<i>Public should be aware</i><br>Sex abusers part of community

"The public needs to know about sexual abuse because it is all around us in our communities," according to Renee Mascher, a Yavapai County adult probation officer who has dealt with sex offenders for 15 years.

"People think that they (sex offenders) go to prison and stay in prison," she said. "But the truth of the matter is that they come out."

She said as of July 2004, 317 registered sex offenders reside in Yavapai County, and of that number 72 are labeled as level 2 or intermediate-risk offenders and 23 as level 3 or high-risk offenders. There are eight registered female sex offenders in Yavapai County, she added.

Currently, the Yavapai County Adult Probation Department is supervising 77 sex offenders and two of them are women.

"Short of incarceration, supervision allows the criminal justice system to maintain control over the offender, which reduces their threat of creating more victims," she said. "Without the option of community supervision and treatment, most sex offenders would serve their sentence … and be left on their own."

People who are not on probation or on parole do not have any restrictions.

"There are a lot of people in Yavapai County that aren’t being supervised," she said.

Over the past five years, the registered sex offender population has increased by 9 percent, she said.

Mascher said the likelihood of somebody to re-offend is based on the type of sex offender and specific characteristics of the offender and the offense.

"It is my understanding that child molesters have a re-conviction rate of about 13 percent for sex offenses and 37 percent for non sex-related crimes over a five-year period," she said. "A rapist has a re-conviction rate of about 19 percent for committing such crimes and about 46 percent for non sex-related crimes over a five-year period."

Also, victim gender and relation to the offender are important when trying to establish the rate of recidivism, she said.

She said experts in the field have determined that the recidivism rate is about 18 percent if the victim is a female, such as a girl from a neighborhood, as opposed to a family member. That rate increases to 35 percent with male victims who have no family ties, she said.

Nationally, women are responsible for about 5 percent of molestation cases against girls and about 20 percent of molestation cases against boys.

Incest offenders re-victimize at the reported rate of about 9 percent, Mascher said.

She said experts based these measures of recidivism mainly on official records, which "omitted all offenses that are not reported and all offenses that are not cleared through an arrest."

Nearly 85 percent of sexual assaults are never reported, she said.

"Some of it has to do with the shame and guilt felt by the victim and a desire to keep the families intact, and a lot of people want to put this tragic experience behind them," she said.

She said what she has observed through her line of work is that sex offenders tend to severely minimize the number of victims and length of time that they have been offending when they take a polygraph test.

She said 95 percent of all sex offenders that go through her department are initially in denial.

Mascher said sex offending is a lifelong chronic pattern of abusive behavior and that people who commit sex offenses are not a homogeneous group.

"They are offenders that we know about and the ones that we do not know about," she said. "They are fathers, mothers, stepparents, grandparents, other family members, neighbors, coaches, teachers, clergy or anyone else who comes into close contact with children."

A growing number of studies show that 30 percent to 50 percent of those who abuse are younger than 18 and about 30 percent to 35 percent of the abusers were once sexually abused themselves, she said.

Sex offenders are usually people who come from adverse family environments where abuse and neglect existed and lacking in guidance and nurturing.

"They end up being hostile and anti-social oriented," she said. "The sexuality that develops it really lacks intimacy. They develop attitudes tolerant to sexual assaults."

Sex offenders do respond positively to sex offender-specific treatments and not just any treatment, Mascher said.

"I believe that we should demand total control of abusive sexual behavior throughout the offender’s lifetime," she said. "To have another victim is just unacceptable."

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