GLOSSARY OF TERMS
USED IN THE MANAGEMENT AND TREATMENT OF SEXUAL OFFENDERS*


Actuarial Risk Assessment: A risk assessment based upon risk factors which have been researched and demonstrated to be statistically significant in the prediction of re-offense or dangerousness.

Adjudication: The process of rendering a judicial decision as to whether the facts alleged in a petition or other pleading are true; an adjudicatory hearing is that court proceeding in which it is determined whether the allegations of the petition are supported by legally-admissible evidence.

Adolescent/Juvenile Sexual Abuser: A person, legally or legislatively defined by the criminal or juvenile code of each state, with a history of sexually abusing other persons.
Aftercare: The portion of treatment that occurs after formal termination or graduation from the primary treatment program. Aftercare is provided either by the primary treatment provider or by community resources that are overseen and/or contracted by the primary treatment provider.

Aftercare Plan: The plan created by the primary treatment staff, family, other support systems, and the sex offender which includes the development of daily living skills, a focus on community reintegration while residing in a less structured/restrictive environment, a relapse prevention component, an emphasis on healthy living and competency building, and an identified system of positive support.

Aggravating Circumstances: Conditions that intensify the seriousness of the sex offense. Conditions may include age and gender of the victim, reduced physical and/or mental capacity of the victim, the level of cruelty used to perpetrate the offense, the presence of a weapon during the commission of the offense, denial of responsibility, multiple victims, degree of planning before the offense, history of related conduct on the part of the offender, and/or the use of a position of status or trust to perpetrate the offense.

Assessment: See Phases of Assessment.

Civil Commitment: The confinement and treatment of sex offenders who are especially likely to reoffend in sexually violent ways following the completion of their prison sentence. Commitment is court ordered and indeterminate.

Clinical Polygraph: A diagnostic instrument and procedure designed to assist in the treatment and supervision of sex offenders by detecting deception or verifying truth of statements by persons under supervision or treatment. The polygraph can assess reports relating to behavior. The three types of polygraph examinations that are typically administered to sex offenders are:

Cognitive Distortion (CD): A thinking error or irrational thought that sex offenders use to justify their behavior or to allow themselves to experience abusive emotions without attempting to change them. Cognitive distortions are ways sex offenders go about making excuses for justifying and minimizing their sexually abusive behavior. In essence, these are self-generated excuses for taking part in one's relapse patterns. These thoughts distort reality.

Collaboration: A mutually beneficial and well-defined relationship entered into by two or more organizations to achieve common goals. This type of relationship developed between supervising officers, treatment providers, polygraph examiners, victim advocates, prosecution and the defense bar has been credited with the success of effective sex offender management. This type of relationship
includes a commitment to:

Collateral Contacts: The sharing and use of information regarding a sex offender among law enforcement, probation/parole officers, treatment providers, employers, family members, and friends of the offender to enhance the effectiveness and quality of community supervision.

Community Notification Laws: Laws which allow or mandate that law enforcement, criminal justice, or corrections agencies give citizens access to relevant information about certain convicted sex offenders living in their communities (see Megan’s Law).

Community Supervision: Day to day casework by a supervision officer that centers around the officer’s monitoring of the offender’s compliance to conditions of supervision, as well as the offender’s relationship and/or status with his/her family, employers, friends and treatment provider. From these sources, the officer obtains information about the sex offender’s compliance with conditions of community supervision, participation in treatment and risk of reoffense, and assists the offender in behavior modification and restoration to the victim and community. Types of community supervision include:

General goals of community supervision include:

Conditions of Community Supervision: Requirements prescribed by the court as part of the sentence to assist the offender to lead a law-abiding life. Failure to observe these rules may lead to a revocation of community supervision, or graduated sanctions by the court. Examples of special conditions of community supervision for sex offenders are noted below:

Contact: As a special condition of supervision or as a treatment rule, a sex offender is typically prohibited from contact with his/her victim or potential victims. Contact has several meanings noted below:

Contact with Prior Victims or Perpetrators: This includes written, verbal or physical interaction, and third party contact with any person whom a sex offender sexually abused or who committed a sexual offense against the sex offender.

