Sexual offender notification laws serve the purpose of having a considerably realistic awareness on sexual offenders in a bid to promote a comprehensive appreciation of the impacts of sexual abuse in the society (Fortney et al 2007). In contemporary society sexual offender notification laws is just one of the policies of punishment aimed at forestalling the rampant children sexual abuse which has emerged to be one of the most controversial issues in modern society. Sexual offenders have always been under intense spotlight of the media sector and the public arena at large.
In line with scientific research and public opinion, sex offenders have been the subject of institution of stringent laws that aim at protecting the community from such criminal menace. Sex offender notification laws represent the most ethical approach encompassing the provision of the public, lawmakers and practitioners with accurate information about sexual offenders. Since public opinion defines public policy issues, their level of knowledge on the issue of sexual crimes is a crucial determinant of the direction of public policy (Sample et al 2006).
Research has established that a majority of individuals who commit such acts are indeed known to the victim (Fortney et al 2007). Moreover, it6 has also been established that sexual offenders have a history of childhood abuse. Sexual maltreatment at an early stage of development creates a cycle of abuse that is likely to be repeated when the abused child progresses to adulthood (Schwartz 1995). Additionally it has also been established through research that nearly 30 percent of sexual offenders have a history of sexual abuse when they were children.
63 percent of incarcerated sex offenders have also been found to have been abused as children (Fortney et al 2007). This means that even though the society admonishes and sets laws to contain sexual offenders through public notification laws, the core of the problem lies in the society itself. Recidivism rates attest that between 1-2% of adult male sexual offenders, may not repeat the criminal act after the first attempt (Fortney et al 2007). Recidivism rates depend on a variety of other factors such as the sexual deviance degree, offender age, victim preferences and criminal history.
The application of sexual notification laws notwithstanding such factors lead to the development of certain ethical implications and complications. According to the philosophy behind the sexual offender notification laws, the offenders are deemed to be incorrigible and must therefore be alienated by the society through access to their personal information by the public. Sex offenders are often viewed by the society as some of the most dangerous and persistent criminals despite their low recidivism rates.
It is the strong public perception that drives such punitive measures. On the other hand, the community have recognized the possibility of a psychological defect among sexual offenders hence the institution of Sex Offender Treatment and Evaluation Project (SOTEP). However, in a study comparing offenders under the treatment program and those not under the program, it was established that there exists no notable difference with respect to recidivism rates (Fortney et al 2007). Other ethical issues arise with respect to the treatment of sexual offenders.
While therapists have the sole responsibility of guiding such programs in line with their ethical codes of conduct which unequivocally states that in the carrying out of such obligations or responsibilities, community safety concerns should take precedence over any other consideration and that such considerations should ultimately be in the best interest of not only the sexual abuser but also their families. When this guiding principle is analyzed, it is able to discern that community safety concerns trump some inalienable personal rights and freedoms as concerns medical practice (Glaser 2005).
Such rights include the right of the offender’s autonomy as well as respect for their opinions. Moreover, treatment programs bestows authority on the therapist to employ external motivation (personal coercion or use of external community agencies) to ensure that an offender completes the treatment program. Such a trample of individual rights not only ensures that treatment programs remain ineffective but that such recidivism rates maintain an upward climb (Glaser 2005). Sex offending is a relatively secretly kept character where offenders are always even reluctant to reveal such information.
With public perceptions and punishment policy, sex offender awareness has increased. The ethical implications are however a counter reaction of the same sought for awareness. While such information remains easily accessible, sexual offenders have been transformed into some unknown, mysterious and frightening members of the community. To offset the difficulties in communal interactions that may exist due to fear of the unknown but dangerous community members, stereotypic attitudes are built to manage interactions. Exposure through provision of sexual offender information does nothing to alleviate prejudice (Fortney et al 2007).