July 26, 2023 | Sex Crimes
Every parent’s worst nightmare is that their child might be targeted and harmed by a sex offender. And in the family-oriented community of Dayton, OH, the safety of the city’s children is paramount.
The problem is that it’s impossible to tell whether someone is a sex offender just by looking at them. Sex offenders can be of any age, race, or creed, and they often know better than anyone how to hide in plain sight.
For this reason, a computerized test that identifies potential sex offenders can be a useful and even life-saving tool. However, making state-sanctioned decisions based on such a test has questionable ethical and legal implications — isn’t it unconstitutional to punish someone for something they haven’t yet done, and may never do?
Dr. Gene G. Abel’s Computerized Test
Dr. Gene G. Abel began developing the Abel Assessment for Sexual Interest, also known as the Abel Assessment for Interest in Paraphilias, in the early 1990s. The purpose of the test is to measure the level of sexual interest in a variety of subjects — especially a person’s tendency toward pedophilia.
There are two separate processes involved in the Abel Assessment. In the first, the subject views a series of slides and is measured based on the amount of time they spend looking at each slide.
If the subject’s viewing time on a particular image is longer than the mean reaction time for that image, the assessment claims it is evidence that the subject has a sexual interest in whatever is shown.
During the second process, the individual views the same series of slides. The test instructs the individuals to rate the images from one (revolting) to seven (sexually exciting).
Pros of Using the Abel Assessment To Identify Potential Sex Offenders
Therapists and law enforcement officers use the Abel Assessment to measure interest in children, interest in sexual violence against adult men, interest in sexual violence against adult women, and sadism.
Sexual violence can be immensely traumatic for anyone who experiences it, and the effects can last for decades after the event.
While law enforcement officers can arrest and help convict the perpetrators of sexual violence, the damage has already been done.
Some of the aftereffects that survivors of sexual violence experience include:
- Sleep disorders
- Eating disorders
- Panic attacks
Assuming that the Abel Assessment is scientifically valid, professionals might be able to use it to prevent some sexual assaults from happening in the first place, thus saving potential victims from experiencing trauma.
Cons of Using the Abel Assessment To Identify Potential Sex Offenders
There are two primary disadvantages of using the Abel Assessment to identify sex offenders. First, it could be unethical and possibly unconstitutional to penalize someone for something they have never actually done. Even if someone has a sexual predilection toward something, they will not necessarily act on that predilection.
The second disadvantage is that of questionable scientific validity. Many professionals have criticized the test as reductive and have accused Abel of exaggerating certain statistics in order to enhance his findings.
Additionally, Abel’s proprietary scoring methodology is not publicly known, so the validity of the ways in which he derives potential sexual deviance is likewise unknown.
Can the Abel Assessment Pinpoint Potential Sex Offenders?
The jury is still out on the scientific validity of Dr. Abel’s findings. As it stands, the state of Ohio does not use the Abel Assessment for purposes of punishment and imprisonment. However, court psychiatrists in Ohio do still use the test to evaluate and treat sex offenders in order to reduce recidivism.
The long-term implications of such testing remain to be seen.
Contact the Dayton Criminal Defense Attorneys at Suhre & Associates, LLC For Help Today
Suhre & Associates, LLC – Dayton
130 West Second Street #17-129
Dayton, OH 45402