is a help for me as I am on the sex registry and will be for life unless we stand up for it or people like these advocates help.

      We all seek help in this battle. Now mind you I’m not for the Sex offender or what he has done in the past… The past is past and we all look for a new beginning.

      When Stephen was being stoned, he said, please don’t hold this sign against them. The law should take an example from that but don’t. Sure all of us involved with these sex offenses want to get our lives back together but with man’s rule it seems impossible…… There will be a change coming I’m sure.

  • Will Bassler

    Thank you for this article. I believe where there is life there is hope. It gives me hope for that someday!

    In the past there were programs that did just as you suggest, but they were shut down by victims advocates, parole and probation and legislators who thought he Healing the families were not as important as punishing the offender.

    One such program was the Child Sexual Abuse treatment program (CSATP) from Santa Clara county, California. According to the (CSATP) data from 1971 to 1982, they treated over 12,000 individuals, both victims and offenders. More clients then any other single agency in its field. CSATP was rated the best program in the country with a maintained re-offense rate of less than 1%. This, without failing or removing people from the program.Their approach was a humanistic one through self-awareness and self management and of the families that were involved in this program. Over 95% were able to stay together as a family unit.

    In Henry Giarretto’s, “integrated Treatment of Child Sexual Abuse”, the treatment and training manual for CSATP, he showed that much of the trauma that comes to the victims of interfamily child sexual abuse comes from the Criminal Justice System as it relies primarily on two devices: Separation and Punishment. It seems that the courts primary interest in the child has to do with the testimony they can give to convict the alleged perpetrator. With the report of the crime the children are expected to recount the incidents in agonizing and embarrassing detail to the police officers, case workers and Prosecuting attorneys with continual assurance that this is needed to get the offender help. When the victim finds out that the information that they gave has placed a person they care about into prison. The backlash on the victims creates a deeper trauma and a strong trauma bond between the offenders and the victims. One of the first things learned by the CSATP group was that the victims interest were best served if the mother, father and the rest of the family are included in the there type of counseling plan. Apoint that is also addressed in Beyond the best interest of the child by Goldstein, Freud and Solnit the second prodition from this is “the child’s best interested are served if she is permitted to continue her family life with as little interruption as possible even if this means reuniting her after appropriate intervention, with the offending parent

    • Kim Cottrell

      Thank you for this….I’m gathering my thoughts about a follow up piece and corroborating my ideas about treating a community.

      • Georgina Schaff

        Kim, I would like to email you an idea for “confidential family intervention” to develop an IFP (Individual Family Plan) which would keep the family together, provide education, treatment, and resources to “heal” the family while remaining in the community. I also would like to send you my “research” compiled from 16 of my inmate pen pals who are begging for treatment or have contributed to the benefits of treatment. I too was raised by what Society would label a sex offender and you could not find a more compassionate, loving, caring Dad and person than my Dad was. Your article is so close to home because I too brought my Dad into my home and cared for him. There are so many stories like ours and until the victim, the abuser, and the family can talk about the abuse without the threat of prison it will continue. Please email so I may send you information to read before you publish your next piece. You are a God send that so many of us having been praying for. Thank you letting “the truth” be known.

        • Kim Cottrell

          Georgina, perhaps you’ll share the idea with everyone, so everyone can take a look. I’m not actually going to be doing a scholarly review of treatment. I am going to speak from my heart about what I think would have helped my family heal in some time period less than 5 or 6 decades, some maybe never. We need to share this process and I imagine many others are interested. Thank you!

          • Georgina Schaff

            Thank you for the opportunity to share my work with those who care and want to see reform.
            I have spent six years studying (reading, documenting, compiling data, communicating with health (behavior therapy) experts, elected officials, inmate sex offenders and their families, registrants and their families, and researching the effects sex offender laws (Incest, Romeo/Juliet, Porn, Mandatory Minimum Sentences) have on our citizens. The AG states we need legislation; the legislators state, “Contact the Attorney General so “a study” can be done.”

            2014 Senator Candidates, Legislators, Lawmakers, and Citizens:

            I am asking for legislation which would provide a confidential family intervention for first time sex offense crimes with no media or police involvement. This legislation should be a campaign issue. The time to address this issue is now.

            In 2003 the Bureau of Justice released these statistics: “According to the Department of Justice, most child sexual abuse victims are molested by family members (34%) or close acquaintances (59%). About 40% of crimes take place in the victim’s own home, and 20% take place in the home of a friend or relative.” Your children are more at risk from your family, your friends and you than from convicted sex offenders. “Registered sex offenders are more likely to be rearrested for nonsexual crimes than sex offenses.”

            When an “offense” of any sexual nature is mentioned in America, American law does not hesitate to destroy the family structure, slowly bankrupts the family, and may even force the family to go on public assistance (paid by taxpayers). Often the accused is provided additional legal resources through the court (paid by taxpayers). Incarcerating citizens (health insurance, room, and board paid by taxpayers), place the inmate (our loved ones and U.S. Citizens) often in solitary confinement, and once their Minimum Mandatory Sentence is served, they are released back into society (ten to fifteen years “behind the time”), labeled with THE registry (paid by taxpayers) as to where they can live, have difficulty finding jobs, and often many are committed to Civil Commitment (paid by taxpayers).

            I would rather see my tax dollar spent on prevention with a focus on changing the behavior and STOPPING this cycle of abuse. We are wasting time and money on “the registry” which fails to protect ALL children.

            Recommended Legislation:
            We must take the “weapon” away. That weapon is the “law” that provides the power and control over their victim. “If you tell I will have to go to prison, you will never be able see me and our family will be divided” Replace that “law” – “weapon” with, “If you tell, I will have to change my behavior or go to jail.” Empower the child to defend themselves without the threat of losing their loved ones.

