An Ounce of Prevention: Finding a Feasible Solution to the Sex Crime Issue
(“Prevention 101”)
Derek “The Fallen One” Logue
April 15, 2008, Updated April 16, 2013

There has been a lot of debate regarding sex offenders, but little has actually been done to address the root causes behind sex crimes. The major problem with the current approach to the sex offender laws is they have virtually no impact on sex crimes. Consider the following stats:

  • The US Dept. of Justice found 23.2% of all sex crimes against juveniles, and 40% of sex crimes against children age 12 and under was committed by juveniles (“Sexual Assault of Young Children as Reported to Law Enforcement: Victim, Incident, and Offender Characteristics,” 2000)
  • The US Bureau of Prisons found only 14% of sex offenders in prison were recidivists, meaning 86% were first-time offenders (“Sex inmates in Prison,” 1997, noted in the below DoJ study). This, of course, excludes those on probation or parole, as more “first timers” receive lighter sentences than repeat offenders.
  • The US Dept. of Justice, in the oft quoted 1994 recidivism study, found that in the same three-year period, 517 sex offenders re-offended, while 3,228 non-sex offenders committed sex crimes (“Recidivism of Sex Offenders Released into the Community in 1994.”)
  • A 2007 AP report noted the number of adult sex crimes decreased 56% between 1993 and 2004, while the number of sex crimes committed by juveniles increased 40% in the same period (John “Jack” Tefler, “Obsession with sex, violence impacting our kids.” Midland Daily News, July 1, 2007).
  • In the year before Iowa’s enforcement of a 2000 foot residency restriction law in September 2005, 433 sex crimes were reported. In the year after the law took effect, 445 sex crimes against children were reported, suggesting the law had absolutely no impact on sex crime rates. It is interesting to note that only one stranger offense against a child was reported in the year after the law took effect (Todd Dorman, “Analyst: Data doesn’t support sex offender rule.” Quad City Times, Feb. 5, 2007).

The entire point of this exercise was to point out how focusing on sex offenders is merely a small portion of the sex crime issue. It should be obvious, therefore, that a little more emphasis should be placed on preventive measures.

The Case for Prevention

Certainly the old adage about an ounce of prevention being worth a pound of cure holds truer in the field of sex crime prevention. Nancy Sabin of the Jacob Wetterling Foundation notes that instead of “turning off the water at the faucet,” we are pumping billions of dollars into legislation designed to target a very small number of offenders (Lori Robertson, “States Aim to Stop Sex Offenders.” The Children’s Beat, Fall/Winter 2006). Patty Wetterling states we are focusing only on about 3% of the problem; in addition to sex offender law reform, she calls for funding prevention programs for at-risk youth and protect abused children. Sadly, this has also been the most neglected
aspect of preventing sexual violence (Dan Gunderson, “A Better Approach to Sex Offender Policy.” Minnesota Public Radio, June 18, 2007).

Recidivism among sex offenders is already low, but treatment can lower recidivism rates even further (some statistics on treatment is given below). Many do not re-offend anyways as the result of “One-Trial Learning,” but a number of programs can help even the small number of “fixated offenders” desist from re-offense.

Principles of Prevention

Prevention means finding a way to keep sexual violence from occurring in the first case. I believe it IS possible to find prevention strategies that work. But we have to approach this problem with an open mind. There are two great websites with prevention as its focus (as you can see from these sites, its about being “smart” rather than “tough”):

  • (NOTE: In 2012 the Jacob Wetterling Foundation has become the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center, www.jwrc.organd more recently, became part of the Gundersen Health Network [LINKand some of the below pages referenced are NOT AVAILABLE at this time)    

One of the things I have been advocating is the concept of “sexual responsibility.” Perhaps I should use the expression “sexual accountability” instead for clarification. Sexual responsibility encompasses a few major points:

  • Responsibility: We are responsible for our own sexual activity, no one else; not the media, not the government, not religion. Us. Likewise, we cannot control our environment, society, or the law. We control ourselves. Prevention begins and ends with us. Responsibility is personal.  
  • Accountability: We are responsible not just to our own benefit, but for the benefit of others. Accountability works both ways; you are responsible to others as well as calling people out when you see them doing wrong. The Social aspect of responsibility
  • Penance: When we do wrong, we make reparations, simple as that. Of course, it is better if we never have to do penance in the first place, so we learn to avoid things which are wrong in the first place.
  • Honesty: We have to stop lying to people about the nature of sex crimes. That means laying aside preconceived myths and notions society has held for years. That means dropping the “sex offenders are monsters/them” and admit sex offenders can be “regular people/ us.” That means leaving our comfort zones.
  • Education: Learning how to deal with sexual issues in the proper manner. How can he hope to prevent sexual abuse without knowing what to look for, whether in ourselves or in others.
  • Vigilance: Being vigilant simply means keeping up with those helpful hints to aid prevention. If you have an aversion to a particular sexual activity, then you must learn to avert or avoid reminders it.
  • Moderation: We have to remember to keep things in perspective. There is no cookie cutter solution, as people have unique problems. We must find what works for us. By the same token, we follow prevention measures without being extreme: we are vigilant, but not paranoid, accountable and responsible without being “holier than thou” and overbearing, educated without being over-analytical, and honest without overstepping the boundaries of others.

I think the following statements help illustrate my point:

From the About Stop It Now! Page (

A Call to Action

Challenge adults – as individuals, in families, in our communities and as a society – to learn about the risks that lead to sexual abuse of children [Education]; to confront the barriers and misunderstandings that keep people from acting to prevent sexual abuse; and then to support thoughtful policies and interventions to overcome those risks and barriers [Vigilance]. Inspire courage in all adults to look beyond easy stereotypes about sexual abuse [Honesty] and to face the real people and situations that put children at risk for child sexual abuse – relatives, friends, and respected leaders in our families and social circles, who have lost control of their impulses [Responsibility, Accountability] Encourage policy makers to use the best available research to invest in a full range of prevention strategies including, effective treatment, reduction of risk factors, parenting education and programs that educate adults about steps they can take before a child is harmed [Education, Moderation]

From the Jacob Wetterling Foundation “Prevention Education” page (

(Note: The above link is temporarily Invalid, as the Jacob Wetterling Foundation has changed to the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center. The Below article was extrapolated from the JWF site, and I changed the initials accordingly)

“JWRC maintains hope that through quality programming and services provided to communities, adults can help protect children from victimization by giving them positive identities and values, appropriate boundaries and expectations, and the support they need to flourish {Responsibility, Accountability]. Research has shown a number of risk factors that are associated with sexually harmful behaviors and attitudes. Likewise there are a number of protective factors which contribute to the development of healthy sexuality. JWRC’s intention is to address these risks and protective factors with adults so they may become more effective at educating, guiding and supervising children and youth. Adults are given accurate information and interactive tools in order to reduce the incidence of child sexual exploitation and abduction in rural and metropolitan Minnesota, providing a shift in social norms and practices that perpetuate child sexual exploitation and abduction [Education]. These tools have also been developed for children of all ages, so that they may partner with adults in protecting their own safety as well as the safety of their peers [Vigilance]. Through its prevention education effort, JWRC intends to shift the direction of prevention and intervention efforts from current fear-based, reactive methods toward accurate, proactive dialogue resulting in positive action [Honesty, Moderation].”

Restorative Justice

Restorative Justice is for those who have committed a crime but seeks change. Restorative Justice is defined as “a theory of justice that emphasizes repairing the harm caused or revealed by criminal behaviour” (Prison Fellowship Int’l. “Restorative Justice: Introduction.”, Nov. 11, 2007). Restorative Justice has been around for many years (like the “Anonymous” 12 step groups), so many of the concepts should be familar: Three principles form the foundation for restorative justice:

  1. Justice requires that we work to restore those who have been injured.
  2. Those most directly involved and affected by crime should have the opportunity to participate fully in the response if they wish.
  3. Government’s role is to preserve a just public order, and the community’s is to build and maintain a just peace.

