Q: Can people who sexually abuse children and adults change their behavior?
Yes. People can and do learn to change behavior with specialized treatment. There are treatment programs, including those offered by Project Pathfinder, that help people change their abusive behaviors and learn how to live healthy and safe lives.
Q: Is treatment for sexual behavior problems effective?
Yes. There is a growing body of scientific evidence that sexual offender treatment reduces the risk for future abusive behavior. According to a meta-analysis of research conducted in Canada of 23,393 cases, there were only 13.4% known cases of re-offense in 5 years (Hanson, R.K., 1998). According to another study, re-offense rates (for an average of 6.3 years at risk) were 5% of 247 men who completed treatment and 11% of 222 men who did not complete treatment. (Minnesota Department of Corrections, 1999). Some community programs in MN have outcome studies showing recidivism under 10%. Project Pathfinder conducted a major study of its clients and found a recidivism rate for sexual offenses of under 3%.
Q: Can I go to any counselor for treatment?
No. Treatment for sexual behavior problems is highly specialized which means that it is specific to people with sexual offending behaviors. Some mental health professionals know and understand these issues, but most do not have the specialized knowledge and training.
Q: What happens in treatment for sexual behavior problems?
In treatment, people address issues such as denial, empathy, behavior patterns or family relationships. Programs are most often in community based mental health programs or agencies such as Project Pathfinder, and require sessions on a weekly basis in an office setting.
People with chemical use issues such as alcohol and other drugs often attend and complete treatment for those issues first.
Many people are court ordered to sexual offender treatment, but others choose to go on their own. People can access treatment if they have harmed someone else, or if they are at risk to harm someone sexually.
Most treatment plans include group/individual therapy, and many include marital and couples therapy, family therapy, a polygraph (lie detector test), specialized testing and/or medication such as anti-depressants.
Q: What are the goals of treatment for sexual behavior problems?
All programs vary but generally, the goals of treatment require a change in abusive and dysfunctional behavior, attitudes that support abuse, values that allow abuse, relationship dysfunction, and underlying factors such as low self esteem, mood disturbance or chemical dependency.
Q: How long does treatment last?
The length and duration of the program varies depending on the progress the person makes in treatment. Treatment does not end until the person changes his or her behavior and makes healthy and safe decisions.
Q: How much does treatment cost?
The cost varies. Most treatment facilities accept insurance. Sometimes grant or other assistance is available to help pay for treatment.
Q: Are all people who offend sexual abuse victims themselves?
No. However, based on self-reports, it is estimated that 20% to 30% were sexually abused themselves. (Hanson & Slater, 1988).