            Intervention Benefits:
            • Protect ALL sexually abused children with a promise of resources to change the behavior and STOP the abuse.
            • Behavior Therapy is covered by most insurance, not the taxpayer.
            • Children would be encouraged to immediately report.
            • Future, additional victims will be prevented.
            • Taxpayers would save billions on prosecution, incarceration, and the registry.
            • Cover-ups would be eliminated if treatment was the first option.
            • Overcrowding in prisons would be drastically reduced.
            • Families would not have to face a lifetime of shame.
            • Many lives would be saved for those who choose suicide to avoid the legal system.

            If a confidential family intervention, no media and no police was held for first time offenders with the promise of education, treatment, and resources to keep the family intact children could report to stop and change the behavior. We are NOT protecting these (90-95%) who choose to remain silent and endure these horrific indignities for fear of losing their family and all that is dear to them.

            This issue should be a priority for every American, it is the American Way; it is the right thing to do!

            Working in a Special Education class in 1984, following the Family Living discussion, a very troubled female 5th grader came to me and asked, “Mrs. Schaff, What would happen to my Dad, … I mean,…ah, someone who is touching you in the wrong places?” I replied, “He would be put in jail and you would never have to worry about him ever touching you again.” She stood silent for a long time and I asked, “Is there something you would like to share?” She thought awhile longer and said, “No, I was just wondering.” Because of the law, I let this child down! If I could have told her that person would have to change his behavior OR go to jail” there is no doubt in my mind that she would have shared with me. She displayed all the symptoms of an abused child but I sincerely feel she chose to endure the physical/sexual abuse rather than lose her Dad. It is the behavior children want changed, not the loss of family
            There must be caring, compassionate people who sees the good in all people, recognizes the fact that human beings do make mistakes and deserve a 2nd chance, and accept that Change is possible. People can and do change and so can laws be changed to give them the opportunity to live with their families with HOPE, DIGNITY and RESPECT. Please get smart on crime versus tough on crime.
            I belong to the National RSOL, W.A.R., Caution Click, FAMM, CURE, FAC, ACLU, Prison Pal Project, and every human being deserves the right to live with HOPE and dignity while confronting these issues which have been avoided and shoved into the closet for way too long. The Sexually challenged needs treatment!

            IFP (Individual Family Plan)
            Give children the opportunity to confidentially report to someone they TRUST; not a stranger who takes them out of the home and places them in foster care with strangers. This person should be someone known to them, a school counselor, their pastor, priest, or clergy, family member, close friend, or their physician who already knows their growth pattern; any person who the victim finds comforting. This person should be allowed to accompany the victim to all meetings for moral support and assurance as they confront the abuser and work toward healing.

            That person could call DSHS (or other designated Organization trained on sex specific behavior), who would inform the family and schedule a confidential Intervention and as a “team” decide the most feasible method to promote healing and a healthy environment for the whole family.

            The Intervention Provider would decide which family members should receive confidential Behavior Treatment to fully understand, acknowledge the abuse, accept responsibility, confront, forgive, and follow through to assist the family in their treatment and healing.

            The family should be financially responsible for family treatment (which is paid for by most insurance companies) but the cost of treatment is minimal compared to hiring an attorney to defend against charges. Many times the cost of legal fees causes the family to lose their homes, investments and retirement.

            Just like doing an IEP (Individual Educational Plan) for a trouble child; it takes a “whole team” to develop an IFP (Individual Family Plan) that is appropriate for each individual family. Every child is unique and so is every family. Sometimes healing the “family” is more important than each individual member of the family.

            This Intervention would benefit the victim, the abuser, the family, and the whole community would benefit from the solution reached through empathy, understanding, and change.

            The law and the court should be the last resort if there is no hope for changing the behavior or keeping the family intact. A “qualified” sex specific therapist could make that decision based on the true confidential facts.

            Allow a qualified sex therapist to determine who is a threat versus twelve unqualified jurors, an overzealous prosecutor and/or judge, or a defense attorney who encourages you to take a plea.

  • Alan Davis

    Another thing that needs to be addressed within this discussion is mandatory reporting. It used to be that if a family discovered there was molestation occurring within their family, they had the ability to address the problem by seeking therapy either through a family therapist or through their clergy.

    Often, once the “secret was out” that fact and its’ related shame, brought the offending to a halt. There was usually an unmandated separation period to temporarily remove the offender, but from that point forward, the goal was the healing for all.

    Today, if a family trys to seek therapy, they are served up a full measure of retubution justice, locking in place a victims’ mentality for all, the victim, the offender, and the remainder of their family.

    In my opinion, the worst thing that has occurred in the way our society now addresses sexual offending, is that today nearly everyone knows at least one person who has been convicted of a sexual offense and is now listed on the sex offender registry. Most are also aware of the devastation that the offense and registration have caused in the lives of not only the offender, but all of the members of the offender’s family which often includes the actual crime victim too. This knowledge of the destruction within the family that follows reporting, has led to a great reduction in that reporting, which then has the tendency of perpetuating instead of eliminating the abuse.

    • Georgina Schaff

      I so agree! In Arizona one (1) treatment center has been built to treat the victims while two (2) new prisons were built to “treat” the abusers. So sad.

      Twenty (20) incarcerated human beings reached out and contacted me for “help” to understand “why” they did what they did. I am a compassionate, forgiving person, and attempted to be a support to these individual human beings when no one else seemed to care. They have become like family members and I do care what happens to them. They are human beings who want to STOP the cycle as bad as we do.

      My Mission is for legislation for a Confidential Family Intervention, for 1st time non-violent sex offenses, without the threat of incarceration, which would attempt to keep “the family” intact and work with the whole family toward forgiveness, treatment, support, and education during the healing period which would be so much more cost effective for tax payers. Children would be encouraged to speak out to STOP the behavior, the offender would receive valuable strategies, the family would be kept together, they could heal “as a family,” and the family could live in harmony and peace in their community.

      Here are excerpts from just 3 (I have compiled all their statements which I sent to SD legislators) first time offenders involving incest or child porn who all want to be accepted, respected, and shown some compassion and understanding. They are Human Beings with individual experiences but are ALL treated the same by the Law and Society.

