Friday, 22 April 2016

Can any child molesters ever be reformed?

Child molestation is a crime involving a range of indecent or sexual activity between  an  adult  and a child who is usually under the age of 14. In psychiatric terms, these acts are sometimes referred to as pedophilia. It  is  important,  however,  to keep  in  mind  that  child  molestation  is sexual abuse no matter how it is done.

It does not always imply that the perpetrator bears a particular motive or a psychological psychological makeup. For example, not all incidents of child molestation are perpetrated by full-time pedophiles. Some of these child molesters are relatives of the victims and the incidents by them are one-time incidents. Although their acts are deemed as child molestation however in my opinion, the difference between a one-time child molester and a pedophile is that the pedophile molests children many times and often with many different children.  One in four girls and one in seven boys will be molested at some time before they turn 18 years of age.

Regardless of the terminology, it is illegal for an adult to touch any portion of a child's body with a”lewd and lascivious” intent. Consent is not a matter of consideration, and is not available as a defence to the charge of child molestation. 

Even in cases where it can be proven that the minor victim was a willing participant, any sexual act or improper touching in the genital areas of the victim is still a crime since children cannot legally consent to participating in any such sexual activity.

According to the American Justice Department, there are approximately four million pedophiles in the United States. However, there can be more since it is reasonable to believe that not all of them have been caught yet. I don’t know how many pedophiles are in Canada.

Sex offenders are of grave concern to the public due to the nature of sexual offences against children. The public tends to believe that the recidivism rates of sexual offenders, particularly pedophiles, are quite high. 

One research project looked at 61 previous studies of sexual recidivism using a 4-5 year follow up period. This research on sex offenders found that 13.4% recidivated with a sexual offence, 12.2% recidivated with a non-sexual, violent offence and 36.6% recidivated with any other offence.

A long term follow-up study of child molesters in Canada found that 42% were reconvicted of sexual or violent crime during the 15-30 year follow-up period.  

In addition, the long-term follow-up study (15-30 years)of child molesters showed that the average recidivism rate for this group of offenders is actually lower than the average recidivism rate for non-sexual offenders (61% versus 83.2% respectively for any new conviction). In general, rapists reoffend more often than child molesters.                                                         

Among child molesters, those with male victims have been found to have the highest recidivism rates, followed by those with unrelated female victims. Incest offenders show the lowest recidivism rates of all sexual offenders.

Canadian research on what triggers recidivism among sex offenders found that the recidivists were generally considered to have poor social supports, sexual pre-occupations, attitudes tolerant of sexual assault, antisocial lifestyles, poor self-management strategies and difficulties cooperating with community supervision.

Another factor to consider is that the arrest and imprisonment of a pedophile who has served their time in prison for their first offence will deter many pedophiles released from prison from committing their crimes against children again if they are married, have a family, a good job, a home, a car and friends. To re-offend is to bring an end to those things that most people enjoy having. Years in a prison will end all of those good things in life.       

Unfortunately, there are pedophiles who continue to re-offend even though they have been caught and imprisoned for their past sexual violations against children.

Recent amendments to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, designed to deny more sex offenders access to conditional release, suggest that there is a perception that sex offenders on conditional release are at high risk for re-offending or violating conditions. However, studies have shown that sex offenders have success rates on conditional release similar to the general offender population.

A follow-up study of sex offenders on conditional release found that almost 80% were successful on conditional release. In comparison, National Parole Board statistics for 1996/97 show that over 85% of offenders on parole and statutory release were successful.

This could be attributed to treatment being one variable associated with recidivism that can be influenced by correctional programming, making treatment a high priority for sex offenders.

In terms of treatment, the most highly regarded approach employs a cognitive behavioral model employing relapse prevention in high risk situations. This model fits with the Correctional Service of Canada's (CSC) assessment and treatment of sex offenders. CSC focuses on identifying the nature and pattern of the offender's behaviour and providing the offender with the coping strategies that will reduce the risk of recidivism. This approach emphasizes the need for offenders to take responsibility for their actions, recognize their cycle of offending and identify their high risk situations, and helps them develop strategies to avoid relapse.

