Research Challenges when Studying
(How you study an elusive creature makes all the difference,
in terms of your ability to derive reliable and valid truths and insights, or whether you are simply playing into the hands of the world's most sophisticated of criminal minds)
The subject of studying sexual predators raises many questions, as the subject raises so many concerns, questions, and emotions. The following Twitter thread allows a glimpse into just how many questions can stem from highlighting some of the findings of 11+ yrs spend intensively studying predators (approx 4000 of them over that duration of time) behind bars.
When an attempt is made to either interview or study the motivations of sex offenders, the inherent challenge is to figure out how to "blend in" in such a way that they begin to "drop their guard" and act naturally in terms of who they are and what motivates them.
As the sexual predator is unlike any other group or population of criminals in terms of degrees of deviance, depravity, and psychopathy (profoundly adept at managing the impressions others have of him, callous disregard for the wellbeing of others, lack of empathy, lack of true remorse, ability to adeptly manipulate others, no conscience, etc.), he will simply never allow himself to honestly be interviewed, observed, or studied, as that would simply reveal just how darkened and twisted his heart, motives, and mind have become. The only thing the predator will allow an interviewer to know about him is whatever he deems to be in his best interest in the long run... toward getting out of prison at the earliest possible date, or enabling him to continue to have access to key "feeding grounds." Sadly, the interviewer then plays right into the predator's hands and purposes, toward advancing an agenda and a carefully crafted narrative.
Given the nature of a predator, it is a tall order to get close enough to him to truly understand him, since predators will not allow themselves to be easily studied up close. And, the conditions have to be just right in order be able to sufficiently grasp the unique nuances and ways of a cunning wild predator, enough to be able to truly understand the animal (how they behave, their deadly nature, how they act, how they select their prey, how they trap their selected targets, how they elude detection, how they manage to hide in plain sight, and how they actually morphed into an unrelenting hunter).
The reality is that, if a predator senses even for a moment that he is being"observed," he will automatically go into "presentation management" mode, only providing the kind of information and details that will make the researcher believe he/she is obtaining true and "inside" information, when the opposite is actually true. The information presented by the predator has been slanted to fit the need or desire of the researcher.... all toward the end of making him appear relatively benign, harmless, and finally domesticated.
The reality is that a face-to-face approach or interview with the most cunning of all predators... the Child Sexual Predator... will simply never produce genuinely reliable outcomes and unique findings, since the anecdotal information disclosed about their personal childhood background, any of their "confessions," and their supposed admissions have been provided by self-reports from the most profoundly deceptive of all criminals. As such, the validity or "face value" of the information derived from any structured interview with a sexual predator will at best be slanted by the predator, as the predator is looking to have the researcher believe that the information disclosed was accurate. Additionally, since researchers who manage to obtain interviews with predators are typically looking to uncover or "discover" new or previously unknown information, the predator is able to feed them carefully crafted information and details that will be believed by the researcher, that will inevitably enhance the predator's own personal position.
He is adept at turning on a dime, to change course as he reads where the interview is going, the intended purpose of the interview, and how he will benefit once the information leaves the room. Regardless of who it is asking him the questions, the predator will always endeavor to be one step ahead of the "researcher," providing the kinds of answers that will make the interviewer believe he/she has been able to get unique, unscripted, reliable, and accurate information out of the predator, when, in reality, the wolf has simply skillfully "played" the interviewer to his advantage.
The predator has a well-developed sixth sense about him, and he is completely invested in ensuring that no one actually learns of his ways, lest his opportunities to hunt again be hindered upon release.
Just as the famous researcher Jane Goodall discovered, the best way to get "behind the scenes" information with a population of predators that has essentially mastered the art of hiding from unguarded observation and avoided close scrutiny is for the observer to "embed" him/herself into the world of those they intend to study. With enough time, patience, and professional skill, the subjects being observed will ideally forget that they are being observed, drop their guard, and actually come to believe that the observer is someone that can be trusted to be let into their private world.
