Wednesday, August 07, 2002

Can Sex Offenders Ever Be Cured? Commonly Asked Questions About Sexual Abuse (Part Two)

Can Sex Offenders Ever Be Cured? Commonly Asked Questions About Sexual Abuse (Part Two)
By Yechezkel Chezi Goldberg
The Jewish Press - August 7, 2002

Chezi Goldberg
With specialized treatment and adequate support groups, a sex offender who accepts full accountability for his or her crime can learn to control his or her abusive behavior. The public holds the myth that sex offenders have the highest recidivism rate of any crime. In reality, the recidivism rate for most sex offenders is quite low, even lower when the abuser gets specialized treatment as part of his or her criminal sentence.

Like many other diseases and dysfunctions (like alcoholism) we cannot expect a cure, but we can expect and demand control of behavior throughout a lifetime. When people who abuse have the support and "tough love" of their friends and families, they are more likely to complete their treatment programs and live productive, abuse-free lives.

Ohel founded just such a program a few years ago in Brooklyn. After being approached by DA Charlie Hynes about secrecy in the Orthodox community, a secrecy that ends up protecting pedophiles from prosecution, Ohel took the initiative and created a program to answer the need. Any pedophile from the community brought before a judge is given the choice of entering the Ohel Support Program for Pedophiles, or going to jail. The last I spoke to David Mandel from Ohel about the program, there were 16 pedophiles who had molested thousands between them before entering the program.

Pedophiles have a disease. Ohel has taken the lead in offering them a way to live and overcome their lust disease. Those who would like more information about the program should contact Ohel directly.
Are All Sexual Abusers The Same? Do They All Pose The Same Risk To Re-Offend?

No, not all abusers are the same. Like any other population, there is a wide range of behavior and a variety of people who sexually abuse children.

It is important to keep in mind what the experts state about sexual abuse. Children who are abused, if they are not promptly treated therapeutically, will often turn around at some point in their lives and become abusers. Some will react this way sooner, and others will suddenly find themselves acting out sexually years later.

This is important for parents to know. ``Molestation`` is not something that goes away. Time itself does not heal victims of sexual abuse. As painful as it is to hear about one`s child being molested, and as much as parents of child sex abuse victims wish that the nightmare would just disappear, it is crucial to face the painful reality of what happened and to seek out competent treatment for any child who has suffered sexual abuse. This is to prevent the child from turning around and becoming an abuser and is to ensure that the perpetrator of the abuse does not roamfreely preying on other children.

There is a positive side to all of this. With specialized treatment and full accountability for their crimes, many abusers can change and never offend again. However, child sexual abuse in any form is a crime and must be dealt with first through the legal system.

There is no escaping the legal ramifications. People who are aware of sexual abuse that is ongoing and fail to report it to the authorities, are compromising themselves legally. If at some time in the future, police do get involved and in their investigations the law finds out that you knew and did not report, you can be held legally responsible.

That being said, ultimately, if a pedophile admits his problem, then we do what we can to help him get help. The goal is to get everyone who wants to change into the best treatment available and help him never to hurt a child again.

Why Do People Sexually Abuse Children?
People abuse children for a sense of power and a sense of pleasure. They may seek children to abuse because they have had a long history of sexual attraction to children, or because they took advantage of an opportunity to abuse a child in their trust. They may have started abusing because they had been abused before, or because they never learned that the behavior is wrong and is a crime.

How Can We Keep Our Children Safe From Sex Offenders?
We need to teach children about safety. We, as adults, also need to learn more about abuse and abusers. This is the first step. Read what you can about sexual abuse. Become wiser. Check out resources in your community. Surf the Internet to quickly gain access to more in-depth knowledge on the topic. Then, once you feel that you understand the basics, you can start to talk to your children about sexual abuse.
Here are some things that you and your family can do to prevent the sexual abuse of a child you know and love.

Adults need to:
  • Watch for signs of possible sexual abusiveness in adults, between adults and children, and in children.
  • Show by example in your own life, how to say "no" when someone you know and care about does something you do not like.
  • Set and respect family boundaries.
  • Speak up when you see "warning sign" behaviors.
  • Practice talking about difficult topics such as sexual abuse with other adults.
  • Teach children the proper names of body parts.
  • Teach children the difference between "ok touch" and touch that is "not ok".
  • Teach children that secrets about touching are "not ok."
  • Set up a family safety plan that is easy to remember.
  • Complete a list for yourself of whom to call for advice, information, and help.

Yechezkel Chezi Goldberg was a Jerusalem counselor. In his clinic he deals extensively as a counselor for overseas yeshiva, seminary and university students in Israel. 

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