People who commit acts of sexual assault live in towns and cities throughout Connecticut. Sex offenders are often people we know and trust, and would not otherwise raise our suspicions. The majority of offenders know their victims, and use manipulation, coercion, threats, and shame to gain their compliance and to silence them. Most sex offenders have never been reported, caught or convicted.
Sex offenders who are prosecuted in Connecticut and eventually released back into the community need appropriate supervision to help ensure the safety of victims and communities, increase accountability for their crime, and reduce the risk of re-offending. When offenders are released back into our communities people often have a number of questions and concerns:
What are the characteristics of the typical sex offender?
What we know about sex offenders is that they are more like the general population, than unlike them. There is no one set of determining characteristics, and there are many different types of offenders. Sex offenders come from all walks of life, and are in every race, economic category, are all ages, and all genders.
How do I know if there is a sex offender in my community?
The sex offender registry is a helpful tool in identifying convicted sex offenders in the community. The registry can be found at:
Registered offenders can be looked up by clicking on the link labeled “Search Database for Offenders” and searching by offender last name, town name, or zip code. This will provide you with information about convicted, registered offenders in your area. It is important to note, however, that not all convicted offenders are ordered to register, and not all sex offenders are reported or convicted for what they have done. The registry can be alarming and can also provide people with a false sense of security if there are no registered offenders near by. It is important to view it as a tool, and a way to better understand your environment, while also recognizing its limitations, and still having open conversations with your children about safety concerns.
How are sex offenders supervised in the community?
Supervision varies greatly from state to state, and so Connecticut’s form of sex offender supervision is what will be detailed here. In Connecticut a collaborative approach to sex offender supervision is used, that is sensitive to victim wants and needs, all while focusing on community safety. It involves a collaborative relationship between a community supervision officer (either probation or parole), the sex offender treatment providers, and a victim advocate. Each of these valuable team members plays a very specific role in the supervision, and it is through their individual duties and their collaboration that offenders are monitored and managed in the community. This model of supervision has been found to be the most effective, is statewide in Connecticut as of 2007, and has been copied throughout the country. The collaborative group of team members meets weekly to discuss difficulties and challenges, to provide one another with feedback, and to help make decisions regarding offender supervision and community safety.
- The Supervision Officer: Provides intense supervision that is mandated by the court and involves the imposing and enforcing of strict conditions, weekly office reporting, home and field visits, family meetings, job approval, enforcement of registry requirements, and imposition of alternative sanctions such as electronic monitoring and GPS if need be.
- The Treatment Provider: Provides sex offender specific treatment which involves a lengthy intake assessment to determine individual needs, risk specific groups aimed at delivering the most appropriate treatment possible, weekly attendance at groups, daily journaling, various polygraph examinations, and family education programs and meetings.
- The Victim Advocate: Provides notification and support services to victims when offenders are released onto probation/parole. Sits in on sex offender treatment groups to address victim issues and community safety concerns. Provides support to the victims in an offender’s case, as well as support to offender family members. Attends field visits with the probation/parole officer. Provides appropriate referrals for services for victims and offender family members. Facilitates family/support group meetings. Addressing victims needs/concerns with the unit and speaks on behalf of victims in general.
What percentage of victims knows their offenders?
In the 2005-2006 Annual Report produced by Connecticut Sexual Assault Crisis Services, of the victims seen by our 9 local rape crisis centers
79.4% reported that they knew their offender. According to National Violence
Against Women Survey printed in January of 2006 by the U.S. Department of
Justice only 16.7% of female victims and 22.8% of male victims were raped by a stranger.
What can I do to keep my family safe?
The key answer to this question is information, and having the accurate and most appropriate information. Unfortunately, there is no risk free zone, or fool proof safety plan. Having the most up to date and accurate information, however, can help you feel safe, prepared, aware of your environment, and give you the tools to appropriately respond if you or someone you love has been impacted by sexual assault. It is important to have open and honest conversations with your children. These conversations can be difficult, and so many parents shy away from having them. Incorporate this conversation into the conversations you have with your children about other safety rules such as fire safety, safety in crossing the street, and things of this nature and it can feel less scary. In addition teaching your children to speak about their feelings and be able to say “NO” when they don’t want to do something. Respect them when they say “NO” within the home, and this will reinforce their ability to use it elsewhere. Talking to your kids about the appropriate names for their body parts and empowering them to understand their personal boundaries can make them more aware when someone has violated their boundaries. Allow for open lines of communication when it comes to all things within the home. If a child knows they have a safe space to discuss their concerns they are more likely to talk to you about concerns they may have about a particular person, or come forward if something has happened to them. Other resources you may want to consider as far as communicating with your kids about sexual assault can be found at:
Do most sex offenders re-offend?
Data based on new convictions suggests that this is not the case. Further, re-offense rates vary among different types of sex offenders and are related to specific characteristics of the offender and the offense.
People who commit sex offenses are not all the same, and fall into several different categories. Due to this, research has identified significant differences in re-offense among types of offenders. Looking at reconviction rates alone, one large-scale study (Hanson and Bussiere, 1998) found the following differences:
- child molesters had a 13% reconviction rate for sexual offenses and a 37% reconviction rate for new, non-sex offenses over a five year period; and
- rapists had a 19% reconviction rate for sexual offenses and a 46% reconviction rate for new, non-sexual offenses over a five year period.
Another study found reconviction rates for child molesters to be 20% and for rapists to be approximately 23% (Quinsey, Rice, and Harris, 1995).
Individual characteristics of the crimes further distinguish re-offense rates. For instance, victim gender and relationship to the offender have been found to impact recidivism, or re-offense rates. In a 1995 study, researchers found that offenders who had female victims outside of their family had a recidivism rate of 18% and those who had male victims outside of their family re-offended at a rate of 35%. This same study found a recidivism rate for incest offenders to be approximately 9% (Quinsey, Rice, and Harris, 1995).
It is noteworthy that recidivism rates for sex offenders are lower than for the general criminal population. For example, one study of 108,580 non-sex criminals released from prisons in 11 states in 1983 found that nearly 63% were rearrested for a non-sexual felony or serious misdemeanor within three years of their release from incarceration; 47% were reconvicted; and 41% were ultimately returned to prison or jail (Bureau of Justice Statistics).
It is important to note that not all sex crimes are solved or result in arrest and only a fraction of sex offenses are reported to police. The reliance on measures of recidivism as reflected through official criminal justice system data (i.e., re-arrest or reconviction rates) obviously leaves out offenses that are not cleared through an arrest (and thereby cannot be attributed to any individual offender) or those that are never reported to the police. For a variety of reasons, many victims of sexual assault are reluctant to report their victimization to the police. For these reasons, relying on re-arrest and reconviction data underestimates actual re-offense numbers. (adapted from the Center for Sex Offender Management’s website at http://www.csom.org/pubs/mythsfacts.html )