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Sexual Exploitation of Female Offenders
By Caterina Spinaris
Published: 07/23/2012

Women jail There was yet another mention in the press recently about the systematic and prolonged sexual exploitation of female inmates by male corrections staff. The description of the inmates’ helplessness and victimization was almost too painful for me to read. A question kept ringing in my ears, a question posed by corrections officials nationwide who are baffled as to why corrections workers would risk going to prison just to get some sexual gratification from offenders. Given the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 (http://nicic.gov/PREA), staff who sexually assault offenders are subject to felony criminal charges punishable by prison sentences of their own and/or fines, as well as discipline by their corrections agency. However, those dire consequences do not seem to be sufficient to deter some corrections employees who contemplate engaging in sex acts with offenders. Why might this be so?

One way to understand this issue may result from understanding what has been called “sexual addiction” or sexual obsessive/compulsive behavior.

As you read this, please keep in mind that I am not suggesting that this condition exists in correctional employees to a greater extent than in the rest of society. However, even if the rate of sex addiction only matches the frequency in society as a whole, the consequences can be disastrous. A potentially perilous situation results when sex addiction is combined with the control that correctional employees have over offenders and with the domestic environment that institutional life presents.

The Society for the Advancement of Sexual Health (http://sash.net/) defines sexual addiction as a persistent and escalating pattern (or patterns) of sexual behaviors engaged in despite increasingly negative consequences to self or others. Sexual addiction is estimated to affect three to six percent of adults in the United States. If that is the case, what might be the number of corrections personnel who are battling sex addiction at your facility and your agency? Selective recruitment and mandatory professional training are designed to eliminate or reform “bad apples,” but all addictions tend to be resilient and to remain carefully hidden until exposed by a dramatic event. Sex addiction is no different.

Sex addicts pursue unhealthy, destructive sexual relationships or behaviors, and they are willing to run the risk of paying just about any price for a temporary sexual “high” of their preference. It is hypothesized that in the case of sex addiction certain types of sexual behavior become mood altering, an antidepressant or tranquilizer of sorts, a means for the addicts to create good feelings about themselves.

Obsessive/compulsive sexual pursuit takes a variety of forms. In a way, the only limit is imposed by the sex addict’s imagination.

Sexual addictive behaviors may start at low levels of risk and within the bounds of “normal” sexual behavior. Somewhere along the way however, the pursuit of sexual gratification, at times in ritualistic ways, starts assuming a life of its own. The obsessive thoughts or compulsive behaviors start dictating the decisions in a person’s life. The focus becomes the gratification of sexual urges. That goal becomes all-consuming, with the addicts organizing their lives around ways to satisfy the demands of their addiction one more time—and again, and again.

Sexual addiction, like other addictions, tends to follow a progressive path, as the addicts may get used to the “jolt” they receive from a certain behavior and pursue riskier behaviors to enjoy desired levels of excitement. The rush received from these high-risk behaviors is obviously short-lived and so the addict has to re-engage compulsively in increasingly destructive behaviors. This means that “close calls” that may frequently happen in a supervised setting like a correctional institution could have the unintended effect of increasing the risk of the next occurrence thereby enhancing the excitement, and strengthening the addiction.

At more severe stages of sex addiction people may indeed feel like they have lost control of their lives, that they are a car with no brakes careening down a mountain under icy conditions.

Some sex addicts may experience an inner struggle, as their conscience clearly tells them that their behavior violates their most cherished values and principles. They may try to escape their sexual obsessing or resist their sexual compulsion until the internal pressure builds to the point where they give in to their urges and engage in their sexual behavior of preference regardless of likely consequences. These individuals experience severe stress in relation to their sexual acting out due to knowing their guilt, and due to experiencing shame for their behavior and fear of getting caught. Other sex addicts do not experience much of a moral struggle, however. Lacking empathy, they view others as objects to be used for their gratification with no regard for the other party’s needs or rights. They may even convince themselves that their sexual targets want, invite or enjoy these sexual behaviors.

Sometimes entwined with the sexual gratification is a complex and unhealthy emotional entanglement, often with the sex addict being in control of the relationship. What characterizes these relationships is the inability to be truly oneself and truly vulnerable and intimate with their partners.

