Help for parents

Legislative Update


Understanding the issue

Personal stories

Media coverage

Criticism from experts

Juvenile sex law

Get involved

Discussion board

Reading list

Organizations and links

Research on youth sexuality


1. Burton, D. & Smith-Darden, J., North American Survey of Sexual Abuser Treatment and Models 2000, Brandon, VT: Safer Society Foundation, 2001.

2. Jenkins, P., Moral Panic, Yale University Press, 1998.

3. Okami, P., “'Child Perpetrators of Sexual Abuse': The Emergence of a Problematic Deviant Category,” Journal of Sex Research, vol. 29, no. 1, pp. 209-130, 1992.

4. "Understanding Juvenile Sexual Offending Behavior," Center for Sex Offender Management, December 1999.

5. Weis, D., Childhood Sexuality, in Robert T. Francoeur (ed.), The International Encyclopedia of Sexuality, New York: Continuum, 1997.

6. Yankowski, L., Testimony to the Arizona Senate's Committee on Children's Psychological Treatment Programs, September 16, 1992.

Ethical Treatment for All Youth
Email: etay@ethicaltreatment.org

About the author


"Fear is the main source of superstition, and one of the main sources of cruelty."
--Bertrand Russell

“The homosexual will murder his victim during an act of sexual frenzy and afterwards rob him.” These are the words of an expert--a psychiatrist working for the police 50 years ago.2 According to historian Philip Jenkins, these were years of moral panic over “sex psychopaths” which especially focused on homosexuals. Public fears and perceptions that homosexuals were violent led to the imprisonment of homosexuals and their treatment with aversion therapy and other forms of arousal reconditioning.

The factors that allowed the unethical treatment of homosexuals included:

  • lack of knowledge

  • confusion of socially inappropriate behavior with illness and violence

  • inflated public and professional fears

  • belief that the danger justified experimental, unethical measures

  • lack of oversight and accountability

These same factors encouraged similar treatment of the mentally ill, and now contribute to the current treatment of children labeled as sex offenders.

  • Lack of knowledge:
    Within American culture, childhood sexuality remains an area that has been largely unexplored by researchers.5
    --Researcher David Weis

  • Confusing indecency with violence:
    The literature on child perpetrators contains a "consistent tendency among the writers under discussion here to conflate what they term 'abnormal', 'unusual', or 'inappropriate' sexual behaviors with 'abusive', 'molestation', 'victimizing', or 'perpetration' behaviors."3
    --Researcher Paul Okami

  • Moral panic: Articles about treatment for juvenile sex offenders and children with sexual behavior problems typically begin with striking statistics about the number of teenagers and children (as young as 3) who are sexually abusive, but fail to reveal that these statistics include non-coercive behavior.4

  • Dangers justifying inhumane measures:
    Several of the witnesses before this committee have presented startling figures regarding the high incidence of child sexual abuse and the need for effective interventions" to justify "unproven, unsupervised experimentation on children...the witnesses before this committee defended this practice with the implication that these weren't normal children anyway.6
    Lois Yankowski

  • Lack of accountability:
    The legislature should also mandate a regular process for review and monitoring of any programs. The testimony presented thus far has demonstrated that these functions were not performed with respect to substance of the Phoenix Memorial program...The secrecy which surrounds juvenile court proceedings means that the public has never had the opportunity to scrutinize the actual practice in these facilities.6
    Lois Yankowski
    Unfortunately, conditions have not changed much since then. According to the Safer Society Foundation's 2000 survey, only 13% of juvenile offender programs and 20% of programs for younger children are state certified. This is primarily because most states do not have procedures to oversee or certify them.

Now find out what you can do.
Understanding the Issue

When experts are wrong
Casualties of war
   Lack of knowledge
   Confused definitions
   Invalid instruments
   Humiliation as therapy
   Arousal reconditioning
   Dangerous drugs
   Sriking comparisons
   Sample materials
   Convos with providers
Ethical violations
Deja vu