I’m a sex abuse survivor and I’m here to talk about my experience interviewing sex offenders. One of my therapy programs includes group therapy with fellow women survivors of sexual abuse, and from time to time, we get to question and interview sex offenders.

Some of you might be questioning why we would want to face perpetrators of sexual violence, and that’s a valid question. I’ve been part of this therapy group since 2015 and women in this group always have a choice to face the perpetrators. Some women opt out and that is perfectly within their right. I’m here to share with you what my experience is like facing perpetrators as a sexual abuse victim and tell you why I face them.

Why do I face perpetrators?

I face perpetrators to let them know, completely unfiltered, how their behavior affects victims. Of course these perpetrators aren’t my perpetrators, but their actions are whisked together as one.

I face them to gain my power and voice back. I face them so I can better understand why they offend.

The meeting is set up for us to have a dialogue: for us to ask perpetrators questions and for the perpetrators to ask us questions. We all learn a lot.

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What was it like interviewing sex offenders for the first time?

The questioning and interviewing takes place in a large room with tables formatted into a large rectangle. Survivors sit on one side and perpetrators on the other with about 15 feet between us.

We enter the room first to situate ourselves and then the facilitators (therapists) bring in the perpetrators…about eight of them. As the perpetrators walk in to find their seats, I felt my heart pounding. I looked at the perpetrators letting them know I see them and I was not there to be polite or make them comfortable.

Every perpetrator that walked through that door looked like an uncomfortable dog with a tail between its legs. None of them looked at us, but rather looked at the floor as they entered, then their seats. You could feel the tension in the room.

I found it quite fascinating that they couldn’t even look at us. The power dynamic had shifted.

Different types of perpetrators

These offenders are court ordered to be in treatment for rehabilitation. Part of their treatment is individual and group therapy, along with understanding their risk factors and facing sex abuse survivors.

Some of these offenders have physical victims. From molesting their own children/family members to soliciting minors online to raping their friends. Some of the offenders exploit victims by creating, viewing, or sharing child pornography.

Do I think perpetrators can be rehabilitated?

The short answer to a very long, highly debated and studied query is yes. In my limited scope over the years, I’ve certainly encountered perpetrators who I knew would offend again. Those perpetrators tend to severely lack empathy along with some other major deficiencies. However, in my experience, I’ve seen a few perpetrators who continue therapy and rehab – even when their rehab program has ended – because they know their healing and relapse-prevention is life-long work.

So, what’s it really feel like interviewing and facing these offenders?

For me, it’s fucking empowering.

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What questions do you have about sex offenders? Leave your questions or comments below.