Monday, November 7, 2011

Editorial- Can sex offenders be cured?

In my latest editorial, I explain the complexities of treatment and why we should change our way of thinking from "cure" to "control/manage." We are in serious need of an honest approach to treatment and rehabilitation based on facts not fears.
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Can sex offenders be cured? Counterpoint 11/6/2011
By Derek W. Logue
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Have you ever heard the expression “you can’t cure the common cold”? Back in the 1980s, scientists studying the “rhinovirus” (a.k.a. the common cold) published the first detailed analysis of how the virus operates within the human body. Spirits were high within the medical field that armed with this knowledge, the cure for the common cold was as simple as creating a drug that blocks the materials the virus uses to latch onto and infect human cells. 
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A full generation after this initial discovery this “cure” for the common cold remains elusive. It turns out the mechanics of how viruses work was far more complex than the researchers realized. There cannot be a single vaccine for the common cold because there is more than one type of rhinovirus. Many of the “symptoms” we have come to associate with the common cold are actually not the result of the cold itself but our body’s “inflammatory response” to the virus. Our over-the-counter medicines we take thus do not cure the common cold, but treat and control those bodily responses to the rhinovirus, which is likely not even in your body by the time you notice the symptoms.
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The business of creating potential cures for the common cold has many setbacks and difficulties of its own. Since the virus is usually well under control by our immune systems by the time we even notice symptoms, any potential cures must catch the virus within the first day or two of infection. Thus, without symptoms it is hard to determine sickness in the first place. The latest drugs were costly and offering only modest results with some unintended side effects. In the end, the old tried and true methods of controlling the symptoms of the common cold—hand washing, rest, chicken soup, and symptom control through simple over-the-counter methods that have been around for generations have proven to be the most effective [i]
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In short, the best way to deal with the common cold has been time tested and proven effective methods of managing the effects of the virus.
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When talking about sex offender management, we use the same lingo. Our society has relied upon a simplistic approach to sexual offending. Despite having the most limited knowledge of the root causes behind sexual abuse, we both give simplistic causes, we look for simplistic solutions. We have also discovered the hard way sexual offending is more complex and heterogeneous than we realized. The business of “cure” has become one of cost-benefits rather than effectiveness. We have determined the “simple” solutions had complex side-effects. 
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We have placed an unreasonable expectation in managing sexual deviance. We have utilized an Eliminationist philosophy. We are looking for quick fixes to “cure” a complex problem. We have expected eradication of sexual deviance much like vaccines have wiped out many diseases in the 20th century.
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Back in the medical field, there is a resurgence of one previously “eradicated” disease: whooping cough. The disease has adapted somewhat and patterns have changed, putting some people at risk of contracting the disease even after vaccination [ii]. We have also discovered that over-medicating led to antibiotic resistance [iii], which led to policy reforms of antibiotic usage.
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To use simplistic terms like “cure” and to generalize all treatment and management concepts into a one-size-fits-all quick-fix solution undermines the true goals of sex offender treatment and management. Solutions are multifaceted and require a focus on both prevention of new offenses and management of deviant behaviors among those who have offended in the past. Like researchers in other fields, we are looking for what is effective rather than what is popular. The current research is almost unanimous in admitting current tough-on-crime legislation has no impact on recidivism. However, there are encouraging advances in treatment, such as Restorative Justice and the Circles of Support and Accountability. We are better at recognizing warning signs of potential sexual abuse. However, there is still potential for greater improvement.
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Advances in treatment can only be accomplished with an honest approach to addressing sexual deviance in society. This means leaving politics, media influence, stereotypes, and personal opinions out of research results. An honest approach that addresses the therapy needs of both victim and offender rather than the simple desire for retribution and a burgeoning sex offender industry is the only we will ever make true advances in managing and containing sexual offending in our society.


[i] Christine Gorman, “How Come We Can't Cure The Cold?”  Time Magazine, Mar. 10, 2003. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1004367,00.html, Retrieved Nov. 6, 2011.
[ii] John Timmer, “Vaccine's success spurs whooping cough comeback.” Ars Technica, March 2011. http://arstechnica.com/science/news/2011/03/whooping-coughs-comeback-not-only-due-to-vaccination-rates.ars, Retrieved Nov. 6, 2011.

1 comment:

  1. It is amazing how many cowards write on my blog anonymously and, by their stupid comments, show me that many of those who attack me or those on the public registry LACK BASIC READING COMPREHENSION SKILLS.

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