Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Monsters among us: The psychology of the formation of public perceptions about sexual offenders
by Wiggington, JoEllen, Ph.D., Pacifica Graduate Institute, 2012, 161; 3596968
Abstract (Summary)

Sexual offenders have become today's lepers. California presently has more than 118,500 registered sexual offenders. Those included on the sex offender registry range from teens having consensual (albeit unlawful) sexual contact, or those prosecuted for public urination to predatory child molesters and serial rapists. The inclusion of relatively innocuous offenders on the registry undermines the very purpose of it: to assist law enforcement and help to protect the community. Legislators respond to media driven public fears about the most sensational cases (the monsters among us) with ever more restrictive and punitive sanctions which do little to improve public safety but prevent offenders from successfully reintegrating into society after their sentences are served. These sorts of policies (i.e. residency restrictions and public registries) not only impact the offenders themselves, but can have devastating affects on their families and can increase the risk of reoffense by undermining the very factors research shows prevent recidivism (family support, employment, treatment options, etc.).

This work attempts to build upon previous research to determine the origins of public perceptions of sexual offenders and to reveal how these perceptions can be changed. It provides evidence that public beliefs about sexual offenders, while generally bound by myths and stereotypes, may alter their views when exposed to the realities of the issue and to real life sexual offenders. Psychologists can play a role in providing treatment and advocating for rational approaches to this marginalized and wounded population.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Peterson, Chris
Commitee: Levine, Anson, Wong, Phil
School: Pacifica Graduate Institute
Department: Clinical Psychology
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-B 75/01(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Clinical psychology
Keywords: Media, Public perceptions, Regristrants, Sex offenses, Sexual abuse, Stereotypes
Publication Number: 3596968
ISBN: 978-1-303-44417-3
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