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Addressing the Motivation to Sexually Abuse. J. Michael Adler, Ph.D. TSOTB Annual Sex Offender Treatment Conference. Experience. 1985 developed adult and adolescent Sex Offender treatment program Have assessed and/or treated approximately 3,000 sex offenders

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addressing the motivation to sexually abuse

Addressing the Motivation to Sexually Abuse

J. Michael Adler, Ph.D.


Annual Sex Offender Treatment Conference

  • 1985 developed adult and adolescent Sex Offender treatment program
  • Have assessed and/or treated approximately 3,000 sex offenders
  • Developed Adolescent Sex offender Treatment Continuum
Developed Adolescent Sex offender Treatment Continuum
  • Completed over 4,000 Plethysmograph Assessments
  • Developed Behavior Modification Technique for addressing sexual arousal re-conditioning with low functioning offenders
Compared three different methods of evaluating deviant arousal (raw change, standard score, & percentage of full arousal) as they related to deviant sexual history confirmed by polygraphs
Cross-validated Plethysmograph results (strongest response) to identified deviant behavior verified through polygraph
  • Tested effect of technician Gender on arousal responses of male sexual offenders (N = 69) Presented to ATSA Annual Research Conference San Francisco, 1994
Completed Test-Re-test (7 to 10 days) Reliability of Plethysmograph (N = 23)
  • Developed Comprehensive Risk to Re-offend Scale utilizing dynamic & static risk factors identified in 48 adult offenders who had re-offended in treatment.
Presently involved in double blind study comparing LVA to the polygraph regarding truth verification with adolescent and adult sex offenders.
facts concerning re offending
Facts concerning Re-Offending
  • In assessing/treating approximately 3,000 sex offenders, every one had multiple offenses
  • Over 125 child pornographers, 122 have had “hands on sexual offenses”
  • The likelihood of getting arrested for child molestation is approximately 3% (Abel et. al., 1987)
According to Marshall & Barbaree (1989) re-offending rates based on “official” records was 42% lower than “unofficial” records
  • Of 52 offenders who have re-offended either during the assessment or first year in our treatment program, two were arrested or convicted of a second offense
While the re-arrest rate of sexual offenders may be low (6 to 40%), based on our experience sex offenders continue to engage in sexually offensive behavior at a high rate
sexual offensive behavior
Sexual Offensive behavior
  • is defined as any sexual behavior that denies another person the opportunity to decline without consequence. (violates any of the four conditions of consent)
sexual offender
Sexual Offender
  • Clinically defined as a person who engages in sexual activity in such a manner that some of or all of the sexual satisfaction/fulfillment is related to:
the person not wanting to be sexual or is unable to consent;
  • the sexual activity requires manipulation, coercion, and/or force; and/or
  • harms or has a negative impact on the person’s emotional, social, or physical well-being
problem behavior
Problem Behavior
  • defined as repeatedly engaging in activity in which the expected outcome is undesirable or unwanted
  • Differs from mistake in which the negative outcome is not desired or expected (determined from a known and expected outcome)
motivation to sexually offend
Motivation to Sexually Offend
  • Behavior is motivated by needs
  • Needs cause an internal state/feeling called a drive to develop
  • The drive activates a response or series of responses designed to attain a goal that relieves the need temporarily.
Needs are in a hierarchy; basic needs followed by secondary needs
  • Secondary needs do not become expressed until basic needs are satisfied and there is a basic amount of order and stability in meeting the lower needs
  • Secondary needs (love, belonging, acceptance, worth, esteem, etc.) require intimate relationships with others to meet
Poor relationships result in inconsistent need fulfillment.
  • This results in insecurities and internal anxiety in which the person seeks temporary relief through manipulation, coercion, and force in relationships.
The need to belong, experience acceptance, and unconditional love is considered as important as the need for food.
  • Satisfaction of these needs requires consistent positive emotionally pleasing interactions in a stable enduring relationship (Ward, et. Al., 1997)
The quality of a person’s early interpersonal relationships has been found to be a predictor of sexually inappropriate behavior in later life. (Prentky et. al., 1989)
interpersonal social skills deficits
Interpersonal Social Skills Deficits
  • Early Interpersonal Relationships
  • 8 out of 10 offenders report feeling “different and less than others” by the age of six. These feelings remained through high school and adulthood. Most common theme; “inferior.”
55% of our offenders reported sexual abuse; average age of first sexual experience is 6.7 years old.
  • Two-thirds report loss of contact with a parent through divorce or separation.
Almost 75% report social isolation, few or no close friends and difficulty developing relationships
  • 60% report difficulty with dating
negative self image
Negative Self-Image
  • Repeated negative evaluations of self through interactions and relationships result in a poor Internal picture of self (condition of worth)
  • As a result of the repetitive negative experiences, offenders develop numerous irrational thoughts and distortions resulting in fears of being unlovable and worthless
The offender’s inadequacy in developing stable healthy intimate relationships results in inconsistent satisfaction of secondary needs.
  • Offenders internal fears about themselves result in an external focus (to avoid facing fears).
Self deception leads to interpersonal deception. Since they do not believe they are worth love, do not believe or accept love from others.
  • Instead believe to get what they need must manipulate, trick, bribe, or coerce others to temporarily satisfy needs.
Targets (victims) are individuals that the offender perceives to be more vulnerable than himself or in some cases those individuals they perceive to be responsible for their dissatisfaction.
  • Sex or sexual contact is substituted for the lack of intimacy.
Because the sexual offense relieves the internal discomfort, it (the sexual offense) is a negative reinforcer, thus the behavior is learned and repeated.
  • The sexual response is learned and reinforced resulting in conditioned arousal responses.
Conditioned sexual arousal results in cycle of ongoing sexualization of others and sexual objectification.
deviant sexual arousal
Deviant Sexual Arousal
  • Deviant Sexual Arousal is the best predictor of recidivism (Hanson & Bussiere; Rice
  • 48 of 52 offenders who re-offended demonstrated deviant arousal responses (the remaining demonstrated no arousal response to adults)
conditioned deviant arousal
Conditioned Deviant Arousal
  • Conditioned arousal responses are triggered by stimuli (such as a child present)
  • Body begins responding to conditioned responses
  • Thoughts, fantasies and/or masturbation are likely elicited
positive reinforcer
Positive Reinforcer
  • Sexual objectification, grooming, and sexual acting out are consistent with the conditioned arousal response resulting in experiencing positive reinforcement
  • Difficulties in adult relationships may result in extinguishing conditioned sexual arousal to peers.