Program intensity is linked to offender needs. Moderate to high needs will be met in medium or maximum security settings where programs are longer and more intensive. Offenders who are identified as low risk/needs will be matched with low intensity, short duration programs in minimum security settings, and also in the community.

However, the public tends to believe that sex offenders are not amenable to treatment. However, successful sex offender treatment programs have been shown to reduce the risk of re-offending.

There are good reasons why many of the members of the public don’t have much hope for child molesters once they are released from prison. As a good example of this concern is the pedophile named Peter Whitmore.

Peter Whitmore is one of Canada’s most notorious pedophiles. He was released early three times by the parole board before his sentences were over.  This was done despite the fact that his criminal history comprised of a pattern of re-offending in his sexual deviancy with children. 

Whitmore stands convicted for sexual offences against nine children. He is currently serving a life sentence for sexually assaulting two boys in the summer of 2006. But even before 2006, Whitmore had already been convicted for sexual offences against seven children. The Toronto Star went through Whitmore’s file revealing a file littered with red flags and warnings from the National Parole Board and psychologists and yet, the members of that parole board in its wisdom (now there is an oxymoron) released him early from prison. They believed that he had reformed eaach time of his release.

Whitmore was sentenced for his first set of child molesting offences in 1993. He received a 16-month sentence for crimes against five different children which included invitation to sexual touching and sexual interference. He was released early after serving two-thirds of his sentence. I should point out that release from prison after two-thirds of the sentence is completed is mandatory in Canada. The remaining one third is supervised by the National Parole Board.

Nine days after his release, he sexually touched an eight-year-old girl. He was then sentenced to 56 months for that crime. So much for supervision. However, if mandatory release wasn’t in existence, he still would have molested the little girl.

Before mandatory release became vogue in Canada, a friend of mine had been sent to prison for molesting a child. Years after he was released, he molested my five-year-old granddaughter. He spent a year in prison for that breach of trust he submitted my family to. We haven’t seen him since nor do we want to see him again.

By 1995, Whitmore had been convicted of sexual offences against seven children but while in prison, he admitted to psychologists he had more victims and guessed the number to be ten or eleven children.

Between 2000 and 2001, Whitmore would be convicted twice for breaking the terms of his release for fleeing to Mexico and being in the company of young children. In both cases, he was sentenced to one year and again he was released early.

Then in 2002, while on early release, Whitmore failed to check in by curfew and fled from Toronto to Chilliwack, B.C. Police searched his home and found photos of children, latex gloves, lubricant and zip ties. He was found and arrested for breaching probation and would serve three more years in jail.

Despite years of treatment at various correctional facilities, dozens of reports detailed Whitmore’s likelihood to re-offend. Alarmingly, in 2004, the National Parole Board noted clinicians believed Whitmore had a 100 per cent chance of re-offending within seven to 10 years of his release.

In June 2005, while serving the end of his three-year sentence, a performance report warned Whitmore’s “sexual deviance has not been fully addressed and remains a significant risk factor.” That same month he was released from prison and was expected to follow certain conditions. He didn’t.

As I said earlier in this article, Whitmore is currently serving a life sentence for those 2006 crimes and in 2013 he became eligible for parole. He was denied parole by the national Parole Board. So far, Whitmore hasn’t had a parole hearing and there is no guarantee he would be released even if he gets one. Have the members of the National Parole Board finally come to their senses?

Child molestation has been with us since the beginning of time and probably will haunt parents of children for a great many years to come. Perhaps there is a way to solve this problem but as I stated in a previous article, physical castration in Canada is not the answer since it would conflict with the pedophile’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms in Canada.

In the United Sates, the problem of recidivism is controlled to some degree in various States because convicted pedophiles are sentenced to many, many years in prison and by the time they are finally released in their nineties (if they live that long in prison) , their sex drives are long gone. 

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