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UA professor says sex offenders have similar qualities

By Topper D. Johnson
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
September 28, 1999

While common traits exist among all sex offenders, such deviant behavior is difficult to define by nature and impossible to cure, a UA professor in clinical psychiatry said yesterday.

University of Arizona professor Barry Morenz yesterday warned around 30 people about the danger of sex offenders, pointing out the problems surrounding prevention of sex crimes.

"We're not very good at predicting the future," Morenz said.

While identifying sex offenders early is difficult, most are men who have severe emotional problems because of several contributing factors, he said.

There are five types of sex offenders - incest offenders, non-related child molesters, rapists, sadists and non-contact offenders who are separated into three categories - watchers, flashers, and fetishists.

While researchers can't say exactly what causes sex offenses, educated guesses point to a genetic predisposition, previous victimization of a sex crime or having a personality that fuses sex and violence, Morenz said.

The characteristics of a sex offender are interchangeable. They have distorted attitudes, low self-esteem, difficulties feeling close to someone and an impulsive personality.

"The younger male is at a greater risk to commit a sex crime than the older male," Morenz said.

Treatment for sex offenders can vary but there is no cure.

Morenz said a person's desire to commit a sex crime is similar to a person's appetite. They have a need for sex, like people have a need for food to survive, he said.

Long-term management, relapse prevention and medication are ways to treat the disorder of a sex offender, Morenz said. But for psychopathic sex offenders, treatment could make them worse, he added.

When sex offenders are released from prison, assessor's evaluate their likelihood of further crimes.

The reports are somewhat accurate if a sex offender speaks openly, but are usually inconclusive because of a subject's reluctance.

Morenz's presentation was based on reported offenses, but nobody can evaluate unreported crimes, he said.

Irene Anderson, director of the UA's Oasis Center For Sexual Assault and Relationship Violence, said the university ranked very high among higher-education institutions for sex-crime prevention.

"The U of A was among the first service providers for sex crime prevention," Anderson said. "We hold a high standard to victims."

About 80 percent of college men who have committed a rape walk away without being reported, and about 95 percent of acquaintance rape is a result of one of the two people involved being intoxicated, Anderson said.

The Oasis center provides services for victims and offenders at no cost to educate them about the consequences of rape in a confidential situation.

"If men don't understand the consequences of rape, they'll continue to justify their behavior," Anderson said.

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