Containment Approach: A model approach for the management of adult sex offenders (English, et al., 1996a). This is conceptualized as having five parts:

  1. A philosophy that values public safety, victim protection, and reparation for victims as the paramount objectives of sex offender management;
  2. Implementation strategies that rely on agency coordination, multi-disciplinary partnerships, and job specialization;
  3. A containment approach that seeks to hold sex offenders accountable through the combined use of both the offenders’ internal controls and external criminal justice control measures, and the use of the polygraph to monitor internal controls and compliance with external controls;
  4. Development and implementation of informed public policies to create and support consistent practices; and
  5. Quality control mechanisms, including program monitoring and evaluation, that ensure prescribed policies and practices are delivered as planned.

Conviction: The judgment of a court, based on the verdict of guilty, the verdict of a judicial officer, or the guilty plea of the defendant that the defendant is guilty of the offense.

Denial: A psychological defense mechanism in which the offender may act shocked or indignant over the allegations of sexual abuse. Seven types of denial have been identified:

  1. Denial of facts: The offender may claim that the victim is lying or remembering incorrectly;
  2. Denial of awareness: The offender may claim that s/he experienced a blackout caused by alcohol or drugs and cannot remember;
  3. Denial of impact: Refers to the minimization of harm to the victim;
  4. Denial of responsibility: The offender may blame the victim or a medical condition in order to reduce or avoid accepting responsibility;
  5. Denial of grooming: The offender may claim that he did not plan for the offense to occur;
  6. Denial of sexual intent: The offender may claim that s/he was attempting to educate the victim about his/her body, or that the victim bumped into the offender. In this type of denial, the offender tries to make the offense appear non-sexual; and
  7. Denial of denial: The offender appears to be disgusted by what has occurred in hopes others would believe s/he was not capable of committing such a crime.

Disposition: A final settlement of criminal charges.

Electronic Monitoring: An automated method of determining compliance with community supervision restrictions through the use of electronic devices. There are three main types of electronic monitoring utilizing different technologies:

  1. Continuous Signaling Technology: The offender wears a transmitting device that emits a continuous coded radio signal. A receiver-dialer is located in the offender’s home and is attached to the telephone. The receiver detects the transmitter’s signals and conveys a message via telephone report to the central computer when it either stops receiving the message or the signal resumes again.
  2. Programmed Contact Technology: This form of monitoring uses a computer to generate either random or scheduled telephone calls to offenders during the hours the offender should be at his/her residence. The offender must answer the phone, and verify his/her presence at home by either having the offender transmit a special beeping code from a special watch attached to the offender’s wrist, or through the use of voice or visual verification technology.
  3. Global Positioning Technology (GPS): This technology is presently under development and is being used on a limited basis. The technology can monitor an offender’s whereabouts at any time and place.
    A computer is programmed with the places offenders should be at specific times and any areas that are off limits to the offender (e.g., playgrounds and parks). The offender wears a transmitting device that sends signals through a satellite to a computer, indicating the offender’s whereabouts.

Empathy: A capacity for participating in the feelings and ideas of another.

Evaluation: The application of criteria and the forming of judgments; an examination of psychological, behavioral, and/or social information and documentation produced by an assessment (sex offender assessments precede sex offender evaluations). The purpose of an evaluation is to formulate an opinion regarding a sex offender’s amenability to treatment, risk/dangerousness, and other factors in order to facilitate case management.

Family Reunification: This is the joining again of the family unit as part of a sex offender’s
treatment plan. It is a step-by-step process with achievable goals and objectives.

Graduation or Discharge Readiness: Documented evidence of a sex offender’s accomplishment of treatment goals outlined in an individual treatment plan. Sex offender progress that leads to graduation or discharge readiness may include, but is not limited to:

Grooming: The process of manipulation often utilized by child molesters, intended to reduce a victim’s or potential victim’s resistance to sexual abuse. Typical grooming activities include gaining the child victim’s trust or gradually escalating boundary violations of the child’s body in order to desensitize the victim to further abuse.

High Risk Factors (HRF): A set of internal motivations or external situations/events that threaten a sex offender’s sense of self-control and increase the risk of having a lapse or relapse. High risk factors usually follow seemingly unimportant decisions (SUDs).

Incest: Sexual relations between close relatives, such as father and daughter, mother and son, sister and brother.

Index Offense: The most recent offense known to authorities.

Individual Treatment Plan: A document outlining the essential treatment issues which must be addressed by the sex offender. Treatment plans often consist of core problem areas to be addressed in treatment such as cognitive restructuring, emotional development, social and interpersonal skills enhancement, lowering of deviant sexual arousal, anger management, empathy development, understanding of the sexual abuse cycle, and the formulation and implementation of a relapse prevention plan. These plans include the:

Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children and Sexually Violent Offender Registration Act:
Enacted in 1994, this federal mandate requires states to establish stringent registration programs for sex offenders—including lifelong registration for offenders classified as “sexual predators” by September 1997 (see Sex Offender Registration).