      Inmate 1: When I was in my early 20s I sought treatment for anger issues and was slapped in the face with a sign that read: “Any mention of sexual abuse will be reported to the authorities immediately.” I did not say a word about the sexual abuse I endured as a child because I considered that sign more heartache, embarrassment, and more trouble that I could not deal with. I know that I am not the only one who has seen this same sign in doctors’ offices that carries “reporting type laws” in direct contradiction of confidentiality laws. How many victims of abuse who needed help, but were too scared, intimidated, or feared repercussions chose to say nothing, and then later created victims themselves because of the statistical proof that sexual abuse is a never ending cycle without treatment? I am now a 46 year old man who is now out of the taxable work force costing the state $49,900.00 per year, as well as thousands of others could be receiving treatment at a much lower yearly cost. We are victims who created victims. This facility has absolutely NO treatment programs in place. The prison system presently has over 145,000 prisoners in state wide facilities designed to hold 80,000. Overcrowding is why I have been locked in my cell for 23 hours a day and inmates are released back to square one. No counseling, no rehab, and no answers for themselves and their victims or families. At my sentencing hearing, I chose to speak. I told the Judge exactly what was said between my victim and myself. My victim simply asked, “Why?” I told her I would do everything I could to “find out why.” The books you sent have been very difficult to read. I almost broke down a number of times as they brought back memories I would rather forget but I know I must deal with them. While reading I felt sick, dizzy, emotional, and my mouth began to water as if I were going to vomit. I had no idea that I would feel this way when I read what experts had to say. This is very scary for me and I do not like feeling like this. I was abused by two men when I was 8-12 years old and then again when I was 16. These episodes of abuse gave me a lot to think about. I was truly chased away from treatment before any offence was ever committed. My story and others must be told! We cannot have people running from help because of fear of prison. If we educate to tell people that informing will get an offender needed help, more victims would be spared. As I was reading the RSOL Digest my cellmate told me he was a RSO and his Uncle was too. He told me that after his Uncle committed his offence he tried to go and get treatment. When he began to tell his story and receive help he was promptly arrested and charged. Things need to change. Get the SOs the help they want and need so they can get back to work supporting their families and paying taxes. I did not ask to be inflicted with this condition and I am certain most, if not all, wish they never had this condition! I have been thinking about my victim and have been in a lot of pain lately. I would rather have a kick in the teeth than feel the constant ache that encompasses my mind and body. It seems that the vast majority of sex offences are considered violent. There was absolutely no force or intimidation in my offences but the law says I am a sexually violent predator. I hate that label. That is not who I am. Each case must be looked at “solely,” not bunched together in a classification that holds a mandatory standard of punishment and labeling. Until changes are made to have “nonviolent” offenders receive treatment before incarceration, we will be coming up short on a large part of the SO population. To classify me as a “SVP” shows me how little our politicians know about this epidemic.

      Inmate 2: I’ve been journaling since my first day of incarceration. I estimate I’ve written between six to nine thousand pages which chronicles my journey from a confused deluded (self-delusion) man who didn’t want to believe he’d done anything “that bad” to one who not only recognizes how horrific his crime is but also why it happened. This has been a very long and painful journey. The things I’ve learned and dealt with, so many issues, most of which I never realized I had, have brought me to a place where I can say I’ve made great progress and has made my desire to never cause such anguish and pain again a reality. My Aunt came to visit and brought along her best friend who is a licensed counselor, in her second thirty plus year career as a licensed counselor. She’s always counseled victims and swore she’d never counsel a perpetrator. She is now my counselor and there are many things we’ve discovered together that she has used in her current counseling sessions.” I have desired to share my story to help people understand that even the most despised of all criminals are people first and foremost. We need to put the adage “An ounce of prevention…” to work for us, especially since I find most of us know/knew what we were doing was wrong. I was too afraid of what would happen to me if I ever admitted to the feelings I was having, so I just tried to bury them/ignore them. There has been a great deal of healing within my family which is an important part of my personal healing over my years of incarceration. I’ve learned to deal with the uncomfortable, difficult, and painful situations of life that I always avoided.

      Inmate 3: A group of us came up with “My Red Dot” idea which came from the red dots that appear online when someone looks up “registrants.” We want people to know that a person that commits a sex crime can be anyone, a brother, a father, a son, an uncle, a grandfather, and even women. My victim, my daughter, how are her and her younger sister doing? Where are they? Even though the court says I can never have any contact with them ever again, am I supposed to stop caring or worrying about them? Whether or not they are in my life, I am still a parent right? I cannot guarantee it, but I’d be willing to say that if my oldest daughter, my victim, knew that what is happening to her father would happen, she more than likely wouldn’t have said what she said. I’ve seen more violence and more drugs in the first three months in here than I had on the outside. I’ve also learned more about being a criminal. Sad to say, I came to prison to learn how to be a criminal. A few fights here and there so we get locked down and I just realized fights don’t faze me anymore, they happen so frequently. The first ones I was horrified and in shock. I have never been in a fight, not high school, not college, nor the bar scene so they were impactful when I arrived here. PBS aired a program “Fix-Twice Justice” and professionals went on record as saying, “They are coming out worse than they went in,” “They are getting angry,” “They are becoming hardened people.” I feel the same way. I find myself angry, at least angrier than I have ever been. I feel my wall going up a lot of time, i.e.: becoming emotionless and hardened. Before my arrest I knew very little about laws (especially sex laws), the criminal process or government. Now that I’m involved, I’m trying to learn everything I can. In Germany you are criminally responsible at the age of 14, meaning age of consent is 14 and you can have complete confidentiality in therapy without fear of being prosecuted.

  • Will Bassler

    Beware for how you present this to the Treatment community, many treatment programs are based on behavior modification And have a clockwork orange type scheme to them. At one time in the recent past they used electric shock, and ammonium nitrate conditioning. Things that the United States Supreme Court have said are in violation of the eighth amendment, and the treatment providers have a preset ideology that doesn’t allow them to admit their own mistakes In their treatment programs. Many don’t realize the amount of damage that their programs are creating. There is an article entitled “the effectiveness of sex offender treatment programs” On the sex offender treatment and educational network SOSEN That you might find interesting.