That kind of research necessitates an embedded approach, for it is the only way to obtain extensive unscripted information and observation, from which the subjects' tendencies, propensities, inclinations, and motivations can be noticed, and by which themes can be derived.
Until now, the best research in the field has been conducted by those who:
(1) have limited access to ample numbers of sex offenders,
(2) have been granted only a few hours of face-to-face access to interview a relatively few select incarcerated sex offenders,
(3) have worked clinically with sexual perpetrators while they have been on Parole or Probation,
(4) have worked as a sex offender treatment provider with sex offenders who are mandated to attend sex offender treatment (or be sent back to prison),
(5) have provided sex offender treatment and evaluation within prison, yet have only spent the mandatory amount of time required of them interacting with the offenders.
(6) stuck to scripted questions or curriculum, without affording sufficient time to pursue apparent attempts by the offender:
(a) to avoid certain topics,
(b) to paint the events of his crimes with “broad brush” generalities rather than getting into detail,
(c) to portray himself in as positive a light as possible,
(d) to minimize his responsibility, his wicked intensions, his descent into dark perversion, the extent to which he planned each offense, the planning that went into each act of perpetration, his enjoyment of offending, his willful disregard of the victims pain and distress, his extensive use of porn, the extent to which went to ensure he secured each victim’s silence, the extent to which he enjoyed the game of cat-and-mouse with the adults who were entrusted with caring for the children,
(7) believe the myths propagated by pedophiles that child sexual predators:
(a) suffer from a disorder,
(b) were themselves abused as children,
(c) suffer from low self-esteem,
(d) have been sexually attracted to children since they themselves were young, and
(e) are compulsively driven to select victims which are the same age as the abuser was when he was violated as a child.
Inherent problems exist with any of the above approaches, as the "researcher" or "expert" will never be able to derive anything other than relatively average information from sexual offenders by these methods.
For one to truly gain the most meaningful and in-depth insight into the ways, the hearts, the minds, and motives of the full range of sexual perpetrators, such research must include:
(1) "participants" representing the entire spectrum of sexual offenders possible,
(2) a large enough "sample" from which meaningful, verifiable, and "unscripted" information can be obtained (such a sample would require having extended and repeated interaction with 1000s of sex offenders to ensure both reliability and objectivity),
(3) a reliance upon both types of research methods...
(a) quantitative analysis
(verifiable facts, figures, numbers, and details), and
(b) qualitative analysis
("field study" type of research, where information is derived from interviews, input from other sources, and observations which allows the free-flow of information to be revealed over time, and from which themes and insight into can be derived regarding the inmate's internal disposition, his true motivations, his mindset, and his reasoning).
(4) the ability of the researcher to become "embedded" (to be able to become a part of the environment or present one's self as being so seemingly harmless and "user-friendly" so as to be of no meaningful use or presenting no measurable consequence to the sexual offender), so as to actually derive information when the sex offender is not guarded or trying to "spin" his information (which is a genuine challenge, given that those who work within prisons recognize that it is sexual predators who are among the most notoriously polished, adept, perceptive, calculating, deceptive, and deceitful of all types of white collar psychopaths).
(5) the ability to "outfox the fox," as this particular breed of predator is the most notoriously sly and adept at impression management, "working the crowd," "pulling the wool over someone's eyes," and appearing sincere when he is not, presenting as contrite when he is anything but contrite, appearing genuine when he is lying through his teeth, and able to look a person right in the eye and formulate the expected response "on the fly" and in the moment, in order to turn the interview or "research" to his advantage (thus distorting both the validity and reliability of the outcomes of the study).
(6) the ability to have other inmates in the sex offender’s treatment group freely confront the sex offender when he is not being forthcoming, disingenuous, deceptive, or trying to "spin" half-truths.
