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Sex offences in a lifespan perspective. Experiences and new perspectives.

Knut Hermstad

 

This lesson will give a brief over-view of the history of sex offender treatment and discuss some of the most important challenges for the future.

Adults committing sex offences have once been children and young persons; some of them started their offending career already as a child or an adolescent. In therapy, we can see how childhood and adulthood interact with each other. Sometimes it seems arbitrary who becomes a victim and who becomes an offender. However, psychological factors alone do not explain why some persons offend sexually. Ideas about masculinity, femininity and sexuality are part of overarching, general, ideological attitudes in the society, influencing on how we understand sexual behavior as well as sexual offences.

In the resent years, internet and electronic media have created new challenges to the treatment field. Internet disrupts the differences between fantasy and reality. A wide range of questions then emerge; such as the perception of what a sexual offence might be, what is the difference between fantasy and reality, and how should the relation between online offences and hands on offences be understood. 

To meet the complexity of sexual offending behavior, we have to realize that there are victims and predators on both sides of the line, from early childhood to late adulthood. When developing new strategies for treatment and prevention we therefore must have a lifespan perspective on the plans. 

 

Dr. Knut Hermstad is a specialist in clinical sexology and one of the leading professionals in the field of treatment of persons who have committed sexual offences in Norway. Back in the early 1990-ties, he was leading one of the first government-supported treatment projects in Norway for this group. Since that, he has been central to the development of treatment programs for young people with harmful sexual behavior as well as for adult offenders. He made his PhD in forensic sexology on a research work on men sentenced to long-term prison punishment for child sex offences. Now he is working as a senior adviser at the University Hospital of Trondheim. He is doing education, supervision and support to health professionals in primary care and in specialized institutions, besides having his own private, therapeutically praxis as in the field.