    • Stacey

      So true. I have witnessed many individuals being mandated to treatment as a part of sentencing in which they experienced learning about sexual deviancy not otherwise known to them before having to attend therapy. Other forms of treatment include the offender admitting to exactly what is written into the police report and pre-sentence investigation that can lead into more of a psychological dictation based on crime admittance than approaching the subject from the healthier form of holistic rehabilitation. Yes, offenders should admit what their problem is, and guilt stems from, however their progress should not solely depend on a therapist or counselor who dictates their future risk if they do not agree with every detail of the account from law enforcement alone. Too many therapists and counselors have bought into the same stigma association the general public portrays and will not willingly look beyond the crime of conviction to explore what caused the person to offend.

    • Kim Cottrell

      Oh Will, I can’t imagine anyone leaving it to me to present things to the treatment community. I do imagine an insider who is trained in this work and takes it upon themselves to find humane, community-minded, healing for future generations orientation will pick this up. Clearly many are, or the Alaska project wouldn’t be going on, and some others folks have mentioned here. The voice of one incest survivor is just that, the voice of one incest survivor. Hopefully, with enough voices, there will be enough attention to gain some notice and effect some change. It will take many voices, thank you for adding yours. I hope others will as well.

      • Georgina Schaff

        Kim, you have a voice and the ability to have the “truth” printed. I have sent so many news releases, letters to the editors, and opinion pages only to be ignored and my submissions have gone unprinted. I have been submitting my information to legislators, lawmakers, Public Health Departments and treatment centers to raise awareness. You may be the voice of only one incest survivor but there are so many children waiting to tell their story to bring about change. You may be only one but there are others who are willing to join you. I went onto the Alaska article and forwarded my information to them. I am here to help in any way I can. You took the first step and that was the invitation we all need. Thank you so much, you may be one voice but a very important voice because people listen to you.

  • Amanda

    I think it’s still really important for the ‘perpetrator’ of child sexual abuse to face up to his/her crime and fully take responsibility for it, before the process of forgiveness etc… is even entered into. I can’t help but wonder (and I don’t expect an answer), if your father was ever sentenced for his crimes against your sister, and indirectly against yourself?

    If not, then I think you are still in some kind of denial, I mean, yes, I understand that he had shocking things occur in his own childhood, but that is not really the point. Obviously, all child abusers had unhappy childhoods, or they wouldn’t abuse children. However, it is also true that many adults who were abused as children, elect not to become abusers themselves.

    Sure, there’s nothing ‘rational’ about child sexual abuse, but somehow I think that child abusers must ‘atone’ for their actions, in whatever way our society demands (and in the West, that tends to be by jail time) before they and their families should begin to ‘forgive’.

    If your father has gone without a proper trial, and without a proper jail sentence, then I am sorry, but I view you as still being a little girl, in the face of a very powerful male- Daddy! I don’t know what I’d do if my father had committed such a crime, but I ‘think’ I would want to see him undergo the punishment that society suggests for other molesters who can and do get caught.

    • Kim Cottrell

      I’ve been waiting for a comment such as yours. Frankly, I’m surprised it’s been a week since this piece was posted and yours is the first. Maybe others felt the same but didn’t want to expose themselves, so I appreciate that you are bringing this opinion into the conversation.

      What saddens me is the way our society has decided there is only one way to resolve our traumas and abuses. I am so grateful my family is older and we are not living in today’s hang them first, ask questions or try to resolve later. My sister had an opportunity to press charges against our father. It was her choice not to do so.

      Furthermore, the attitude that there can be no forgiveness if there isn’t a trial is one of the reasons our families remain fractured beyond repair. It divides those who were abused from those who weren’t, further isolating, causing further trauma.

      That the story that gets told, by you and others, is that I am immature and child-like is also a convenient way to shut me up. It allows each person who instantly writes me off that way to ignore that there may be another piece of work for him or her to do to get to a place of peace in his/her life. This post is about reclaiming my experience and my reality, not telling others what they believe or should do.

      All who read should see my opinion as my opinion about what is wrong, what is not protecting our children, and what is preventing our ability to repair a life, any life, many lives.

    • Will Bassler

      from your turn of phrase in the comments that you have left. I can only surmise that you are a member of the treatment community, who believes in the shaming model of behavior modification or her that you are a victim’s advocate or in the prosecution side of the criminal justice system. Your supposition that the only way to atone is through punishment speaks of volumes of your position to seek revenge.

      From my point of view These are the types of people that try to force empathy onto another person without allowing them the opportunity to be able to deal with the demons of their past. The idea behind treatment is to make a person better and you don’t do that by treating them as if they are monsters. And that is why the people got that go through the existing type of behavior modification programs that are mandated for sex offenders are up to 10 times more likely to reoffend than those who have absolutely no treatment.

      It is now also time to stop the shameful and dangers tactics of the so called experts. Tactic’s designed not to treat offenders, but to line the pockets of these treatment providers at the expense of the public, victims and the offenders. Is it any wonder that the public is scared of persons that have been convicted of sex crimes returning from prison or being placed on probation in the community. Such misinformation only adds fuel to the fire of fear and distrust that people have about any thing that they don’t understand. This same misinformation allows treatment providers and others to justify their mental, emotional and physical mistreatment, as well as outright sadistic torture of other human beings without being held accountable.

