Islands' Sounder


Why we run stories about sex offenders | Editorial

March 20, 2013 · Updated 11:30 AM

They have “paid” their debt to society and now they are free.

But for some former prisoners, they are forever beholden to the law and justice system. Sex offenders are required to notify the police of their place of residence and are under constant scrutiny from the communities in which they reside. There are physical boundaries they cannot cross. Many jobs are unavailable to them. They are watched and monitored.

And this for our protection.

Level 2 and Level 3 sex offenders are most likely to re-offend. The best way to prevent abuse is to educate our children and be aware of who is living in our communities. This doesn’t mean we need to be paranoid or panicked. It means we need to be informed. Which is why we publish stories about sex offenders who move to San Juan County. Two of the offenders we recently wrote about were reported as knowing their victims.

Last April, Kim Bryan of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Services wrote a guest column about the “six stages of the grooming process.” They are outlined below.

Stage 1 Targeting the Victim: The offender targets a victim by sizing up the child’s vulnerability. Children with less parental oversight are more desirable prey.

Stage 2 Gaining the Victim’s Trust: The sex offender gains trust by watching and gathering information about the child and family, getting to know their needs and how to fill them. In this regard, sex offenders mix effortlessly with responsible caretakers because they generate warm and calibrated attention.

Stage 3 Filling the Need: Gifts, extra attention and affection may distinguish one adult in particular and should raise concern and greater vigilance to be accountable for that adult.

Stage 4 Isolating the Child: The offender uses the developing special relationship with the child to create situations in which they are alone together. This isolation further reinforces a special connection. Babysitting tutoring, coaching, and special trips all enable this isolation.

Stage 5 Sexualizing the Relationship: At a stage of sufficient emotional dependence and trust, the offender progressively sexualizes the relationship. Desensitization occurs through talking, pictures, and even creating situations, like going swimming or clothes shopping where there is opportunity for times of undress.

Stage 6 Maintaining Control: Once the sex abuse is occurring, offenders commonly use secrecy and blame to maintain the child’s continued participation and silence.

When we write about sex offenders in our newspaper, it is to inform the public and prevent future crimes from occurring. While the system isn’t perfect, this one way to help keep our children safe from sexual predators.

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