Corrections settings provide an open season type of environment for certain types of sex addicts, like a playground would for a pedophile. Incarcerated offenders are literally captive prey for corrections employees who may be already struggling with obsessive/compulsive sexual behaviors, or who are looking for a mood “fix” through a sexual “fix.” The staff spend the majority of their waking hours where offenders live, so professional boundary erosion over time and the eventual boundary collapse take place all too painfully often. The presence of Corrections Fatigue may also contribute to the dehumanization of offenders in the eyes of staff. Such dehumanization takes such employees one step closer to making excuses for their actions or even justifying their behavior through a sense of entitlement or the rationalization that “she really wanted it.” Being in absolute control, seemingly all-powerful in their own eyes, can fuel the flames of lust for some corrections employees in the throes of sex addiction.

In other cases current life stressors may seem unbearable to staff, who may engage in a seduction/sexual escapade with an offender as a thrilling diversion. However, in my opinion patterns of repeated sexual abuses speak more of predatory sex addiction (ways to get a “fix”) than attempts to temporarily escape circumstantial distress.

Over time, sex-addicted staff may engage in sexual behaviors of increasingly higher aggression, boldness and risk. They might employ threats, blackmail and bribes of alcohol and other drugs. Consequently, the security risk increases accordingly.

As sexual addiction takes hold of the life of the addicts, all—and I mean ALL—is surrendered at the altar of their very cruel sex addiction god. Relationships, family, health, reputation, finances, job and even freedom are risked and at times sacrificed to that destructive god.

What can a person do if they come to see that they are in reality just as much prey as they are predator?

Acknowledging their predicament and owning their urges and behavior is the first step. The second step involves removing themselves from environments where they are likely to engage in or re-enact damaging and illegal sexual fantasies and behaviors, or making arrangements so they cannot employ such behaviors.

They need to stop making more victims immediately and make themselves accountable to someone who can hold them accountable. The third step is seeking help for themselves. Getting help, no matter how much it may cost, is an infinitely better alternative than facing disgrace, prison time or suicide as a way out.

There are many ways and places that provide help for people who admit to their sexual addiction. There are information sites, such as The Society for the Advancement of Sexual Health mentioned above, self-help organizations such as Sex Addicts Anonymous (http://saa-recovery.org/); Sexaholics Anonymous (http://sa.org/), and Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous (http://www.slaafws.org/). There are also self-help groups for partners of sexual addicts. Treatment centers exist across the country (e.g., http://pinegrovetreatment.com ), and many mental health providers specialize in the treatment of sexual obsession and compulsivity.

There are two foundational keys to healing and recovery. The first key is self-honesty. The second key is a sincere and intense desire to eliminate unhealthy sexual behavior and replace it with healthy relationships characterized by authenticity and genuine intimacy.

If you see some of the warning signs in your own behavior with offenders, take action as early as you can. Don’t let the false belief (delusion, really) that “I just have to be careful and I won’t get caught” cloud your judgment. The addiction cycle is working against you. “Being careful” is a diminishing boundary. The greater the risk, the greater the thrill, the greater the likelihood it will happen again and at a riskier level, and so the greater the chance that you will get found out. Realize that, admit it, get help, and STOP.

Permitting an employee who has been involved in events of this type to come forward and ask for a way out of their self-designed trap may seem impossible or unacceptable. Sexual misconduct with offenders is one of the cardinal sins of correctional work. This stacks the entire culture against the employee who may want to come forward in order to take responsibility for his/her actions and seek help. Additionally, the employee may be admitting to a felony that will change his or her life forever. The resistance to self-reporting is understandable. However we have to help increase the likelihood that self-reporting will take place as early as possible along the slippery slope. We need to have mechanisms in place to reduce the damage or prevent more of it from occurring elsewhere. And since those of you in the profession are held accountable by the public for the actions of these few who cross the line, it is to your advantage as well to help set up conditions that facilitate self-reporting—the earlier the better.

I present these ideas not to imply a widespread condition that might, if taken out of context, risk besmirching the reputation of an important team of public safety employees whose skill, motivation and courage are on display every minute of every day of the year. Rather this article was written in order to discuss an issue that is very difficult for all of us and which has caused many much hurt and much damage over the years.

Self-honesty starts with self-reflection, and that is what we want to promote. As sex addicts risked all for the satisfaction of their sexual urges, now they must risk all for their recovery. The alternative is unspeakably tragic and costly for the sex addict and for those affected by their actions.

Gregory Morton contributed to this article by weaving the technical aspects of the subject into an understanding of their implications in the correctional environment.

