Sex Offender Stigma 3: Sexual Development

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In our final report called Sex Offender Stigma, we focus on the victim, the long-term mental effects after a sex offense, and why some experts believe developing healthy sexual relationships could be one key part of preventing sex crimes from happening.

“Many of these cases go unreported. So they are very, very emotional cases and very difficult cases,” said Gary Bjorklund, who heads the criminal division of the St. Louis Count Attorney’s Office.

Becoming a victim of a sex crime can be a life-changing traumatic experience.

“I don’t think we ever force a victim in these cases to trial when the victim just feels they can’t do it,” Bjorklund said.

“One in four women in this country will be victimized during their lifetime as a sexual assault victim,” Bjorklund said.

He’s discovered that even when an offender is convicted of a sexual offense, it does not change the mental outcome of the victim.

“They’re more prone to alcoholism; drug abuse is very, very high among them, I think it’s six times more apt to commit suicide. 32:21

Christos Petsoulis is the director of the Duluth Institute for Psychological and Sexual Health.

“We need to encourage people to be aware of where their sexual development is, and it’s very difficult for people to look at their sexuality,” said Petsoulis.

He believes easy access to pornography can affect a person’s sexual development and their ability to make healthy decisions later in life.

“You don’t have to have a mental health diagnoses to commit a sexual offense. They’re our brothers, our sisters, our cousins, our fathers,” Petsoulis said.

Registered sex offender “John Smith,” as we are calling him for this story, has gone through extensive treatment.

“As a society, sex is all out there. You can’t get away from it,” Smith said.

Smith has kids, a wife and he believes Petsoulis is spot on.

“I mean, our children in grade schools are being confronted with pornography. And what does that do to them, and then as a society we are hesitant to talk about sex and sexuality,” Smith said.

But Petsoulis said we’re not at all hesitant to sit behind a screen and objectify ourselves online or by sexting.

“One out of 10 kids in high school takes a naked picture and sends it to the world,” Petsoulis said.

Behaviors which in turn, he says, increasingly replaces a natural part of sexual development known as intimacy.

“For the most part, human beings want to be close to one another, and the most intimate and close way they can be close to each other is sexual interaction,” Petsoulis said.

Petsoulis believes eliminating this intimacy sometimes develops into unhealthy, criminal behavior with life-changing consequences as a registered sex offender.

“My wife and children — they’d be better off if I were dead. There are a lot of people who have committed sex offenses that feel that way,” Smith said.

“I live every day knowing that it’s wrong and that it’s caused a lot of pain.”

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