      Research studies evaluating the effectiveness of current politically and socially acceptable treatment programs have resulted in the classification of three types of programs they can best be described as forced failure, possible, and none. Studies researching Behavior Modification programs that are approved and mandated by the courts the board of post prison supervision and probation officers and implemented by State Hospital’s verified recidivism rates across the country. The (1989) Furby, Weinrott, and Blackshaw study of these studies being the most extensive and meticulously analytical. And the only study that compares treated offenders to non-treated offenders The studies found that offenders placed on probation with NO therapy are the least likely to re-offend. Offenders sent to jail or Prison also WITHOUT THERAPY are rated second least likely to re-offend. But those who are mandated, volunteer (under threat of prison or jail time) or are sentenced to Behavior Modification therapy are at least twice and as much as ten times as likely to re-offend in the committing of a new sex crime, and will commit other types of violent crimes at unreasonable rates as well. In the George Dix (1976) study, those who had been imprisoned and not treated, only 7.3% were convicted of subsequent sex offense and none of a subsequent non-sex offense. Those who had treatment were convicted at a rate of 16.7% for a subsequent sex offense and 12.5% of a subsequent non-sex related offense. That is a total conviction rate of 7.3% without treatment and 29.2% with treatment.

      In the state funded study for the legislator ” Sex offenders in Oregon”, by Marcia Morgan M.S., The Furby study was quoted as stating “there is as yet no evidence that clinical treatment reduces the rate of sex offense.” Furby and her colleagues statement was omitted from the state report, Where they stated: “The recidivism rate of treated offenders is not lower than that for untreated offenders; if anything, it tends to be higher. Treated offenders were selected because of their amenability to treatment, many are later thrown out leaving only the cream of the crop. This is not true of those studies with non-treated offenders they were left with the ones that the treatment providers didn’t want, they also could not throw out those that they thought would fail to make their numbers look better.

      Why is it then when Furby looked at 24 exceptional North American study’s with 9957 sex offenders, 5292 with treatment and 4665 with out. The treated ones committed a new sex offense at 20.3% while only 5.6% of the ones without treatment committed another sex offense. The reconviction rate for any other types of crimes was 12.3% for untreated and 30.8% for those with treatment. That is a total reoffence rate for all crimes of 51.1% for those treated and 17.9% for those without treatment. From the Furby studys even with treatment errors the majority of offenders (80%) do not have a new sex crime.

      Irwin S. Dreiblatt, Ph. D of Pacific Psychological Services of Seattle Washington stated in Retraining Adult Sex Offenders. (by Fay Honey Knopp) ” I become concerned that we get carried away with the notion of treatment as the only response to sex offenders. We get to far in viewing treatment as a universal response rather that a selected approach to appropriate individuals. One of the big changes in this big wave seems to be, ” Well, now we can do something for the sex offenders, let us get everybody into treatment.” I’m scared about that approach… there are a lot of sex offenders form whom we do not know what to do… I think the mental health community often oversells its product, and I think everyone needs to be cautious not to oversell… I am discouraged about the prospect of trying to provide treatment for everyone who comes along with the problem of sexual aggression.”

      The widely recognized researcher on psychological evaluation Robyn M. Dawes in his book House of Cards “Psychology and Psychotherapy Built on Myth”, stated “A person who claims that a treatment is effective must demonstrate that it has an effect in comparison to a hypothetical counterfactual, obtained through construction of a randomly constituted control group.” Such randomized experiments are very necessary in evaluating treatments for emotional disorders and one of the best is what is called a “Wait List Control”. This was used in the Florida Department of Health and Rehabilitative study from 1984 the people who had completed treatment re-offended in a sex crime at 13.6% and other crimes at 18.6%. Those who did not complete treatment at 6.5% for sex offense and 12.9% for other crimes and those that were on the list, but did not get into treatment re-offended in sex crimes at 5% and other crimes at 0%. The more the treatment, the more the criminal activity! On page 20 of the “sex Offenders in Oregon” the statement is made “Most studies nationally reported rates ranging from 27.6% to 41.0% for subsequent offense.” They did not point out that those numbers are only for persons in treatment. The jacks study in 1962 looked into non-treated offenders showed the re-offense rate of 3.7% over 15 years that’s 2/10 of 1% per year , this must be used as the base line set as laid out by Robyn Dawes any treatment program with a reoffence rate higher then 3.7% for a 15 year period must be consider a failure of the program not the individuals in it.

      Does this mean that all treatment programs cause people to re-offend? Maybe, there are some that use a humanistic approach, through self-awareness and self-management. Rather than probe the traumas of the past or desensitize maladapted behavior through behavior modification. One such program was the Child Sexual Abuse treatment program (CSATP) from Santa Clara county, California. According to the (CSATP) data from 1971 to 1982, they treated over 12,000 individuals, both victims and offenders. More clients then any other single agency in its field. Jean M. Goodwin in her book “Sexual Abuse” (1990) stated that the CSATP was rated the best program in the country with a maintained re-offense rate of less than 1%. This, without failing or removing people from the program. Only through a personal choice can a person change his or her direction in life not by being forced in to it by anyone else. There are programs today in the Department of Corrections that people have chosen to be part of that have lessen re-offense rates for all crimes. Some of them are Chuck Colson’s Prison Fellowship for growth in spiritual strength and Christian values. Gordon Graham and Co.’s Breaking Barriers that has offered self esteem training for industry, education, government agencies, the military, labor/management and criminal justice systems in the U.S. and abroad. The seminars provide an awareness of the solutions to problems in positive ways, showing that everyone can win. The original Pathfinders organization in Oregon with their program including modules in team building, communication, problem solving, motivation, life planning and time, anger and stress management. The Pathfinders recidivism rate was less then 2% in 2000. these types of programs have a positive impact on everyone who participate. These programs are successful because they do not worry about the past but look only into changing the now and the future. In Pathfinders the Franklin reality model is used to help people change. The concept is that we all look at life through a window that has our beliefs on it and we make life decisions based on those beliefs this does not attack the person or tell them that they can never change, but rather challenges them to take down the window and clean off the crud then get on with life living in a new direction. Dr. William James said in the Prison Fellowship Bible study, You are someone, “The greatest discovery of our time is that anyone can become a better person by having positive attitudes. Prison Fellowship, Pathfinders, and Breaking Barriers all stress positive growth. Behavior modification treatments stress all that is negative about a person or situation. They point out how a person should spend all their time watching for negatives that they will never be able to change because they are bad and flawed people Interestingly in Child Sexual Abuse: Analysis of a Family Therapist Approach, Jerome A Kroth stated “it is likely 98% of those new clients will not repeat the offense merely on the basis of the fact that the molest has been reported and the family secret broken”.

