Halloween Sex Offender Panic Is Here Again—But It’s Still Not Making Us Safer

Halloween Sex Offender Panic Is Here Again—But It’s Still Not Making Us Safer

Each October, the media runs story after story warning parents about the dangers that sex offenders pose to children on Halloween. All of the panic stoked by these claims has prompted lawmakers across the country to begin passing laws that restrict the activities of convicted sex offenders on Halloween or that require police officers to check up on sex offenders during trick-or-treat hours. For example, in Tennessee, registered sex offenders must comply with a 6pm – 6am curfew each day from October 21 until November 1, during which time they must stay home but act like they aren’t there. Among other things, they must keep their porch lights off, avoid using decorations, and only answer the door for law enforcement. During this time, police go around the state and perform thousands of random checks to ensure compliance. This massive effort is known officially as “Operation Blackout.”

But is it justified? Is there really such a heightened risk of sex crimes on Halloween that we need to go to such great lengths? Let's take a look at the data.

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Halloween Sex Offender Panic Is Here Again—But It’s Not Making Us Any Safer

Halloween Sex Offender Panic Is Here Again—But It’s Not Making Us Any Safer

Each October, the media runs story after story warning parents about the dangers that sex offenders pose to children on Halloween. All of the panic stoked by these claims has prompted lawmakers across the country to begin passing laws that restrict the activities of convicted sex offenders on Halloween or that require police officers to check up on sex offenders during trick-or-treat hours. For example, in Tennessee, registered sex offenders must comply with a 6pm – 6am curfew each day from October 21 until November 1, during which time they must stay home but act like they aren’t there. Among other things, they must keep their porch lights off, avoid using decorations, and only answer the door for law enforcement. During this time, police go around the state and perform thousands of random checks to ensure compliance. This massive effort is known officially as “Operation Blackout.”

But is it justified? Is there really such a heightened risk of sex crimes on Halloween that we need to go to such great lengths? Let's take a look at the data.

Read More

Featured Book Series: Galileo’s Middle Finger

Featured Book Series: Galileo’s Middle Finger

I recently had the pleasure of reading Dr. Alice Dreger’s latest book, Galileo’s Middle Finger. This book had actually been on my reading list for over a year, but it took me a while to get around to it because I essentially work two full-time jobs between my academic position and all of the blogging/writing I do.

Oh, and I try to have a personal life on top of that—try being the operative word there.

Given that I have precious little time for pleasure reading these days, I select the books I want to read very carefully. Dreger’s book was a natural choice for me, though, because it had come highly recommended from several colleagues and also because I developed a bit of a Twitter crush on her after she live-tweeted her high school son’s sex education class last year.

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Video: How Do We Protect Children From Sexual Victimization?

Video: How Do We Protect Children From Sexual Victimization?

In this TEDx talk, forensic psychologist Luke Broomhall explores the importance of thinking differently about how to prevent child sexual abuse. In the United States and many other countries around the world, treatment for pedophilia is generally only available to those who admit to having downloaded child exploitation material or having abused a child. But what about those pedophiles who haven't acted on their sexual urges and want help controlling them? If we created services that could reach pedophiles who are at risk of offending before they act, could we then prevent numerous children from being sexually victimized? Check out the video below to learn more.

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How Are Female Sex Offenders Different From Male Sex Offenders?

How Are Female Sex Offenders Different From Male Sex Offenders?

People have a tendency to think of child sex offending as being largely, if not exclusively, attributable to male perpetrators. This likely stems, at least in part, from the way such offenders are typically portrayed in the popular media. For instance, can you think of any episodes of To Catch a Predator or similar programs that showed even one female predator? It’s not just that female sex offending of this nature is rarely portrayed, though; it also appears to be taken less seriously than male sex offending in many cases. For example, it is not uncommon for people to refer to adolescent boys as “lucky” when an adult female (especially an attractive one) is caught having sex with them. In contrast, I have yet to hear of any cases in which an adolescent female is referred to as “lucky” when an older man is caught having sex with her.

Our tendency to view child sex offenses as a male-only problem has an unfortunate consequence in that it may allow a large number of female offenders to avoid being detected. Perhaps this is why women represent just 1% of sex offenders in the United States prison system [1]. Thus, it may not be that women rarely commit such crimes—instead, it may be that women are not being caught or they are being punished less harshly. So just how common is it for women to commit sex crimes against children and adolescents? And in what ways do female and male sex offenders differ? A recent study published in the Journal of Child Sexual Abuse sought to address these questions with the goal of providing a more complete picture of the people who commit sexual offenses against minors [2].

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Dear President Putin: Homosexuality And Pedophilia Are Not The Same Thing

Dear President Putin: Homosexuality And Pedophilia Are Not The Same Thing

In a recent media interview, Russian President Vladimir Putin tried to reassure the world that gay and lesbian visitors should not be afraid of attending this year's Olympics in Sochi. However, he asks that they please "leave the children in peace." He then went on to say that "we have no ban on nontraditional sexual relations. We have a ban on propaganda of homosexuality and pedophilia, I want to underline that, on propaganda among minors." Putin's statements appear to conflate homosexuality with pedophila and child molestation, something that anti-gay folks have been doing for years (e.g., remember all of those people who tried to say that the Catholic Church's child sex scandals were a "homosexual problem" that could be solved simply by getting rid of gay priests?). In light of Putin's comments, I thought it would be worth taking a look at what the research actually says when it comes to homosexuality, pedophilia, and child molestation.

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Sex Question Friday: Are My Stereotypes About Polyamory True?

Every Friday on the blog, I answer people’s questions about sex, love, and relationships. This week’s question comes from a reader who wanted to know more about the topic of polyamory. In case you aren’t familiar with this term, polyamory refers to a non-monogamous approach to relationships in which someone may have intimate involvement with several persons simultaneously. The question at hand in this post is whether the practice of polyamory is linked to sexual abuse and low self-esteem.
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