Wednesday, March 24, 2010


Okay, so those of us who are Forensic Psychologists are a weird bunch. We don't deny this. We find the morbid to be fascinating and we want to work with offenders because their brains, let's face it, are a lot more interesting than the general population of "normal" people. We take classes like Criminal Profiling and Correctional Psychology and do presentations on Wound Pattern Analysis and Eyewitness Testimony and generally enjoy a good conversation about the characteristics of organized and disorganized serial murderers. However, with that being said, I still wasn't prepared for what I stumbled across today while teaching.

I teach Criminal Psychology at a community college and today we were discussing sexual assault. I decided that a good learning tool, as well as an eye opener to the statistics of sex offenders would be to pay a visit to the Virginia Sex Offender Registry. Now, I've searched my zip code and I know what kind of people live near me, so I had the class calling out zip codes and addresses and so forth so they could see who their neighbors are. I randomly clicked on one guy and pulled up the file and HOLY SHIT I know this person, like actually really know this person. I even said shit out loud, which I think earned me bonus points with the class. Turns out, I am in my Master's program with this guy, and not just that, but I sit next to him in my Addictions class and talk to him weekly. Once I get past my shock of staring at his face, I realize that he is not only a sex offender, but also a violent sex offender. That does not mean that he murdered someone or even inflicted bodily injury to anyone but I also know that it means his crime was most likely rape. Sure enough, as I scroll down, his charge was attempted rape and he was convicted. WHOA.

Now, I am not a judgmental person by any means, you can't be to want to work with offenders and in corrections, but I would have never have pinned this guy as a sex offender. I realized that this is exactly what I have been trying to convey to my students. Profiling is less than accurate and anyone can be an offender, even a classmate who is smart enough to be accepted to a Master's program, despite what all of the criminal theories tell us. Needless to say, my students definitely learned something today, as well as myself. Addictions class should be interesting tomorrow.

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