The offenses of sex offenders are represented by a heterogeneous population. Serial killers such as Jeffrey Dahmers represent an extreme form of sex offenders by committing acts of necrophilia, cannibalism, torture, and murder for the purpose of sexual gratification. Other forms of illegal offenses and sex crime in sex offenders can include sexual abuse, downloading child pornography, or statutory rape. The motivation for sex offenders, their offenses, and their sex crime is not uniform either, and the origins of their perversions are not always straightforward. This is because society’s conception of sexuality remains clouded in ambiguity. “Sexual deviances generally arise from sexual fantasies,” writes former FBI profiler Robert R. Hazelwood in his book Practical Aspects of Rape Investigation. “Through a gradual process of enactment, they also become the template for many offenders’ patterns of serial sexual offenses.” Though the boundaries concerning what constitutes a “sex offender” is dependent on country and culture, there is little dispute about the influence psychosexual disorders play in dictating certain sexual behaviors and, as a result, sex crimes.
Contemporary psychology subcategorizes psychosexual disorders into three parts: sexual dysfunctions, sexual perversions, and gender identity disorders. The most prevalent motivation for the offenses of sex offenders involves the cultivation of sexual perversions. Sexual perversions involve projecting strong sexual desires towards an unusual situations or objects. However, it is also true that other forms of psychosexual disorders, such as sexual dysfunctions like impotence or lack of libido, can create anxiety in a person that those dysfunctions begin to project themselves into perversions. For example, the Ukrainian serial killer and sex offender, Andrei Chikatilo confessed that achieving arousal became a routine problem with his wife, but he found a remedy. By stabbing other women to death, murder became his aphrodisiac. His absolute domination over his victim was his Viagra. This form of psychosexual perversions is medically known as paraphilias. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) Edition IV – the manual published by the American Psychiatric Association covering all mental health disorders– characterizes paraphilia as being “sexual urges, fantasies, and behaviors generally involving: (1) nonhuman objects, (2) suffering of oneself or his/her partner, or (3) children or other nonconsenting persons over a period of at least 6 months.” Among the most common Paraphilic Disorders in sex offenders as listed by the DSM IV are exhibitionism, fetishism, pedophilia, sexual sadomasochism, voyeurism, and frotteurism. These psychosexual disorders can fuel sex crimes and offenses because sex offenders commonly choose vulnerable victims, such as children, to act out their compulsions.
Countries with advanced policing technology, such as Canada, America, and the United Kingdom employ sex offender registration which allows authorities to keep track of the residence and activities of sex offenders, including those who have completed their criminal sentences. However, because sexual offenses are committed by individuals suffering from certain psychosexual disorders, there is today a greater emphasis on psychological evaluations of sex offenders. Greater understanding of their personality can help identify psychological disorders, their causes, and their treatment. After all, psychosexual disorders and an individual’s sexual behavior that lead to sexual offense are influenced by many psychological factors: psychotic disorders, personality disorders, substance abuse, childhood abuse, or even everyday stress and anxiety can affect psychosexual health.
The goal of psychological evaluation in sex offenders is to minimize the risk of future sex offenses. Much like psychosexual disorder is believed to be shaped by events and circumstances during the life of the patient, so too can the healthy confrontation of these disorders through therapy be used to reshape them. Sex therapy, for example, redirects sexual stimuli of patients who may get their rocks off from anomalous sexual stimuli, such pedophilia or bestiality. Behavioral therapy has the patient working with a psychiatrist or psychologist in order to unlearn the behaviors that extend from the psychosexual disorders that have become automatic. The use of therapy acknowledges that the mind is flexible. However, therapy has its limitations. Larry Don McQuay, a Texan school bus driver who in 1990 confessed to abusing more than 200 children, demanded to be castrated so he could not molest again. Similarly, chemical castration has been employed on sex offenders in places such as Israel, Britain, and in the United States which allows the administration of medication designed to reduce libido and sexual activity. Proponents of this view it to be more effective and humane than surgical castration or life long imprisonment. Psychosexual disorders and perversions gain their power from libido. Therefore it is appropriate to cut the possibility of recidivism off at the source.
[ad#downcont]According to the US Department of Justice, 5.3% of sex offenders are rearrested for another sex crime after being released the first time. Sex offenders are often fatalistic about their psychosexual disorders insofar that they believe they cannot be changed. The psychological influence in sex offenders to do as they do, as well as non-sex offenders to not engage in sexual offenses is unquestioned. Where the debate lies is in understanding the complexities of the psychological. There remain many questions unanswered concerning what makes one more vulnerable to a certain psychosexual disorder than others. Or what makes one more prone to becoming a sex offender than other people. What is clear, however, is that it all begins in the mind.