When is a sex offender not a sex offender? When the sex offender takes umbrage at the term sex offender.
The Colorado Sex Offender Management Board (SOMB) voted on Friday to do away with the term. The board voted 10-6 to change the term to “adults who commit sexual offenses” in its Standards and Guidelines for the Assessment, Evaluation, Treatment and Behavioral Monitoring of Adult Sex Offenders.
“The language change applies only to the SOMB Standards; the term ‘sex offender’ will continue to be used in Colorado statute and the criminal justice system, including courts, law enforcement and the Colorado Sex Offender Registry. The name of the SOMB itself will also remain unchanged,” the board wrote, according to The Post Millennial.
“The board is responsible for treating, managing and monitoring adult sex offenders in the state. Friday’s meeting went over a list of five new possible terms, focusing on ‘person-first language,’ before the board voted to use the pick,” the site said.
“I think the biggest thing is research really shows us that assigning a label has the potential for negative effects in rehabilitation,” Kimberly Kline, a licensed counselor and chair of the board, said according to the Denver Post.
“If we’re talking about how someone speaks about themself … that can increase risk,” she added. “Ultimately it is victim-centered if we’re reducing risk.”
According to CBS 4 Denver, rape survivor Kimberly Corbin spoke at the public in opposition of the language change, saying, “It’s very, very damaging for those who people who are labeled when it has to do with gender, race, sexuality, ability, but those are not their choices, the biggest thing for me is these are choices that sex offenders make.”
“I’m involved today after hearing that it would be improper or offensive in some manner for me to refer to the man who raped me, as a sex offender,” she said.
But public defender Kathy Heffron told the board that the new language works. “I think this strikes a balance that honors the impact to victims and recognizes the current and ongoing impacts of sexual assault but also avoids the labelling term that has negative impacts on those who commit sex offenses,” she said.
And Derek Logue said he should not have to carry the label for life, saying, “referring to me by a label for something I did half my life ago is inappropriate and downright offensive.”
One board member, Carl Blake, said the new language found support in committees. “It highlights the active reason why someone is in treatment, and it doesn’t assume the behavior is over,” he said, according to the Post Millennial.
“Victims advocates, therapists, law enforcement that I’ve spoken with, along with all of the DAs I represent, are not in favor of replacing this term,” SOMB member Jessica Dotter said.
The new language is not final, FOX 31 reported. A 20-day comment phase is now underway and the board meets again in December.