Justification: A psychological defense mechanism by an offender in which s/he attempts to use reasoning to explain offending behavior.

Lapse: An emotion, fantasy, thought, or behavior that is part of a sex offender’s cycle and relapse pattern. Lapses are not sex offenses. They are precursors or risk factors for sex offenses. Lapses are not failures and are often considered as valuable learning experiences.

Less Restrictive: The result of changing the environment in which a sex offender lives by decreasing security offered by the physical structure (e.g., increased number of roommates), reducing the level/intensity of supervision, allowing greater access to unsupervised leisure time activities, and permitting community or family visits. A less restrictive environment is usually the result of significant treatment progress or compliance with the treatment program and environment.

Level of Risk: The degree of dangerousness a sex offender is believed to pose to potential victims or the community at large. The likelihood or potential for a sex offender to re-offend is determined by a professional who is trained or qualified to assess sex offender risk.

Level of Service Inventory-Revised (LSI-R): A risk assessment tool designed to assess re-offense risk and treatment needs among the general criminal population. This tool utilizes a 54 item scale scored “yes” or “no” or a “0-3” rating by clinical staff or case managers (Andrews and Bonta, 1995). This instrument has not been validated for a sex offender population.

Megan’s Law: The first amendment to the Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children and Sexually Violent Offenders Act. This was passed in October 1996 and requires states to allow public access to information about sex offenders in the community. This federal mandate was named after Megan Kanka, a seven-year-old girl who was raped and murdered by a twice-convicted child molester in her New Jersey neighborhood (see Community Notification).

Minimization: An attempt by the offender to downplay the extent of abuse.

Multi-Cultural Issues: Any difference that exists between the language, customs, beliefs, and values among various racial, ethnic, or religious groups.

Multi-Disciplinary Team: A variety of professionals (e.g., psychologists, psychiatrists, clinical social workers, educators, medical personnel, recreational staff, paraprofessionals, criminal justice personnel, volunteers, and victim advocates) working together to evaluate, monitor, and treat sex offenders.

Nolo Contendere: A plea in criminal prosecution that, without admitting guilt, leads to conviction but does not prevent denying the truth of the charges in a collateral proceeding. A defendant may plead nolo contendere only with the consent of the court after the judge has obtained a factual basis. A plea of nolo contendere cannot be considered an admission of guilt in civil court proceedings.

Outcome Data: Data that demonstrates clear, relevant, and undisputed information regarding the effect of supervision and/or treatment on sex offender recidivism rates.

Paraphilia: A psychosexual disorder. Recurrent, intense, sexually arousing fantasies, urges, and/or thoughts that usually involve humans, but may also include non-human objects. Suffering of one’s self or partner, children, or non-consenting persons is common. A deviation in normal sexual interests and behavior that may include:

Parole: A method of prisoner release on the basis of individual response and progress within the correction institution, providing the necessary controls and guidance while serving the remainder of their sentences within the free community.

Pedophile: An individual who turns to prepubescent children for sexual gratification. (The DSM-IV criteria for pedophilia are noted under pedophilia.) There are several typologies of pedophiles, including:

Phallometry (Phallometric Assessment or Penile Plethysmography): A device used to measure sexual arousal to both appropriate (age appropriate and consenting) and deviant sexual stimulus material. Stimuli can be either audio, visual, or a combination.

Phases of Assessment: An assessment is the process of collecting and analyzing information about an offender so that appropriate decisions can be made regarding sentencing, supervision, and treatment. An assessment does not and cannot determine guilt or innocence, and it cannot be used to determine whether an individual fits the “profile” of an offender who will commit future offenses. Assessments lay the groundwork for conducting an evaluation.
There are several phases and types of sex offender assessments. These include the following:

Plethysmograph: A devise that measures erectile responses in males to both appropriate and inappropriate stimulus material (see Phallometry).

Pornography: The presentation of sexually arousing material in literature, art, motion pictures, or other means of communication or expression.

Positive Treatment Outcome: A treatment outcome that includes a significantly lower risk of the sex offender engaging in sexually abusive behavior as a result of attaining/developing a higher level of internal control. Positive treatment outcomes include a lack of recidivism; a dramatic decrease in behaviors, thoughts and attitudes associated with sexual offending; and other observable changes that indicate a significantly lower risk of re-offending.

