April 29, 2011

ATSA issues call for change in sex offender policy

The Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers has just issued a major policy paper calling for a shift in public policy toward sex offending. The balance has tipped too far toward criminal justice punishments, causing unintended consequences such as families who fear coming forward to report sexual abuse, the paper emphasizes.

Experts agree that a criminal justice response alone cannot prevent sexual abuse or keep communities safe. Yet, tougher sentencing and increased monitoring of sex offenders are fully funded in many states, while victim services and prevention programs are woefully underfunded.

Key recommendations of the 54-page policy statement include:
  1. Design and implement evidence-informed policy.

  2. Develop successful community policies that expand the notion of what constitutes abuser accountability; encourage community responsibility and healing; and provide safety, restitution, healing, and avenues for input for victims.

  3. Integrate what is known about perpetration into prevention programs, victim services, and public education.
The reported is co-authored by Joan Tabachnick, a well-known educator on sexual violence prevention, and Alisa Klein, ATSA's public policy consultant. It was partly funded by a grant from the Ms. Foundation for Women.

The introductory quote from Eleanor Roosevelt makes me optimistic that this may signal a major shift for ATSA, which has significant legislative influence around the United States, in the direction of primary prevention.

When will our consciences grow so tender that we will
act to prevent human misery rather than avenge it?

-- Eleanor Roosevelt