Last week I interviewed my brother-in-law who is a mental health counselor. He works with sex offenders who are court ordered to seek counseling. He has some insightful things to say about the types of people who become sex offenders and how they become sex offenders. He also shares the one thing he wishes all parents would do so their children don’t become sex offenders themselves.
David: I’m a mental health counselor. We specifically serve the population who are court ordered: sex offenders, domestic violence offenders, and substance abuse. We also do victim counseling.
Christine: Do you find the sex offenders you work with have any commonalities?
David: Typically they’re male, but we’re seeing trends with females on the rise. There’s a lot of speculation about why, but women who offend tend to be seeking attention or an emotional component that’s missing at home.
Christine: So what do you think are the reasons that men sexually offend?
David: Everyone in the field is trying to come up with a stereotypical sex offender so we can answer that question, but what we’re noticing is sex offense has no bias towards age, race, or financial background. Most of the population that I serve are meek and introverted, but I have some who are outgoing and involved in their communities too. They tend to come from backgrounds where they were bullied a lot for being different or they come from homes where there is trauma going on or both.
So we have individuals who might be super intelligent, but they’re scared to death to get into a relationship. They would rather pay for a prostitute than date and put themselves out there where they will be emotionally vulnerable because they feel awkward and insecure. Something inside of them has happened where they feel like they are incapable of having a meaningful relationship.
When someone who feels incapable of having a relationship has been hyper-sexualized, meaning they’ve seen a lot of pornography, they get to a point where they want to experience it themselves, and their self esteem tells them, “I can’t get someone my age,” or “There’s no one who will like me in my class or at my school.” And so they’ll go after the 6 year old neighbor kid because they know that they can do that.
Christine: So you’ve seen a progressive nature to pornography?
David: There’s definitely a progressive nature. It’s part of the desensitization of the brain. Someone might start with something like Sports Illustrated or Victoria’s Secret and that’s tantalizing and stimulating, but then they want more and more. It’s kind of like a drug, their tolerance goes up. Their brain adjusts.
And what people do with it psychologically is they start to depend on the viewing of pornography as a coping mechanism. They use it as a sleeping pill. They use it to deal with anxiety, and that’s what formulates their addiction.
So then you have this individual who looks back at the Victoria’s Secret catalog that used to be so tantalizing and now it’s nothing, and so they move onto full nudity. When that’s not enough, then it gets really taboo and our clients start moving into child pornography. It’s all downhill from there.
No one wakes up and says, “I want to be a pedophile. I want to look at child pornography.” It’s absolutely progressive.
Christine: So your clients who have been arrested and court ordered to seek treatment for sexual offenses are real people who started out like you and I did?
David: Yes. Real people who started out like you and I did.
Christine: Is there anything you wish every parent would do to help their children learn to develop healthy relationships so they don’t become one of your clients?
David: I think kids need to not be plugged in as much. I don’t want to demonize social media, but when I was young, we had the Encyclopedia Britannica. We didn’t have a living document like the internet. If we wanted to look something up, we had to get up and physically leave the home. You can do all that now while you’re sitting around in your underwear; and it’s awesome. But it can be a trap.
What we’re finding and seeing in a lot of studies is that this millennial generation and those younger than them can’t communicate. They can’t hold a conversation and they’re depressed, of course, because they’re not having meaningful interactions in public. So they prefer to not be in public and they try to find jobs where they can work from home. There are a lot of things you can do from home now that don’t require face to face contact.
Being plugged in is so awesome. Everything is at our fingertips, but we’re noticing a detriment with our youth.
Christine: Because if they’re not willing to put themselves out there for a face to face job or friendship, how will they ever be willing to put themselves out there for a real relationship?
Thank you so much, David. We’re looking forward to hearing more from you in the future!
The thing that stood out to me most during this interview was how important it is to develop confidence building relationships. Several of my upcoming posts this month have been designed to help us support this process with our children. They include ideas for strengthening relationships with: parents, siblings and friends.
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