Presentence Investigation Report: A court ordered report prepared by a supervision officer. This report includes information about an offender’s index offense, criminal record, family and personal history, employment and financial history, substance abuse history, and prior periods of community supervision or incarceration. At the conclusion of the report, the officer assesses the information and often makes a dispositional recommendation to the court.

Probation: A court ordered disposition through which an adjudicated offender is placed under the control, supervision, and care of a probation field staff member in lieu of imprisonment, so long as the probationer (offender) meets certain standards of conduct.

Progress in Treatment: Observable and measurable changes in behavior, thoughts, and attitudes which support treatment goals and healthy, non-abusive sexuality.

Psychopath: A disorder characterized by many of the following: glibness and superficial charm; grandiosity; excessive need for stimulation/proneness for boredom; pathological lying; cunning and manipulative; lack of remorse or guilt; shallow affect; parasitic lifestyle; poor behavior controls; promiscuous sexual behavior and many short-term relationships; early behavioral problems; lack of realistic, long-term goals; impulsivity; irresponsibility; history of juvenile delinquency; likelihood of revocation on conditional release; and criminal versatility.

Hervey Cleckley (1982) developed the following three important points about psychopaths:

Psychopharmacology: The use of prescribed medications to alter behavior, affect, and/or the cognitive process.

Psychosexual Evaluation: A comprehensive evaluation of an alleged or convicted sex offender to determine the risk of recidivism, dangerousness, and necessary treatment. A psychosexual evaluation usually includes psychological testing and detailed history taking with a focus on criminal, sexual, and family history. The evaluation may also include a phallometric assessment.

Rape: Forcible sexual penetration of a child or an adult (vaginal, oral, or anal) with a penis, finger, or object. Three types of rapists have been described:

  1. Anger Rapist: A sex offender whose rape behavior is motivated primarily by a desire to release anger and hostility on his/her victims. Offender’s mood is one of anger and depression.
  2. Power Rapist: A sex offender whose primary motivation for raping others is to feel powerful and exercise control over victims. Offender’s mood is one of anxiety.
  3. Ritualistic-Sadistic Rapist: A sexual offender whose primary motivation for raping is the eroticized power or anger. If power is eroticized the victim is subjected to ritualistic acts, such as bondage. If anger is eroticized, the victim is subjected to torture and sexual abuse. Offender’s mood is one of intense excitement and dissociation.

Rapid Risk Assessment for Sex Offense Recidivism (RRASOR): A risk assessment tool that assesses sexual re-offense risk among adult sex offenders at five and ten year follow-up periods. In this tool, four items are scored by clinical staff or case managers using a weighted scoring key (Hanson, 1997).

Recidivism: Commission of a crime after the individual has been criminally adjudicated for a previous crime; reoffense. In the broadest context, recidivism refers to the multiple occurrence of any of the following key events in the overall criminal justice process: commission of a crime whether or not followed by arrest, charge, conviction, sentencing, or incarceration.

Relapse Prevention: A multidimensional model incorporating cognitive and behavioral techniques to treat sexually abusive/aggressive behavior. See Appendix I for listings of relapse prevention specific terminology.

Release of Information: A signed document for purposes of sharing information between and among individuals involved in managing sex offenders (e.g., two-way information release between treatment providers and legal professionals includes the sharing of sex offender legal and treatment records and other information necessary for effective treatment, monitoring and supervision).

Restitution: A requirement by the court as a condition of community supervision that the offender replaces the loss caused by his/her offense through payment of damages in some form.

Reunification: A gradual and well-supervised procedure in which a sex offender (generally an incest offender) is allowed to re-integrate back into the home where children are present. This takes place after the clarification process, through a major part of treatment, and provides a detailed plan for relapse prevention.

Risk Controls: External conditions placed on a sex offender to inhibit re-offense. Conditions may include levels of supervision, surveillance, custody, or security. In a correctional facility, these conditions generally are security and custody related. In a community setting, conditions are a part of supervision and are developed by the individual charged with overseeing the sex offender's placement in the community.

Risk Factors: A set of internal stimuli or external circumstances that threaten a sex offender's self-control and thus increases the risk of lapse or relapse. Characteristics that have been found through scientific study to be associated with increased likelihood of recidivism for known sex offenders. Risk factors are typically identified through risk assessment instruments. An example of a sex offender risk factor is a history of molesting boys.

