Council on Sex Offender Treatment Treatment of Sex Offenders - Sex Offender Behaviors

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Not all sex offenders exhibit all of the following characteristics, and the absence of a particular characteristic does not mean the individual is not a sex offender (English, 1996).

  • Secrecy and dishonesty is a major component of sex offending behavior. Sex crimes flourish in silence and deception.
  • Sex offenders typically have developed complicated and persistent psychological and social systems constructed to assist them in denying and minimizing the harm they inflict on others, and often they are very accomplished at presenting to others a façade designed to conceal the truth about themselves (English, 1996).
  • Cognitive distortions allow the sex offender to justify, rationalize, and minimize the impact of their deviant behavior (i.e. “I was drunk”, “We were in love”, “She came on to me”, “The child wanted it and I did not have the heart to say no”).
  • Sex offenders use thinking errors to engage in deviant sex. The following are some examples:
    • Mr. Good Guy-“I wear a mask or false front”. “I give the right answer”.
    • Poor me-“I am the victim of this unjust system”. “Everyone is out to get me”. Victim stance-“I am the one hurt”.
    • “I will convince others that I was more hurt than the victim”.
    • Power play-“It is my way or the highway”. “I will dominate and control others”.
    • Entitlement- “The world owes me”.
    • Selfish-“I do not care for others”. “I want what I want when I want it”.
    • Blaming- “I blame others so I can avoid responsibility for my actions”.
    • Minimizing- “I only fondled the child”. “It wasn’t intrinsically harmful”.
    • Hop Over-“I do not answer questions when I know the answer is unpleasant”.
    • Secretiveness-“I use secrecy to control others and continue being deviant”
      • These three thinking errors, in combination, create the criminal triad.
  • Sex offenders are highly manipulative and will triangulate/split those around them. The skills used to manipulate victims are employed to manipulate family members, friends, co-workers, supervision officers, treatment providers, and case managers.
  • Grooming activities are not solely for potential victims. Offenders will groom parents to obtain access to children. Grooming is well-organized and can be short or long term.
  • The longer a sex offender knows an individual the better they are at “zeroing in” their grooming (“I can read people like a book. I know what others need and I am available to help out”.)
  • The longer a sex offender is on supervision the higher the probability staff will lose their objectivity.
  • Sex offenders are generally personable and seek to “befriend” those around them (“My smile is my entrée”. “I ‘m like a salesman but I’m never off work”.)
  • Sex offenders will continually test boundaries (personal/professional space).
  • Sex offenders exploit relationships and social norms to test boundaries.
  • Sex offenders seek professions that allow them access to victims.
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Last updated May 28, 2010
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    Council on Sex Offender Treatment