In , a Washington man was sentenced to life without parole for gunning down two registered sex offenders. Patrick Drum, who pleaded guilty to the murders, was unrepentant at his sentencing hearing and admitted he had planned to continue killing sex offenders until he was caught. In Maryland, Donald Robinson died in after a young woman, Latiqwa Mayes, incited a crowd to violence by shouting that he was a sex offender who had raped her. Strangers joined in the beating, which mortally wounded Robinson. Mayes is now serving a six-year prison term; her father, Willie Mayes, who had initially detained Robinson, received a year sentence suspended to two years.
As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content. Subscribe today. My final evaluation states that he meets the criteria for a sexually violent predator; his actions were just one more example of how little restraint he has.
That evening, I head out for a walk after the kids are in bed.
A lit cigarette in a doorway — is it a man or a woman standing there? I used to run treatment groups for sex offenders.
At the time, my work actually made me less afraid. I genuinely liked many of the guys and knew they respected me, even felt protective of me. I felt, and still feel, safe, comfortable, and at home around men. After reading about hundreds upon hundreds of victimizations, it begins to feel inevitable and unstoppable.
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Men seem to pose a terrible threat. My husband, my male colleagues, my friends — they all live in the same world with James, Jay, and the others I have to evaluate. Professionally, though, I know different. Yes, a small percentage of men who commit sex crimes are incapable of empathy; or worse, take pleasure in the suffering of those they violate. But most sex offenders are not psychopaths.
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They are men raised in a horrible system — frequently having suffered trauma, or abuse, or both — who lack the tools to navigate their emotions, and end up traumatizing others as a result. At the time, I decided he met the criteria of a sexually violent predator, but he ended up being released from prison anyway my opinion is not the only factor taken into account.
I go expecting to reaffirm my earlier evaluation. He was suspicious, a drug addict, and a career criminal whose past included several attempted rapes. A year earlier he would never have gone to a therapist, had feelings, or cried openly. He has tear tattoos, two of them, just below the lower corner of each eye. Instead I watch the real tears that run alongside them for the entire hour we speak.
I help people whenever I can. I feel bad for them. I never felt that before. He talks with pride about how he stayed out of prison for a whole year this time. The hour goes by and he is emotional, insightful, and humble. I write it all down. When I get home, I set the interview aside. It feels too sad. Most men who commit a sex offense are not irredeemable or unworthy of a future in our society.
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Having performed therapy with sexual offenders for over a decade, I have been repeatedly surprised at the capacity for change. Not everyone is a James or a Jay. Statistics bear out my experience. The number of sex offenders who re-offend is small relative to many other crimes, and the proper treatment — a program that addresses their thinking and behavior directly, and is designed, based on research, to prevent them from offending again — can reduce that number even further.
One analysis of treatment studies showed that sex offenders who got treatment were re-arrested only 7. By comparison, a study showed that robbers were re-arrested at a rate of The space between us is warm and honest.
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I kinda got freaked out and went home and asked my boyfriend if he ever cheated on me. What are you talking about? For a moment I considered offering her reassurances, but decided to be honest. To work to love individual men. And to be able to hold on to compassion for the mistakes of being human. The truth is, even good men in my life whom I love and trust have made mistakes along the way, acted unconsciously sexually, and broken trust.
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I wanted to offer her something certain to hold on to, but all I could think of was to remind her that most sex offenders are men, but most men are not sex offenders. I also use my knowledge to help them safely get help, if they need it. My children are safer that way, statistically speaking. But of course there is a deeper, implied message: men are more likely to be scary and dangerous.
Even if you know them. Samantha Smithstein, PsyD, is a licensed clinical and forensic psychologist, writer, and photographer based in San Francisco.