      The studies revealed only a small percentage will re-offend without treatment. Roughly 7/10 of 1% to 8%, and if a type of therapy other than Sex Offender treatment or behavior modification is used, then the numbers seem lower still.

  • John

    Kim, First… Thank you so much. I have wanted to reply but needed to quit crying first. This brought out so much feeling in me that it hurts. Starting at the age of 14 I became the victim and at 35 I became the abuser. My story is different in that my victimization did not come with fear, or a dominate abuser. I was 14 and she was a 22 year old married woman. At the time I was having fun… in my mind I was “The Man,” I was “taking care of business her husband couldn’t”. I didn’t understand the mental effect this would have on me. Although my abuse had not come with fear it did come with a deep shame. Her husband had been a good friend of mine, kind of a mentor. As I got older and started having relationships with other women they were always based on sex, no real communication or understanding of each other. I never found it possible to trust the women I was with. When your first real example of adult relationships is a woman who is cheating on her husband…

    When my victim first approached me in a sexual manner I turned her down. She didn’t give up. After time I gave in… I rationalized my actions because at her age I was sexually active and “it didn’t hurt me”. After that night I moved out… (She was my step daughter). It would never happen again. The guilt and shame hit me immediately… It is really a lot more complicated then this but the details aren’t important here in this letter, all that matters is that it was my fault; my responsibility was to protect her even from her own desires. My responsibility was to protect her even from myself. She was too young to understand the long term effects of what was happening.

    I did time for my crime. That was before the life sentences were being handed out. A lot of people say I’m crazy when I say this but the greatest gift I was ever given was that time. I was allowed to go thru a Sex Offender Treatment Program that changed my life. I was allowed to deal with my past, not just my sexual past but other abuse and trauma that I had gone thru. Reading about your father’s childhood ripped open some old wounds for me, not the same events but the feelings are similar.

    In your article you said: “What if, instead of three or four decades to process an abuse, it only took one or two? What if, instead of the 70 years my father has needed, we could grow healthy processes to educate, support, and repair a person’s self-worth?”

    That is a very big “What If”. What if I could have dealt with my past before it ever repeated itself? What if I could have learned the right way to have an adult relationship based on trust, respect, and communication? Now, I have learned those things. I still continue counseling on my own as I know I have a lot of growth ahead of me. I have been blessed with a wife who loves me. I know I can trust her love and the beautiful part is I can say in all truth that I love her. I have actually learned the meaning of that word Love. I still deal with distrust. As I have told her it’s like having an angel on one shoulder saying “trust her” and a devil on the other saying “she’ going to cheat”. The angel always wins out these days.

    In one of your replies said, “I am so grateful my family is older and we are not living in today’s hang them first, ask questions or try to resolve later.” So much of this attitude is based on false information. Politicians are more than happy to report “High rates of recidivism” to scare the voting public. Then pass laws to “protect them”. It gets them a lot of votes.

    I know someone quoted the 2003 Dept. of Justice report as listing a 3.5% re-offence rate. The study covered 9,691 Sex offenders in 15 states over a 3 year period. That is those who were convicted of a new sex crime. It also lists a 5.3% re-arrest rate (no conviction). That is a total of 517 of the 9,691 offender. During the same three years there were a total of 154,711 arrests for sex offence with three of the states not having the data available. So the number should be a little higher. So out of the 154,711 arrests only 517 were repeat offenders. That is about 33/100 of 1 percent. Over three years that is just a little over 1/10 of one percent of new sex crimes were repeat offenders.

    The press also plays their role in this sensationalism. In 2013 the Nebraska Legislature’s Judiciary Committee charged the University of Nebraska to do a study comparing recidivism rate prior to adopting the Adam Walsh act to those after its passage. An article written by the Omaha Herald states:

    “Recidivism rates for sex offenders were low — more than 97 percent do not reoffend — but were lower following the passage of the Adam Walsh Act (AWA). For instance, the recidivism rate for Level 2 (medium-risk) offenders was 0.5 percent after passage of the act and 2.5 percent before.”

    What they don’t tell you is the charts those numbers come from is comparing 13 years of recidivism pre AWA to 2 years of recidivism post AWA. What they don’t tell you is that the rates on the same chart for high risk offenders is 9% before the AWA (13 year period, average of 7/10 of one percent per year) and 12.3% Post AWA (2 year period which averages out to 6.15 % per year).

    As the title of your article says: “We Have It All Wrong. Shunning Offenders is Not Working”. The key is in treatment and prevention education. In Kansas they passed the AWA at a cost of 4.5 million (plus yearly maintenance). It stops them from losing $200,000 per year in Byrne Grant money. The same year the cut DOC funding for Sex offender treatment by $400,000 changing the 12 to 18 month program I went through to a 4 to 6 month program. I know many people who were in treatment with me that struggled with their denial for that long. I know a lot of people on both sides say treatment doesn’t work. In the Comments above “Will” talked about treatment programs “clockwork orange type scheme to them. At one time in the recent past they used electric shock and ammonium nitrate conditioning”. I didn’t experience anything like that. In my case and that of others I know it change their life for the better.
    I’ll get off my soap box. I didn’t mean to write this much but it just kept coming out. Before I close I would like to thank you Kim for your opening up so publicly about your life. That can be very difficult.

    I also would like to thank “Georgina” for her comment:

    “Some did get “caught but rather than deny the charges and demand to go to trial to be convicted they took a “bad plea deal” to avoid making their victim get on the stand to relive their traumatic experience. It was their victim they were trying to protect and I respect them for that.”