Restorative programmes are characterized by four key values:

  1. Encounter: Create opportunities for victims, offenders and community members who want to do so to meet to discuss the crime and its aftermath
  2. Amends: Expect offenders to take steps to repair the harm they have caused
  3. Reintegration: Seek to restore victims and offenders to whole, contributing members of society
  4. Inclusion: Provide opportunities for parties with a stake in a specific crime to participate in its resolution

Sexual Assault Cycle

Among former offenders, understanding and identifying triggers and ways to avoid them are staples of a recidivism-free life. The “sexual assault cycle” is a pattern of behaviors a person follows when in the throes of sexual addiction. Below is a description of the assault cycle

(Steven E. Mussack, Ph.D. and Alison Stickrod. “Teaching the Sex Offender to Clarify the Assault Cycle.”

Goals of Assault Behavior

The sexual offense and the maladaptive acting-out behaviors exist to meet normal human needs for self-esteem and personal power. While the human needs are shared by us all, the offender’s method to get those needs met is harmful, exclusive of recognizing the rights and needs of others. The sexual offense and the preceding and post-assault behaviors appear to be efforts to achieve some personal equilibrium within the offender’s view of the world.

A Primary Treatment Goal

A primary goal of sexual offender treatment is to aid the offender in accepting full accountability for his/her offense. Teaching an offender how to identify, recognize and then interrupt his/her own assault cycle, serves this goal.

Relapse Prevention

Relapse Prevention, in simple terms, is strategies to learn to cope with situations, people, or events which could tempt a former offender to re-offend. Below is a more detailed explanation of relapse prevention.

Relapse Prevention Therapy

RPT intervention strategies can be grouped into three categories: coping skills training, cognitive therapy, and lifestyle modification. Coping skills training strategies include both behavioral and cognitive techniques. Cognitive therapy procedures are designed to provide clients with ways to re-frame the habit change process as learning experience with errors and setbacks expected as mastery develops. Finally, lifestyle modification strategies such as meditation, exercise, and spiritual practices are designed to strengthen a client’s overall coping capacity.

In clinical practice, coping skills training forms the cornerstone of RPT, teaching clients strategies to:

  1. understand relapse as a process,
  2. identify and cope effectively with high-risk situations,
  3. cope with urges and craving,
  4. implement damage control procedures during a lapse to minimize its negative consequences,
  5. stay engaged in treatment even after a relapse, and
  6. learn how to create a more balanced lifestyle.

(George A. Parks, Ph.D. and G. Alan Marlatt, Ph.D. “Relapse Prevention Therapy: A Cognitive-Behavioral Approach.” National Psychologist, Sept/ Oct. 2000)

Circles Of Support and Accountability (COSA)

Circles Of Support and Accountability is a form of Restorative Justice. From the California COSA website:

“Circles of Support and Accountability (COSA) is a prisoner reentry program that works with high risk sex offenders. Each Circle involves 4-6 trained volunteers from the community forming a “Circle of Support and Accountability” around an ex-offender (Core Member). The primary aim of COSA is “no more victims.” The Circle meets together regularly as the Core Member transitions into the community, providing practical, physical, emotional, and spiritual support for the Core Member along with holding him accountable for safe living.

COSA was originally developed in Ontario, Canada in 1994. Experience and research across Canada has shown that providing support for sex offenders while holding them accountable is very effective in creating safe communities and in assisting ex-offenders to lead productive lives. The 2007 study showed that COSA participants had 83% less sexual reoffending than the matched comparison group.”

Good Lives Model

[From the official Good Lives Model website:]

“The Good Lives Model (GLM) is a framework of offender rehabilitation which, given its holistic nature, addresses the limitations of the traditional risk management approach. The GLM has been adopted as a grounding theoretical framework by several sex offender treatment programmes internationally and is now being applied successfully in a case management setting for offenders.

The GLM is a strengths-based approach to offender rehabilitation, and is therefore premised on the idea that we need to build capabilities and strengths in people, in order to reduce their risk of reoffending. According to the GLM, people offend because they are attempting to secure some kind of valued outcome in their life. As such, offending is essentially the product of a desire for something that is inherently human and normal. Unfortunately, the desire or goal manifests itself in harmful and antisocial behaviours, due to a range of deficits and weaknesses within the offender and his/her environment. Essentially, these deficits prevent the offender from securing his desired ends in pro-social and sustainable ways, thus requiring that s/he resort to inappropriate and damaging means, that is, offending behaviour.

