Research shows that, like people who commit other crimes, those who sexually offend also desist from offending. This is both hard to hear and important to acknowledge. In Episode 8 of Beyond Fear, we made the deliberate decision to pivot from conversations about survivor experiences to a focus on the experience of individuals who have sexually offended.
When we first started studying sexual violence, we both wanted to study the effects of victimization, but it didn’t take us much time to figure out that in order to stop sexual violence we had to go further upstream. Victimization doesn’t end without stopping offending.
In this episode we interview Dr. Danielle Harris, a friend and colleague based at Griffith University in Brisbane, Australia, whose work focuses almost exclusively on desistance from sexual offending. What we know from the research is that recidivism rates, or reoffense rates, for people who sexually offend is quite low. In fact, studies consistently find that sexual recidivism rates for those who sexually offend are low.
So why does this matter? Why should we care about people who sexually offend? Why do their experiences of reintegration matter to us? And why should they matter to you?
Well the answer is quite simple, actually. What we are doing doesn’t work. First, the vast majority of people who commit sex crimes will never be processed through the criminal justice system and even if they were, this still wouldn’t end sexual violence (this is an entire episode in itself). Second, people who commit sex crimes are not monsters or boogeymen. They are our family members, our friends, our clergy, our coaches, our teachers… they are people we know and they are people we love. It is easy to treat people as castaways when we treat them as “the other”, but people who commit sex crimes are just that…. people… who commit sex crimes.
This requires that we understand why they offend in the first place and how to help them to stop. This is at the heart of Danielle’s work.
In “The Deliberate Shift” we talk about Danielle’s path to this work, the major findings of her research, why she continues this research agenda, and why we advocate for a better understanding of those who sexually offend.
In this episode we referenced several books and studies.
To find out more or to purchase Desistance from Sexual Offending, click here.
To find out more or to purchase Making Good, click here.
Sample, L. L., & Bray, T. M. (2003). Are sex offenders dangerous?. Criminology & Public Policy, 3(1), 59-82.
For additional reading, check out Chapter 5 of the Sex Offender Management and Planning Initiative Report on adult sexual recidivism here: https://smart.ojp.gov/sites/g/files/xyckuh231/files/media/document/recidivismofadultsexualoffenders.pdf
For a transcript of this episode, please click here.
To download a direct MP3, please click here.
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