Corrections.com author, Caterina Spinaris Tudor, is the Executive Director of Desert Waters Correctional Outreach (DWCO, www.desertwaters.com) and a Licensed Professional Counselor in the State of Colorado. She works with correctional employees and their families, addressing the unique demands of the correctional workplace and its toll on staff and families. The mission of DWCO is to increase the occupational, personal, and family well-being of staff of all disciplines within the corrections profession.

Visit the Caterina Tudor page

Other articles by Tudor:


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  3. Fred Davis on 08/01/2012:

    Actually bullies are cowards also but fear is what drives both. They switch roles. They are like Republicans and Democrats. Nothing of value gets done in partisan politics either. There cannot logically be one without the other. They do switch roles though. The fearful are weak before the strong and strong before the weak. My uncle was a guard in prison and his depression and job stress would cause him to blacken my aunt's eye every now and then when he got home. She took that out on my cousin Frankie (her son). Then Frankie would go to bars and pick a fight after he knew he could beat the guy he observed in order to impress his wife who was with him. He only had one leg and it would fall off in the middle of the fight. He saw that as macho. My cousin would beat his wife after a blackout. My cousin Frankie died on my aunt's sofa because her "smother" love "enabled" his drinking and made him hate her more because of her passivity. When her "false love"(fear-passivity) and codependency for her son had no one else to "enable" the weakness in any longer she also keeled over three weeks later while cooking beans because she had no one else to "enable" the wickedness with her pseudo fear based love. Isn't political correctness great? My guard uncle died before all of them. Corrections can be stressful but being an inmate can be tedious also. The third and best way is to do what is right without emotion or looking for outcome based expectations and let the cards fall where they may. Big boned? They are all dead and I have survived simply because I never cared what they thought. Have a blessed night.

  4. Fred Davis on 08/01/2012:

    I cannot understand why the driver let the disruption continue. When I simply did not sit in my seat when I was in school and Mr. Taylor got tired of it he simply let me walk the rest of the way home and I could not get back on the bus until I was corrected. He had to be assured that it would not happen again. I guess the numerous lawsuits cause many to fear doing such things today. We had no assistant at all. These young should be earning their own keep in a few years but dad is probably not around. Respect is a prerequisite to real love and these "young men" obviously did not know what that was. If someone called me a "kid" when I was Their age I would think they thought I was a wuss.

  5. jamestown0509 on 08/01/2012:

    Most of us are familiar with the bus harassment issue in NY. I think it is not fair to call her a "coward" nor is it necessary to call her a "fat lady." Contrary to the statement, "cowards create bullies" that is not true at all, these kids delighted in bullying the bus attendant it certainly was nothing to do with her being fat, old or a woman at all.

  6. Fred Davis on 07/30/2012:

    If one sees you as a perpetrator and you know you are not then there is a positive side to this concept. Most laws are aimed to protect "victims" today and that victim mentality is sad. Most laws protect the feeble. They cannot stand on their own in the physical realm or even mentally. To have a victim mentality and apply this principle to law is degrading to the "victim" also. There was a fat lady on a school bus just recently and she radiated fear and self-loathing as an assistant to the driver. The disobedient bullies were attracted to her "fear" rooted in resentment. Her energy that she radiated was "fear" rooted in resentment. The perpetrators had resentment and fear also but it was the "victim" who got all the money. Had a small woman with confidence been on the bus the "kids would notice her courage and the incident would have never happened. Cowards create bullies. Who won?

  7. brownsfan53 on 07/29/2012:

    I just wondering about the offenders that are sex addicts that prey on staff. You never hear anything on that and staff dont even have to do anything. A female or male inmate can cry wolf at any moment and admid will take there side over there own staff seen it happen to much, one got put on leave and they was on vaction the day the inmate said it happen

  8. jamestown0509 on 07/23/2012:

    I don't think you should compare what happens in society with sexual exploitation of prisoners within a jail or prison. This is NOT commonplace in prisons across the country and you should not indict all officers based on the actions of a very few corrupted officers. Officers who have any sexual contacts with inmates are removed from the facility, either transferred or face a civil service hearing. This article does not address reverse sexual advances by female inmates toward male officers. That happens. Let's not make a mountain out of a mole hole.