Only when the sex offender knows there will be consequences to pay for maintaining the façade of program compliance and the guise of genuine honesty and cooperation will he start to come clean about:
(a) how many victims the offender actually has (but never confessed to),
(b) what actually happened to the victim in terms of the ways the perpetrator harmed the victim,
(c) the real motives behind why the perpetrator did what he did,
(d) the amount of dark and deviant porn the offender was consuming on a daily basis prior to electing to offend,
(e) the extent he is still trying to manipulate others to ensure he is able to still have access to pictures (usually of his victims) of children even while he is in prison (in order to be able to act out sexually to those photos, and/or use them as a means of still remaining involved in the lives of his victims [in order to still try to have influence and control over them, either directly or indirectly]), for when the time comes for them or others to testify favorably on his behalf at his pre-release hearing in from of the Parole Board.
From our perspective, the limitations, weaknesses, and “blind spots” underlying the majority of research of the most dangerous of pedophiles and predators has produced “outcomes”, “findings”, and “results” with limited reliability or validity, thus limiting the usefulness of the findings in terms of genuine insight and understanding into the minds, motives, and internal disposition of those who are the most deceptive and dangerous of all Predators. Even worse, the finds of flawed and biased research has led to very dangerous Predators being permitted to continue to hunt and harm kids. There are real-world consequences of not getting this right.
Some will still attempt to argue that those best equipped to do truly scientific research on the subject of sexual predators are those who work full-time within the realm of academia or those who work clinically with "non-offending" sexually disordered clients, as they are the one's who are professionally objective and uniquely trained to do "real" research, to produce quantifiable data & statistical analysis, which then can produce findings suitable for "peer review" from others within the academic realm, who carefully study these same populations. It is from those findings, these "experts" are able to help influence professional licensure requirements, continuing education, clinical perspectives, and even legislation.
But, what if some of those researchers have a bias or agenda, especially when it comes to the issue of sexual deviance. If they find information that fails to comport to what they believe, will they report that information. What if their own biases on certain aspects of human sexuality blinds them to certain realities staring them in the fact during their research. What happens if they do not want to believe that certain things, such as pornography or sexually dark activities (such as those featured in the popular series, Fifty Shades of Gray), contribute to or increases the likelihood of someone becoming a sexual predator? Might their research be jaded or biased in such a way that does not produce reliable findings?
Sadly, in much of the field of Psychology and Sociology, there appears to be just such a dangerous bias. As such, any research which raises concerns on such topics is summarily discounted or dismissed, being labeled as either biased or as not to be taken seriously, as it did not emanate from academic institutions, or from those who have published their findings in academic journals.
To help shed light on how findings from researching sexual predators can be considered authoritative (permitting them to be used by particular groups with a certain bent or agenda, such as Sex Bot producers and peddlers, pornographers, college Sex Week promoters, those trying to normalize sexual deviance through such "entertainment as Fifty Shades of Gray, and pedophiles trying to lower the age of consent and decriminalize "Adult-Child Love & Attraction"), despite being derived from research methods which are dangerously flawed, the following series of "Tweets" from Church Protect's Founder,
Jon K. Uhler, MS, LPC, are provided:
Are we suggesting that only those who work within prisons are capable of producing reliable and useful research findings? Not at all, as there is always a need for reliable research based upon quantitative statistics, which allows us to determine the frequency and rates of reoccurrence of certain things. However, when it comes to apprehending truths regarding the minds & motivation of sexual predators, the factors that contributed to them being the way they are, the likelihood of rehabilitation, and the extent to which genuine change has taken place (especially as it has to do with sophisticated child predators), it is imperative that greater weight be given to qualitative research and analysis, which can significantly increase the likelihood of genuinely accurate information that can be relied upon, and deemed most useful in providing reliable insight, understanding, and predictability.