    My lawyer said it would be no problem to drag my victim into court and make her out to be a liar”. She had a history of such actions. There was no physical evidence just her word against mine. I couldn’t do that to her. The trauma of going to court and telling the truth only to be called a liar while I walked free… I told him I couldn’t do that, I had done too much harm to her already.

    • Stacey

      John, thank you so much for sharing your story. My husband also went through a similar ordeal and was sexually abused by his step-mother when he was 10 years old. He tried to run away from home, but it was the early sixties and he was placed back in the home, also a long story and sad but true. He later victimized also. I believe there have been many men who have confused there experience with sex as an adolescent with a older person as normal and because they were not able to deal with it and truly understand wrong from right, created the same horrible mistake. Let us be a culture of healing and preventing sexual abuse. Let those of us affected by sexual deviancy, be it the FORMER offender, the victims or those that face the collateral consequences, heal and grow together to help those who have not dealt with any of this understand it is a cultural problem, not one that can be fixed by simply labeling others and ostracizing them.

    • Kim

      Hello John,
      It’s been some time now since you posted your comment and it touched me deeply. I meant to respond after considering it further and thought I had, but a more recent comment brought me back here and as I read through I see I did not reply.

      It is courageous of you to share your story and I’m so glad you did. You make many good points and I can tell you have taken responsibility and developed compassion, for others and for yourself. What a wonderful outcome of treatment, for you and your family. My friends claim I’ve begun the intergenerational shift within my family by speaking aloud here. I don’t know about that, but if it is true, then so have you. There’s more to write, more to be said on this topic of inter-generational healing, but for now I wanted to acknowledge I’ve absorbed your story. Heartfelt good wishes for you and yours.

  • Georgina Schaff

    I am so happy to report that South Dakota Legislation has been introduced to appoint a fifteen member team to study sex offender laws. Senate Bill No 154 has passed the Senate and is in the House of Representatives now. Thank you to all of you who have contributed to this discussion which I intend to present to the study team.

    • Myself

      You should suggest that they revisit “Recidivism of Sex Offenders
      Released from Prison in 1994”, and look past the percentages from the study which are thrown around quite often, such as “four times more likely”.

      Look at the numbers from that study: 517 sex offenders were re-arrested for a sex crime. At the same time 3,328 felons were also re-arrested, this time for a sex offense.

      Are we really so very worried about the 517 crimes and not concerned at all about the 3,328? Does that seem slightly misguided to anybody?

      Do people realize that those 3,328 individuals are not on any sex offender maps? Should we be looking for ways we could reduce that number? Maybe we should be questioning why people go into prison for drugs, guns, whatever and come out sex offenders?

      Now, if I dig a little deeper I find it is much, much worse than that. Go to the “Uniform Crime Reporting Statistics – UCR Data Online” web site. Look up the number of estimated forcible rape crimes committed in the 15 states of the above study during the four years of the study…

      237,286 crimes. Yeah, it is an estimate, but I am sure that it is not off by much.

      So, it is arguable that we are allowing 236,769 crimes to continue unchecked just so we can attempt to harass 9,691 sex offenders (the number released in the above study) in the hopes of preventing 517 sex offenses.

      Is that really the best we can hope for, or the best we can do?

      Is this really the best way to spend all of that money?

      Personally, I cannot help but think that there is something else we should be trying, something that will hopefully prevent more than 0.002 percent of sex offenses. I do not know what it is but I know we are not doing enough right now.

  • Samantha Geimer referred to our current method of handling sex abuse cases as a “victim industry,” and she was right. There is no money to be made in effective treatment, after all. It may be hard for people to accept, but a person who is able to overcome whatever tragedy befalls them is of no use to the victim groups. They NEED lifelong victims to justify lifelong punishment of those who have committed sex crimes. Think about how often you hear the mantra that a person is scarred for life and will never heal any time this discussion is raised. Of course, we also here the same tired “kill/ castrate/ exile” those who committed these offenses.

    I’m not against punishing wrongdoing but there is a huge disconnect with what we see as punishment and the balance between it and the needs for rehabilitation and reintegration. It has all began with myths like “pedophiles (my how we misuse this word) can’t be cured” or “sex offenders have high reoffense rates.” Whenever these myths are discredited (as I have done many times over the years), we fall back on the emotional appeals to justify violating the US Constitution.

    Simply put, we don’t WANT healing for anyone. We need fuel for the outrage. How many people killed Jessica Lunsford? ONE person. Yet, we have used that case (and a few other similar cases) to justify wholesale deprivation of human rights for an entire class of people. Today, Obama signed the new farm bill into law, and now “sex offenders” convicted any time after today will not receive food stamps. I’d love the explanation how denying food to registrants will somehow bring about any change to sex abuse in America. How would that have helped Jessica Lunsford, I wonder? Lets not forget the term “sex offender can also mean someone who urinated in public or had teen relations while still a teen themselves.

    Ultimately, registered citizens are given ample incentives to violate the law to survive.

  • Valerie Parkhurst

    The public doesnt pursue vengence..it pursues justice. Re-integrating offenders back into society isnt working either and we have the daily headlines to prove it. Offenders who have stable homes, jobs and family support are re-offending at all time highs for no other reason than opportunity. Those who reside under a bridge or in a cell dont have “opportunity” and hense their numbers are dramatically lower for any kind of sexually based reoffence. It is what it is and your round of applause in the comment section by a collection of convicts isnt going to change a thing. The only tried and true form of diminishing sexual abuse in this country is total and absolute containment of the offender.

    • Kim Cottrell

      Valerie, justice means many different things to different people. I’m considering your comment, wondering if you’d be able to give me some resources for the statistics you’re referring to about re-offenders.

      And, I’d like to take a moment to say there are as many comments here from those who work in the treatment industry, mostly women, as there are men who’ve served a sentence for harming someone. The tone from each of those men who commented was respectful and considerate and they deserve to be heard. In fact, they might well have the most useful point-of-view since their comments indicate they have worked through many issues and have gained insight others could benefit from.