Risk Level: The determination by evaluation of a sex offender’s likelihood of reoffense, and if the offender reoffends, the extent to which the offense is likely to be traumatic to potential victims. Based on these determinations, the offender is assigned a risk level consistent with his/her relative threat to others. Sex offenders who exhibit fewer offenses, less violence, less denial, a willingness to engage in treatment, no/few collateral issues (e.g., substance abuse, cognitive deficits, learning disabilities, neurological deficits, and use of weapons) are considered lower risk than those whose profile reflects more offenses,
greater violence, and so on. Risk level is changeable, depending on behaviors exhibited within a treatment program. Disclosures of additional, previously unknown offenses or behaviors may also alter the offender’s assessed level of risk.

Risk Management: A term used to describe services provided by corrections personnel, treatment providers, community members, and others to manage risk presented by sex offenders. Risk management approaches include supervision and surveillance of sex offenders in a community setting (risk control) and require sex offenders to participate in rehabilitative activities (risk reduction).

Risk Reduction: Activities designed to address the risk factors contributing to the sex offender's sexually deviant behaviors. These activities are rehabilitative in nature and provide the sex offender with the necessary knowledge, skills, and attitudes to reduce his/her likelihood of re-offense.

Sex Offender: The term most commonly used to define an individual who has been charged and convicted of illegal sexual behavior.

Sex Offender Registration: Sex offender registration laws require offenders to provide their addresses, and other identifying information, to a state agency or law enforcement agency for tracking purposes with the intent of increasing community protection. In some states, only adult sex offenders are required to register. In others, both adult and juvenile sexual offenders must register (see Jacob Wetterling Act).

Sexual Abuse Cycle: The pattern of specific thoughts, feelings, and behaviors which often lead up to and immediately follow the acting out of sexual deviance. This is also referred to as “offense cycle,” or “cycle of offending.”

Sexual Abuse Cycle Pie Chart Image

Sexual Abuser: The term most commonly used to describe persons who engage in sexual behavior that is considered to be illegal (this term refers to individuals who may have been charged with a sex crime but have not been convicted).

Sexual Abuse Specific: A term used to imply that aspects of treatment, assessment, and programming are targeting sexually abusive behaviors and not generic problems. Sexual abuse specific treatment often includes limited confidentiality, involuntary client participation, and a dual responsibility for the therapist: meeting the offender’s needs while protecting society).

Sexual Assault: Forced or manipulated unwanted sexual contact between two or more persons.

Sexual Contact: Physical or visual contact involving the genitals, language, or behaviors of a seductive or sexually provocative nature.

Sexual Deviancy: Sexual thoughts or behaviors that are considered abnormal, atypical or unusual. These can include non-criminal sexual thoughts and activities such as transvestitism (cross-dressing) or criminal behaviors, such as pedophilia.

Sexual Predator: A highly dangerous sex offender who suffers from a mental abnormality or personality disorder that makes him/her likely to engage in a predatory sexually violent offense.

Successful Completion: Indicates a sex offender can graduate from a program with a discharge statement stating that s/he has successfully demonstrated all skills and abilities required for safe release from the program.

Termination of Community Supervision: Community supervision usually ends in one of three ways:

Treatment Contracts: A document explained to and signed by a sex offender, his/her therapist, his/her probation/parole officer, and others that include:

Treatment Models: Various treatment models are employed with sex offenders.

Treatment Planning/Process Meeting: A face-to-face gathering of a multi-disciplinary team to discuss the results of initial evaluations and outline the individual treatment plan for a sex offender. The meeting generally focuses on specific developmental, vocational, educational and treatment needs; and housing and recreational placement.

Treatment Program or Facility: Any single program in which sex offenders routinely are grouped together for services. It may include residential, educational, and day treatment programs; or any similar service. A treatment program or facility is differentiated from an agency which may administer a number of different treatment facilities.

Treatment Progress: Gauges the offender’s success in achieving the specific goals set out in the individual treatment plan. This includes, but is not limited to: demonstrating the ability to learn and use skills specific to controlling abusive behavior; identifying and confronting distorted thinking; understanding the assault cycle; accepting responsibility for abuse; and dealing with past trauma and/or concomitant psychological issues, including substance abuse/addiction.

Triggers: An external event that begins the abuse or acting out cycle (i.e., seeing a young child, watching people argue, etc.).

Victim Impact Statement: A statement taken while interviewing the victim during the course of the presentence investigation report, or at the time of pre-release. Its purpose is to discuss the impact of the sexual offense on the victim.

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*Glossary from CSOM Full Report, July 2007