So, what are the implications if the researcher's methodology was flawed? Within the field of forensic research, a primary concern is the development of assessment instruments or tools that are either flawed or not reliable for use with the intended population of criminals. The dangers of this can lie in certain groups of criminal being viewed as less dangerous than they actually are, and therefore being required to take less treatment programming than would actually be fitting. This can be seen most readily with how older sexual predators are assessed, adjudicated, and treated based upon the outcomes of these assessments, stemming from "peer reviewed academic research." Once released, these same predators can continue their predatorial activities, without people "connecting the dots" as to the nature of grooming and deviant activities taking place in plain sight.
The following series of Tweets highlight a very real issue, stemming from flawed academic research conducted by those who have not spent sufficient time "behind the scenes", looking into the degree of deviance that resides within older sexual offenders. As such, the prevailing understanding is that older men do not pose as much of a risk of being sexual predators as younger men.
It can't be emphasized enough that unless there is a proper understanding of the nature and minds of the most sophisticated and dangerous sexual predators, combined with a proper understanding of the origin of psychopathy, those who do research will end up creating assessment tools which have a lot of quantitative data and longitudinal statistical data that apparently supports the reliability and validity of their research instruments; however, because they lack a sufficient grasp of the important truths only gained through intensive qualitative methods, the results can prove both problematic and quick troubling, especially when it comes to matters related to the safety of women and children.
The following posted Tweets will shed light on the need to ensure the right research methods are applied to the right populations in the right way, and that such research is based upon accurate premises:
The implications of flawed sex offender risk assessment tools being constructed by unreliable research is significant, as real-world decisions are being made with respect to degrees of risk posed to the community by someone who has either been charged with a sexual offense, a has spent time in prison as a convicted sex offender, and is being considered for release back into the community via Parole.
Such decisions are made based upon scores from assessment tools (which are based upon research), and from the recommendations from prison psychology staff, who have been trained in the use of the Risk Assessments, and are typically untrained to make independent decisions that run contrary to the supposedly well-researched Risk Assessment Tool. As such, unless the instrument is based upon proper research methodology and insight into the nature of the most dangerous of child predators, the outcomes can be serious.
So, what would a reliable and valid method be toward gaining a unique understanding into the minds, motives, and hearts of sex offenders, especially as it relates to pedophiles? It would require someone to:
1. Have unfettered access to a nearly unlimited pool of sex offenders representing the entire continuum of sex offenses, in both Genral Population and within a Sex Offender Residential Therapeutic Community Treatment setting.
2. Have ready availability to all levels of Sex Offenders (Low Risk, High Risk, and Sexually Violent Predators) for both structured interviews and informal discussions, for brief interactions and extended periods of time.
3. Have the ability to maintain interaction with Sex Offenders, over the course of years, even if/when they get placed in "Administrative Segregation" or "Lock-up", and to be able to spend extended periods of time with them within those settings.
4. Have the ability to spend sufficient "uninterrupted" time providing treatment with the entire range of Sex Offenders, even those who must be housed in "Long-term Lock-up."
5. Have the ability to gain the sex offender’s trust to such an extent, and over such a long period of time, that the offender actually begins to “drop his guard.”
6. Have the ability to access information behind the scenes, in terms of their criminal histories.
7. Have access to those who interact with the offender outside of treatment groups, where additional unsolicited information can be gained about the offender.
8. Have the ability to allow the sex offender to talk himself into a corner, in terms of answering difficult questions pertaining to intentionality, forethought, degrees of deviance, victim objectification, callous disregard for the pain and suffering of others, the degree of calculation that went into the grooming process, and planning of the offense.
9. Have the offender come to believe that the researcher is neither of any benefit to him, nor of any real potential consequence, so that he speaks freely in an unscripted fashion (it takes someone who is highly skilled, is able to spend an extensive amount of time interacting in the fox's environment, who is able to discern when the fox is dropping his guard, to be able to discern when the information being provided is unscripted and "raw" in order to sufficiently "outfox the fox").