Grand Forks, ND – Many cringe at the though of people finding pleasure in child pornography and sexually abusing children.
But there are people who not only work to help sex offenders but like doing it.
Many people question why Dr. Stacey Benson enjoys her job.
Benson said, “My original plan was to work with children and I think that I’m still doing that indirect way by working with offenders. I’m not putting out the fire. I’m taking away the match.”
Benson has been helping keep kids safe for about 20 years by treating sex offenders. In that time she’s learned many misconceptions. She tells us that people re-offend at a lower rate than many think. Research shows that about 12 percent of sex offenders end up committing another sexual crime. She also says that a stable life and relationships can help reduce the chance of them re-offending and that being labeled a ‘sex offender’ does not define her patients. Something that she feels is an issue with the label itself.
Benson said, “It’s a present tense term. It implies that this is who I am now. And individual can have 15 years since they’ve committed a sexual offense, but we still use the present tense when we refer to them as a sex offender.”
Experts say sex offenders come from all different backgrounds and there is no way to tell if someone will commit a sexual offense.
Benson said, “A lot of the research is suggesting that for individuals who have a primary sexual interest in children, that is real similar to a sexual orientation.”
So instead of changing the person, psychologists like Dr. Benson help them learn how to live without acting on their sexual urges.
Benson said, “For individuals who have a particular interest in children, treatment doesn’t necessarily change that, but it teaches them tools.”
Things like how to identify dangerous situations, recognize risky emotions, and intervention techniques. And when people follow-up after a year or two of treatment, the part the makes the job worth it is when…
Benson said, “They get it and can look back, stop blaming other people or their childhood or using excuses of drinking and they own it and are able to acknowledge that they made those choices and they never want to make those choices again, and that’s incredibly rewarding.”
Not all sex related crimes are reported.
Experts say if you’re a victim you should never blame yourself or feel ashamed and should contact authorities immediately.