(Left to right) Sergeant Dana Reynolds, Ottawa Police Service - High Risk Offender Management Unit, Dr. Paul Fedoroff, Director, Sexual Behaviours Clinic, Forensic Treatment Unit, The Royal, Lisa Murphy, M.C.A., Sexual Behaviours Clinic Coordinator, Forensic Treatment Unit, The Royal, Detective Mark Horton, Investigator, Ottawa Police Service - High Risk Offender Management Unit
Fear envelops us when we hear that there is a sex offender in the city. But is this information alone actually helpful? Evidence presented at our Conversations at The Royal lecture on the collaborative work being done between the Ottawa Police Services (High-Risk Offender Unit) and The Royal’s Sexual Behaviours Clinic indicates that it may not be. However, The Royal’s Sexual Behaviours Clinic takes another approach, offering treatment to people with problematic sexual interests.
The lecture featured Dr. Paul Federoff, Director of the Sexual Behaviours Clinic at The Royal. He shared an encouraging statistic: The Royal’s Sexual Behaviours Clinic has treated over 4,100 people. Out of everyone that has been treated in the clinic, not one has gone on to offend or re-offend. The Royal shares this focus on prevention with the Ottawa Police Service, aiming to reduce sex crimes to zero. “We’re looking at how we can prevent sexual offenders by working together,” said Federoff.
Traditionally, when sex offenders are released after servicing their sentences, they are let into the community without any supervision or supports. “We want to ensure they’re supported and won’t re-offend,” said Staff Sergeant Dana Reynolds, High Risk Offender Management Unit, Ottawa Police Service. In order to ensure these individuals have the right supports in the community to prevent them from re-offending, the High Risk Offender Management Unit petitions the court to have pre-conditions imposed on released individuals to help manage them in the community.
Detective Mark Horton, Investigator, High Risk Offender Management Unit, Ottawa Police Service discussed the common legal designations utilized for high risk sexual offenders and ways in which his unit is ensuring public safety. One such method includes a Community Safety Plan— a thorough monitoring process used to oversee and manage High Risk Offenders.
Lisa Murphy, Sexual Behaviours Clinic Coordinator at The Royal, spoke next about sex offender registries. At the beginning of this post, we asked the question: Is knowing who and where sex offenders are in your country actually helpful? A study showed that publicly available sex offenders registries actually had no effect on reducing sex offenders. In the United States, you can go online and see a list of sex offenders and their personal information such as name, a photo and their address. This results in additional scrutiny for sex offenders versus other types of offenders that aren't listed. In addition most registries don't distinguish between risk levels, making them less helpful than people think. They’ve also led to vigilantism, a false sense of security, and draws unwanted attention to the victim. As well, the majority of sex crimes involve the offender knowing the victim well, noted Murphy. In Canada, we have private sex offender registries and have had positive feedback and outcomes from this.
One way to reduce sex crimes is to treat individuals with concerning sexual interests prior to offending. The Royal’s Sexual Behaviours Clinic offers treatment to anyone who needs it and encourages people to come in as early as possible, before a crime is committed. “We are seeing people come in and say they either went to their doctor and got a doctor referral or they contacted the clinic and said, ‘I have these interests, I don’t want to have these interests, I don’t want to act on them, I need help,’” said Murphy.
The clinic has seen an increase of people admitting themselves prior to offending.
“That’s obviously ideal for us in that we are able to see these individuals that have these interests before they go ahead and act on them and create a victim.”
The clinic , which currently has no waiting list, also runs a therapy group for sex offenders who were sexually abused themselves.