  9. Fred Davis on 07/18/2012:

    How addiction works: Dear Doctor Tudor, Please give me your input here and we can discuss facts openly. Symbols are powerful tools. Brainwashing and media imprinting is easy. This is why the public will buy into the fear of sex offender retroactive unconstitutional laws Many worshiped the Nazi flag as a patriotic symbol, but hindsight made it look not so good today. It is viewed differently by most. Hypnosis is simply using trauma and fear to control. In order to be de-programmed, one must be re-programmed. It does not necessarily wake one up from the denial. The addiction remains and food may replace such former addiction that is acceptable to the arbitrary laws of men. Most can be hypnotized easily because they are already programmed into belief systems that have been projected downward mainly by a "familiar" or "trusted" person. A person in a uniform or carrying an American flag around will be viewed as patriotic. The symbol is not reality at all, but because the symbol represents something that used to be good and exercised freedom that same symbol that now promotes socialism/feminism/communism is still viewed the former way. The Nazi flag did not seem bad to the enablers of those supporting that. However Hitler was just a chip off the old block of the collective masses that enabled the passing of laws on Jews that finally allowed them to walk only in the gutter. The name Jew caused the useful idiots to fear them and think they were all homogeneous in nature. Phrases put images in the mind through trauma. The trauma cannot be removed by reprogramming with new images or new law. One must come out of the programming or one merely takes the original programming rooted in resentment (the causal factor of all addictions) and be delivered. The deliverance will cause pain while the truth catches up to the “kid” who under Socialist philosophy is a “kid” from the cradle to the grave. In my mind’s eye a kid is something made into the likeness of a goat, and this was what I was taught in school. A goat leads the innocent into the slaughterhouse, and the useful idiots, the sheep, follow suit. The only difference is that the goat will get another turn at leading the flock. The rest will provide wool. Everyone calls their “adorable” children “kids” who are really “honor” students in the dumb-downed government schools and who are pressure taught through rote memorization. I just see that “goat.” On the news everyday I hear “kid” over and over. But when I was in school the word “kid” used to refer to a child was considered negative and vulgar. I still believe that because a “kid” will eat any food or garbage that is fed to it from the media, agencies, or an authority figure or image. So now the “kids” between thirteen and eighteen are being sex offenders and addicts. So instead of proper teaching and allowing the pain for their actions to take place, the state steps in and helps them avoid the pain out of their pseudo-compassion. Pain wakes one up, and co-dependency on people, places, and things keeps one anesthetized. My ex girlfriend would cry to get sympathy when she did something behind my back and lied. If that did not work she would point her finger at me and say she was going to tell her friends or family how "mean" and evil I was. Her friends viewed me as the "trouble maker" and her as "adorable" John Walsh also could "cry in public" or "act mean" while saying he was coming to get the "scoundrels." He probably is one of the greatest hypnotists I have ever seen. I do not "resent" him because someone ruined him far before the media decided to "use" him to drive their Krell machine. (see Forbidden Planet) My girlfriend in the past and John Walsh in the present will dance for political reasons and wiggle. The weak will "fall" in love with either one. I thought I could "save my girlfriend" from her lying and deceit by committing to her and loving her but I woke up out of my dream state. Certain phrases are deliberately produced to create symbols or images in the mind like a projection screen. This is vain image –in- nation. Check out who were experts at mass hypnosis. Examine Blut and Boden closely or "blood and soil" and it explains how "damaging ideology" can be imprinted into the minds of whole groups by mere "phrases" using arbitrary word usage over a length of time. The Nazis would train horses through fear mongering also. They took a full bottle of vodka and hit the horse over the head and that would break the bottle as the trainer rode him. This traumatized the horse and trauma ensued for the horse because of the bump on the head. The vodka running down the face of the horse seemed like it was the blood of the horse as far as the animal was concerned. This discipline generally broke the horse of disobeying his master. When a person or an animal is born the first person to "imprint" him has great power. Degrading words create images in the mind of the "controlled". This can be accomplished by using negative statements and then switching up and building good esteem through complements. If a kitten is born and a fox gets it first (imprinting) the scent of the fox that is about to eat him is viewed by the birthed kitten as the perfume of his own mother. The kitten sees the fox as his source of supply and nurturing. The fox cannot deliver the love the kitten needs. The government can never deliver on their promises either simply because when one is programmed by a parent from the beginning to look to outcome based goals or things, that is called the "chasing the carrot" as a donkey or progressive will do. The vodka "seemed" like the “blood” of the horse to the horse as it ran down his face”. When people that are programmed to view phrases in a certain way those "images of a "dead child" with a "guy" hiding in the bushes comes to mind and the term sex offender is viewed as a pedophile. The media had one man transfer his "bitterness" and unforgiveness down to the feeling public. He became in his mind's eye "The Super Hero" He is a very damaged man. "Man hating" and "bitter" Nancy Grace through the media hit the public in the head with the image of a "dead molested child" and John Walsh "cried with tears" on television and used the term "sex offender" and the public took the carrot. They took the phrase “sex offender” and that was connected to John Walsh’s child’s head. However they conveniently forgot that the one that kidnapped his “kid” was not proven to be a sex offender. Most sex offenses are familiar, with family and friends. Most incest has a rate of about 7 percent recidivism. John Walsh never bothered to let the public know such things because of his denial. Removing the layer of his denial of bitterness and revenge would cause him to suffer much pain. He would actually have to cry if he realized that what he has been saying is half-truth. That means it is a lie. Now the phrase sex offender through what Blut and Boden would call "the washing of the brain" has just used "trauma" to cause collateral damage. However many are waking up out of the trance of their previous hypnotic state to the facts and will see that John Walsh is actually the horses’ posterior and a hypocrite.

