In Puritan America, a married woman’s illicit affair with a minister landed her in jail. After her release, Hester Prynne was sentenced to forever wear a big red “A” on her dress. 

Nearly 375 years later, the U.S. continues to be scandalized, tantalized and perplexed by sex, especially about sex offenders. Tough on crime, we’re still struggling to learn: 

  • Why domestic violence and incest are so under-reported by victims? 
  • Why most people think every sexual offender is a serial rapist? 
  • Why, even among therapists, many continue to believe sex-offenders to be untreatable? 
  • Why supervision after offenders’ release tends to-wards punitive rather than restorative? 

It’s time to bring the subject of sex crime out of the dark ages, time to help victims shed the shame and trauma of their experience. It’s also time to allow offenders an opportunity to show they can change, make amends and start to earn back trust and acceptance from society.

What's The Statute of Limitations on Sex Crimes?

What's The Statute of Limitations on Sex Crimes?

A man I met while he was in prison, and I was there teaching Nonviolent Communication, is now out of prison. His most recent crime was assault; in fact, assault has been a repeat crime for him. He’s big and loud, and he was accustomed to using his size to get his way in the world.

An earlier crime involved a young female relative of his. Committed in 1995, he was convicted and served time for it. At the time, Oregon did not have a risk assessment tool in place that gauges a person’s propensity to reoffend, whether the risk is low, medium or high .

Although his most recent crime was not a sexual offense, he was nonetheless mandated to take the Static-99 assessment before being released last month. I’m taking his word for this: he scored well on the test and was deemed “low risk”. But by the time he reached his home county, somehow the low risk score ended up being high risk, with strict mandates.

It made sense that he would score well: as a student, he was avidly pursuing a change of behavior and a change of heart about how to deal with conflict. His interest in personal development was so keen that he took the NVC year-long intensive for four years in a row and ended up becoming a peer trainer in the prison, teaching new students as well as facilitating a practice group for those who had previously graduated from the program. Moreover, he volunteered in the Special Housing Unit where mental health inmates are housed so that he could learn and then help to teach Dialectical Behavior Therapy, an outgrowth of Cognitive Behavior Therapy with an element of mindfulness added to the teachings.

When he got to the county where he “fell”, he learned from his parole officer was requiring him to enroll in sex offender treatment and that he was now considered “high risk.” It’s unclear how that was determined; he thinks perhaps because of his history of assaults, when added to the older sexual crime, tipped the scale. But if he’s accurate in his retelling, the risk assessment score doesn’t count if the local parole officer decides differently.

To make things worse, there are no sex offender treatment providers in that rural county. How can he comply with the laws that remand him to a county without providers and requires him to get treatment? Is that a classic Catch-22? Is that how many sex offenders get into a tailspin?

To get a broader perspective on this, take a look at this story published by the Marshall Project last week, called Banished.

Sexual Violence, Mass Murders: Expressions of Disconnection from Self?

Education: It'll Never Go Out of Fashion, But Neither Will Ignorance

Education: It'll Never Go Out of Fashion, But Neither Will Ignorance