The National Task Force on Juvenile Sexual Offending stressed that the primary objective of interventions with juveniles who have sexually offended is community safety. The primary goals of treatment interventions with these juveniles are helping them to gain control over their sexually abusive behaviors and to increase their pro-social interactions with peers and adults. The main treatment objectives are preventing further victimization, halting the development of additional psychosexual problems, and helping the juvenile develop age-appropriate relationships with peers.1
The first step in treatment typically involves helping the juvenile accept responsibility for his or her behavior. This can be difficult because minimizing and denying abusive behavior are common responses. Denial is so often considered such an obstacle that many programs will not accept individuals who are unremitting in their denial. However, once the juvenile sex offender’s denial and minimization are reduced, the offender can begin to empathize with their victim which is the “first step” in facilitating the offender’s motivation for treatment and behavior change.
Recommended treatment areas for juveniles who have sexually offended typically include:
- Sex education,
- Correction of cognitive distortions,
- Empathy training,
- Clarification of values concerning abusive versus non-abusive sexual behavior,
- Anger management,
- Strategies to enhance impulse control and facilitate good judgment,
- Social skills training,
- Reduction of deviant arousal, and
- Relapse prevention.
Other relevant interventions include:
- Training in vocational and basic living skills,
- Assistance with academics,
- Resolution of personal victimization experiences,
- Assistance with coexisting disorders or difficulties,
- Resolution of family dysfunction and impaired sibling relationships,
- Development of pro-social relationships with peers,
- Dating skills, and
- A positive sexual identity.
Most sex offender treatment programs have learning about the “sexual assault cycle” at their core. The cycle is used to help juveniles conceptualize their offending behaviors, including the associated feelings and distorted thinking that contribute to and follow their abusive acts.
The concept is based on the premise that offending is preceded by a negative self-image that contributes to negative coping strategies when the juvenile anticipates negative responses from others, perceives such responses, or both. To avoid such negative, anticipated or perceived reactions, the juvenile withdraws, becomes socially isolated, and fantasizes to compensate for resulting feelings of powerlessness and a lack of control. This process culminates in the sex offense which results in more negative experiences, more feelings of rejection, and an increasingly negative self-image; thus the cycle continues.
This four-part series was written to help survivors get a better understanding of some of the root causes and behaviors of juvenile sexual offenders. They were in no way meant to justify their behavior. I believe the more we talk openly about this behavior, the more we can address the problem.