From Stanford University to sex offender school: That’s where Brock Turner is now heading after spending three months in jail for three counts of felony sexual assault.
As part of his three-year probation, the former student must take part in a one-year sex offender program aimed at reducing his chances of committing another sexual assault.
Turner will do this in Ohio, where he is living now. Completing a sex offender management program there was part of the deal when Santa Clara County agreed to release him back to his home state.
“There are three people in the room: There’s the provider, there’s the individual offender and there’s the public. So everything we do we keep the public’s safety in mind,” said Bay Area clinical psychologist Robert Land, who specializes in sexual behavior issues in adults, adolescents and children.
He began treating sex offenders after working with victims for many years.
“It came from anger and frustration that men do these things," he said. "I realized you can’t end sexual abuse without addressing the offender as well.”
The parole office in Greene County, Ohio, where Turner is living, did not respond to requests for specifics about the sex offender management program.
However, Land has some insight into how the programs work. Santa Clara County refers sex offenders to five providers, and Land is one of them.
One of the first steps is conducting a lengthy assessment of the individual sex offender to determine treatment. If cognitive behavior therapy is an option, experts then begin individual or group sessions aimed at changing distorted thinking and behavior. Some offenders who lack remorse or display psychopathic tendencies are usually not recommended for outpatient therapy, according to Land.
“Typically the person shows up to treatment full of a lot of shame, saying, 'I’m never going to be sexual with anyone again and I’m never going to do any of this,'" Land said. “The first goal is obviously public safety, and working on underlying emotional issues or other things that may cause them to behave that way again.”
Studies show recidivism rates are lower when sex offenders undergo treatment. Without treatment, about 12-15 percent of sex offenders reoffend; with treatment, 7 to 9 percent reoffend, according to Land.
Other experts, however, do not believe there is enough data at the state and local levels to know if sex offender programs actually work.
“Perpetrators of sexual violence are very charismatic. They can go through the program saying everything they’re supposed to say, doing everything they’re supposed to do and then turn around and reoffend,” said Kathleen Krenek, retired executive director of Next Door Solutions.
Krenek retired last month after working with domestic violence victims, many of whom were sexually assaulted.
“Brock Turner, I believe, will reoffend because there has been no admission on his part,” Krenek said.
Dr. Land says the sexual assault “isn’t a behavior problem that gets cured. In other words, for the rest of his life, he needs to really look at this behavior and look at the milestones and the flags, look at the links in the chain that might be leading toward re-offense.”
Many sex offenders choose to continue therapy even after their mandatory program is up, according to Land. Plus, therapists and probation officers can decide to extend mandatory treatment if the parolee is not progressing.
Land says though Turner’s six-month sentence is viewed as being light, there is another punishment: being listed on the sex offender registry for life.
Land says sex offenders he’s treated have had difficulty finding work and places to live, which takes a toll.
“You can only imagine [Brock Turner] dating, trying to get married and then having children and needing to tell that spouse,” Land says. “Just like the victim, he is never going to forget this.”