      I join you in wanting child sexual abuse to be reduced, or even eliminated in our society, however, locking people up doesn’t prevent it from happening in the first place. That is the part I want to interrupt and end, the first incident.

    • Myself

      Dear Valerie,

      Society does claim and desire to seek justice but sex offenders are not the first time we have seen justice used as a tool to achieve vengeance. Sadly, it happens.

      You are partially correct, re-integrating offenders back into society does not work FOR SOME, but why condemn all for what a few do?

      As for “… re-offending at all time highs …” I can only imaging that you do not trust your government on this one. They are putting new laws regarding sex offenses in place – it feels like daily – and they also report that the re-offense rates are at all time lows. I would suggest that you accept the numbers instead of whatever the media is feeding you. Go to http://www.bjs.gov and see what they are saying.

      The reality is this, sex offender re-offense rates are only good for getting politicians re-elected.

      I mentioned some numbers above. I would like to point them out again.

      In the study “Recidivism of Sex Offenders Released from Prison in 1994” there were 9,691 sex offenders tracked for four years. Lets imagine, for a moment, that all 9,000+ of these offenders were locked up for life.

      If that was the case then the number of sex offenses committed in those 15 states during the period of the study would have dropped from 237,286 to an amazing 236,769. This sure seems more than worth the expense/time/effort involved.

      Now, before any backlash begins, I am not saying that no offenders should not be kept locked up for the sake of safety. I am simply saying that no single classification of offender should be.

      Locking up all sex offenders for life will have almost no impact on first time offenses.

      Besides, locking up sex offenders for life could include:
      => Teachers,

      => 14 year old boys and girls,

      => Could easily have been this grandmother.

      Is that really the goal? I hope not.

      We need solutions which are derived from rational thought, not emotional bias. We have tried emotional bias and it has already failed at least 236,769 times.

    • Stacey

      I tire from hate and hysteria-created fear of the unknown. There are cases of healing, healthy victim offender reunification, self-motivated empowerment where by a former sex offender (no matter how we judge the offense) is rehabilitated and currently lives a successful law-abiding life helping others. No one is paying our family’s bills the last time I checked, no one in my family is causing physical harm to others within or outside our family, and no one has the right to discriminate against us because of something that occurred over 30 years ago. My family and many other individuals and familes is not responsible for the unfortunate deaths and sexual abuse of those the registration laws are named after.

    • hope

      Not true. I know someone who is a registered sex offender. Not all re-offend. My fiance was arrested in 1999 is still on parole for seven more years has not gotten so much as a parking ticket in the eight years he has been out of jail. In jail he finished college and held a job and taught illiterate inmates how to read and write. He is doing just as much good on the outside. Not all commit crimes again. That thought process makes people like my fiance depressed and wondering why they even try. Everyone deserves a second chance. A one time offense should not ruin your life. He was in his twenties when it happened he is now in his fifties

  • Jeri

    Thank you for writing this article. I have thought for a long time that the hysteria and shaming that follow when an abuser is identified contributes to the victims staying committed to silence. When someone has been molested, not only do they suffer the effects of the abuse, they also live in fear of their whole world falling apart if they dare speak of it. It is time for us to stop making monsters out of the offenders and find more rational and compassionate ways of dealing with this problem.

    • Kim Cottrell

      Jeri, you’re welcome! It is exactly true, and the more there is insistence that fathers who molest daughters and not children outside the home are in the same category as serial pedophiles, the more there is silence and shame and burying, or trying to bury. Another way to say it, the greater the witch hunt, the more damage is done, to everyone. And, the more women insist we should ignore the childhood and the history of the offender, the more I realize this isn’t about justice, this is about anger and rage. There are other ways to get over those. I believe familial sexual abuse fits in a different category and should be dealt with in a different way than other sex crimes. I believe the healing for victims will become full and expansive and life-giving when families come together and work this through with compassion and patience.

  • Very thoughtful ideas presented here. I have always been a very sensitive person and have had a hard time understanding how other’s seem to miss our fellow humans humanity. We’re only doing the best we can. Sometimes it’s not enough.
    The Hawaiian tradition mentioned above about working on the problem as a community, including the offender and the offended is beautiful.
    Peace, healing, love, respect, forgiveness, acknowledgment, evolution…these values deserve the head of the table.

  • Brenda Rustick

    Thank you for this article that is so beautifully written and full of truth. I am a wife of a sex offender and it is a very difficult road at times. Many people judge & shun you no matter how much you have overcome. You & your family at times are looked on as lower forms of life. I chose to stay with my husband after he abused our daughter. He received treatment and after three years, our family reconciled and our life is extremely better. However, the stigma that society places on the sex offender also extends to his or her spouse and children. He was sentenced to jail & is currently on probation and therefore being monitored. My children could not see or talk to their dad for three years and I was there for them when they cried to see their dad. Regardless what he had done, they still loved him and he loved them. I agree so much more needs to be done. I just feel like when does the punishment of shunning end and let us move forward in our life.

  • MaeBeaBaby

    I do not want to be in the presence of people who think it is okay to abuse other human beings because they will be ‘forgiven’. I do not forgive and I do not allow abusers to be released from their guilt. To hell with them.

    • Carlos Lopez

      Well,well,well I respect everyone’s opion but if you look in the mirror you’ll see that we all make mistakes. Some are greater than others and they need to be punished according to the offence,but when someone makes a mistake such as rape molestation. we have to understand that we live in a society that accept ,porn,homosexuality,lesbianism and even under age marriages in some states and even our own government are involved in sex trafficking, like the c.i.a, f.b.i, so what’s the solution for the mess, GOD’S THE SOLUTION AND FORGIVENESS IS VERY POWERFUL AND REMEMBER THAT WE FORGIVE NOT FORGET.SO forgiveness is for the OFFENDED not the offender. God is love and even dough it hurts GOD WILL SEE US THROUGH . GLORY TO GOD. MAE baby GOD LOVE YOU.

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