  10. Fred Davis on 07/18/2012:

    This is why all of our laws are a mess and due process no longer exists. Politicians are addicted to power. Once they get a taste that they can do someone in who they view as the enemy, they will take away due process, because emotion and fear outweigh actual statistics and facts. Women in prison and sometimes in positions of power in prison wish to gain authority over a male and move up simply by pushing him down. Contrary to modern belief, men see things differently than females. A man seeks the lust (love) of a female by sight and attraction. The female sees power and it is not generally sex she is looking for. Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. This goes way back. True love is not romantic. It is corrective. A drug addict must learn through education or experiential knowledge as to how to say no to the drug. A sex addict must be educated to learn that the woman offering her "fleshly friendship" is setting him up. It is not love at all. She may not know this. But once one thing is said or maybe done to a person in a position of authority, that person in authority has a weight hanging over his head. He must be honest if he has done something, and possibly lose his job because he is expected to be a corrective authority. A male in the family unit has a position of authority by nature. He relinquishes that authority in that family simply by having a relationship with a niece or an aunt or possibly a daughter. Once a relationship happens that man cannot get back his authority or power to be free in spirit. It takes great courage to lose one's job or position of authority but that is secondary to honesty. Honesty about something one has done can have one put into the fire or even prison, but it frees the spirit of having false accusations or even true ones as weights for the rest of his life. An inmate that is female who willingly has sex with a guard or an authority figure will hold that against him, and that relationship gives her power over the system and she can get her way. Seduction is subtle, but if a male knows that lust is not love, and that corrective love to an inmate requires just saying no to the offering of what is really anger and resentment robed as love (lust). That will be the first lesson learned. Honesty is the best policy, and right education would be teaching that equality is just a vain imagination.

  11. Fred Davis on 07/18/2012:

    There is no way in the world that the concept of egalitarianism works in the prison system. It doesn't work outside the system, simply because it is based on a ideology that men and women are the same. In the correctional system no one is the same under law. A male corrections officer in authority is at a disadvantage even until an accusation is made. At that point he is considered guilty until he can prove himself innocent. The prison system is no different than outside when the concept of egalitarianism and equality prevail. Just as there is no equality among a male guard in reference to a female guard, there is no true equality when it comes to a relationship with a male guard and a female inmate. I know of a relationship between a female guard and an inmate and she was merely transferred out to another institution. If a male finds himself in a position of authority, and he has a relationship, he, simply because he is a male, is already considered guilty of a crime. There is nothing equal here. In corrections, as well as on the outside, there is very little due process of law any longer in order to prove your point as a male. This is why plea bargains are offered on the outside. The state has all the advantages, and the alleged victim has the right not to be cross examined. When a male takes a plea bargain he is relinquishing his rights to have a jury trial, witnesses, and have the alleged victim cross-examined. There is no way an accusation against a male in authority, even in corrections, will be easily dismissed. It will stick in the minds of others and place doubt against that officer. Why do people insist that females should absolutely be placed in male institutions over males? It is disrespectful and violates even a person that lives in a cell or is trying to take a shower privately away from females. It is a shame that this nation has made laws and ordinances to demonize men, and then to continue that demonization, sometimes without even due process.

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