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


Anonymous said...

If only numnber 1 of the key recommendations had been followed in the creation of management programs for sex offenders, the system would bear little to no resemblance to what it is today.

ACH said...

If #1 had been followed, we would have never gotten SVP commitment and ATSA would be a much smaller organization than it is today.

Zot said...

This paper seems to lack any substantive discussion of what is meant by the term "child sexual abuse". Now I realize not every such work needs to start from scratch, but this paper seems to tacitly accept current assumptions about adult/child sexual interaction - assumptions which, if incorrect, lead to the ineffective or even counterproductive approaches to treatment they seek to replace.

The other major problem I have with this work is that it doesn't address how to prevent the co-opting of the theraputic approach by the punitive one. Since such co-option has happened repeatedly this is a serious shortcoming. The paper referenced Berlin and Finklehor. I wish they'd added Sasz and Box for balance.

I was unimpressed.

Mary said...

It is about time ASTA speaks out. The current conditions for sex offender's families is deplorable. Not only does fear prevent reporting but we have a whole new group of people victimized by ineffective but punitive sex offender management policies. Spouses and children of sex offenders incur extreme psychological damage from the shunning and banishing our legal system condones.