The GLM is a strength-based rehabilitation framework that is responsive to offenders’ particular interests, abilities, and aspirations. It also directs practitioners to explicitly construct intervention plans that help offenders acquire the capabilities to achieve things and outcomes that are personally meaningful to them.  It assumes that all individuals have similar aspirations and needs and that one of the primary responsibilities of parents, teachers, and the broader community is to help each of us acquire the tools required to make our own way in the world.  Criminal behaviour results when individuals lack the internal and external resources necessary to satisfy their values using pro-social means.  In other words, criminal behaviour represents a maladaptive attempt to meet life value…

The GLM is a theory of offender rehabilitation that contains three hierarchical sets of conceptual underpinnings: general ideas concerning the aims of rehabilitation, aetiological underpinnings that account for the onset and maintenance of offending, and practical implications arising from the rehabilitation aims and aetiological positioning.”

In short, the Good Lives Model provides alternative, societal-appropriate ways for offenders to achieve goals while helping them recognize how their previous life behavior harms them personally.  

The Safer Society

The Safer Society is a great source for material on treatment programs, and offer books and workbooks published through their own Safer Society Press.

The Safer Society Website:

Treatment Works!  

“The study revealed, among the most recent research samples, sexual recidivism rates of 17.3 percent for untreated offenders, compared with 9.9 percent for treated offenders. Though that’s not a large reduction, the large sample size and widely agreed-upon research methods make it statistically reliable and of practical significance, [Karl] Hanson says” (Karen Kersting, “New Hope for Sex Offender Treatment. Monitor on Psychology, Vol. 34, No. 7, July/ Aug. 2003)

“Paroled Sex offenders completing basic sex offender programming (level 1) while incarcerated appeared to have a somewhat lower recidivism rate than those who did not have programming. This was true both for recidivism of any type (33.9% with programming recidivated compared with 55.3% without programming) and sex-related recidivism (7.1% with programming recidivated compared with 16.5% without programming).” (Ohio Department of Corrections. “Ten Year Recidivism Follow-up of 1989 Sex Offender Releases.” 2001)

“The recidivism results compiled in evaluating the COSA pilot project are very encouraging. Sexual recidivism by COSA Core Members is 70% lower than that of the matched comparison sample, and is less than one-quarter of the actuarial sexual  recidivism rates projected by the Hanson and Thornton STATIC-99 survival curves – a statistically significant result. While recidivism of any sort is tragic and regrettable, the harm reduction effect observed in those unfortunate instances where aCore Member did recidivate sexually was also particularly encouraging.” (Robin J. Wilson, Janice E. Picheca & Michelle Prinzo. “Circles of Support & Accountability: An Evaluation of the Pilot Project in South-Central Ontario.” Correctional Service of Canada, May 2005)

A Word of Caution

A word of caution must be noted here. There are a number of treatment styles out there, including Restorative Justice, Good Lives models, Circles of Support and Accountability, faith-based initiatives, and a number of clinical models. Models that stress shaming of the offender, uses deceptive methods and tools like polygraphs/ plethysmographs, stress containment rather than rehabilitation,  and run on the “no more cure” philosophy are the most controversial and least effective methods of treatment. In 2013, Colorado  has faced great scrutiny for their “lifetime supervision” model, which stresses all the less effective methods mentioned here (see Ryan Maye Handy, “Complex sex offender system isn’t working, say lawmakers and lawyers.” The Colorado Springs Gazette, April 14, 2013., retrieved April 16, 2013)

Barriers to the Prevention Approach

Prevention strategies, and treatment strategies for former offenders, seems to be a common sense answer, yet there is a lot of resistance to prevention in the US. Below are a few of the reasons behind the resistance to prevention:

  1. Mass Media: We are heavily influenced by the media, and not even politicians are immune. A recent study found politicians rely on media accounts or their constituents to shape public policy; constituents are solely influenced by the media (Lisa Sample and Colleen Kadleck, “Legislators’ Accounts and the Need for Public Policy.” Criminal Justice Policy Review, March 2008). Mass Media fuels the panic with sensationalized stories of high-profile, though extremely rare, cases, thus leading society to believe these events to be the norm (Benjamin Radford, “Predator Panic, A Closer Look.” Skeptical Inquirer, Sept. 2006).
  2. Legislators/ Politicians: As stated in the Sample and Kadleck (2008) report, politicians are under intense public pressure to respond to public outrage. The irony is, legislators won’t even read the reports of their self-appointed commissions; they don’t want the facts to interfere with their decisions (Gunderson, ibid.)
  3. Focus on Retribution/ Punishment: A comment by Mark Lunsford epitomizes our current focus on retribution— “I can’t get my hands on the guy that murdered my daughter so I’ve made it my job to make the rest of these sexual offenders and predators’ lives miserable, as miserable as I can” (Amanda Rogers, “The Lunsford Paradox Continues,”, May 29, 2007). Though sex offender legislation is called “regulatory” to circumvent the US Constitution, people recognize it as punishment.
  4. Myths: A 2007 study found that gossip and rumors are often accepted as truth, even when people know the truth (Jeanna Bryner, “Study: Gossip Trumps Truth.” Live Science, Oct. 15, 2007). As noted in the earlier Minnesota Public Radio (Gunderson) report, politicians will say, “Don’t confuse me with the facts, my mind is made up.” There are many myths regarding sex crimes in society; sex offenders cannot be cured, are all pedophiles, have a high recidivism rate, and the most damning of all, the fear of “stranger-danger” (Derek Logue, “Sex Offender Myths: The Foundation for Sex Offender Laws.” www., 2007).
  5. CAPTA Reporting Requirements: Ironically, the very legislation meant to protect children from child abuse could be a barrier to seeking help, but you have to understand CAPTA provides for mandatory reporting of suspected abuse. “Child welfare agencies over the last 20 years have re-shaped their original charter of child protection to one of punitive response… There remains a significant problem with the redistribution of responsibility from the parent to the government. It requires only an anonymous phone call to start an investigation, in which the first response is to remove the child. (Damon Coffman, “Twenty Years of CAPTA.”, 2008). Let us pretend for a moment a man comes to realize he is sexually attracted to underage girls, but does not wish to give into his desires, because he knows its wrong, it causes harm, etc. If he goes to a psychologist and says he’s attracted to underage children, what do you think would happen? Child Welfare comes in, breaks up the family, man (and his spouse, kids, etc.) gets dragged through a series of tests from individuals hell bent on proving man molested his kids. Who would seek help knowing this scenario is very likely? Of course, that’s even assuming one could even find a
    therapist qualified in sex offender treatment (go to and see for yourself)
  6. Fear/ Fascination of sex: We are simultaneously appalled by deviant sexual behavior and fascinated by it. Perhaps that is why the controversial Dateline series “To Catch a Predator” averaged 7 million voyeurs, er, “viewers,” in the 2006-2007 season (“2008 State of the News Media: An Annual Report on American Journalism.”


Prevention strategies exist today, but for some reason, we choose to neglect them in favor of punishment strategies for former offenders, strategies which fail to address preventing strategies. The Jabob Wetterling Resource Center and Stop It Now! are two fine examples of prevention and treatment oriented approaches which will prove effective in reducing sex crimes. These strategies teach principles of responsibility, accountability, penance, honesty, education, vigilance, and most of all, balance or moderation.

Regarding former offenders, there are prevention strategies available to keep former offenders from offending again. Restorative justice (accountability and empathy training), identifying sexual assault cycles, developing relapse prevention plans, Circles of Support and Accountability, and Good Lives models are tried and true methods of reducing recidivism amongst former offenders. These treatments have been shown to reduce both general and specific recidivism by at least half, and recognized to be effective by leading researchers like Karl Hanson. By contrast, programs that emphasize shame, deception, and adhere to the belief sex offenders cannot be “cured” are proving to be counterproductive.

In order to effectively implement these prevention strategies, we must address and reform the many obstacles in our society: The mass media, politicians, myths and misconceptions, our emphasis on retribution and punishment, CAPTA mandatory reporting requirements, lack of professionals, and our contrary fear/ fascination of sex. Only by approaching the subject openly and honestly can we have any hope of preventing sexual violence.