SOUTH COLORADO – A council created by the Colorado state legislature, which develops standards for the treatment and supervision of convicted sex offenders, is changing the language surrounding the term “sex offender.”
The Sex Offender Management Board (SOMB) was established in 1992 and works with approximately 500 treatment providers within the state, who serve approximately 2,000 to 3,000 sex offenders.
SOMB program manager Chris Lobanov-Rostovsky said the board has already looked at person-centered language and made a transition from the term “sex offender” to something like “adult sex offenders. “. He said their standards already include language first in a number of sections. The board asked if this should be extended to all sections and assigned the topic to a subcommittee. “Trying to be sensitive by using person-centered language on both sides. Not just for those who commit sexual offenses, but for those who are the victims,” Lobanov-Rostovsky said.
The subcommittee recommended a new guiding principle outlining the importance of using person-centered language with the sex offender population. Lobanov-Rostovsky said the board is required to create standards based on research and evidence. “The evidence is quite conclusive that using labels for people in a variety of fields, whether in a sexual offense, a learning disability, or other types of scenarios, that labeling someone makes in fact results worse than better… If we use person-centered language, it actually helps facilitate change and it decreases the likelihood, in this case, of someone committing another sexual offense, ”Lobanov said. -Rostovsky.
The guiding principle has been approved by the SOMB, but the replacement of the term “sex offender” has not yet been chosen. It will be discussed during a Board of Directors on Friday, November 19, with the possibility of public testimony.
Lobanov-Rostovsky said that all SOMB meetings are open to the public. Once the language is changed, a public comment period will begin.
The direct influence of the council is on professionals who work in the rehabilitation of sex offenders, such as health care providers, surveillance officers and victim advocates. He has no control over how words are used when crimes are reported, investigated or prosecuted. The SOMB ruling only affects perpetrators who have already gone through the criminal justice system and are now on parole, probation or jail.
“Actually, the board is the sex offender management board. So we’re not talking about changing our own name either, as it’s a legal requirement of who the board is. So that would be up to the legislature to doing these But, I think the criminal justice system will keep naming people by crime, that won’t change. We talk about what happens afterwards and what is in the best interest of rehabilitation to make sure that these offenses don’t And so, I think that’s where we pick it up, is after the person has already been convicted, and they’re already tagged as a sex offender, and they’re already under surveillance as a sex offender, she already registers as a sex offender sex offender, so those types of terms won’t change, “Lobanov-Rostovsky explained.
Lobanov-Rostovsky said there was a bill in Colorado’s last legislative session that sought to make adjustments to the work of the SOMB, and part of which concerned first-person language. He said the bill ultimately did not move forward, but indicated lawmakers would revisit the issue in the next two years or so. “Maybe in 2022 or 2023 there would be a review of some adjustments to the work of the Sex Offender Management Board, which could include this first-person language initiative,” Lobanov-Rostovsky said.
Lobanov-Rostovsky said there are two sides to this issue. “I understand from someone who has been a victim, the nuance of the argument we have, or the discussion we have, probably doesn’t make much of a difference to them. They’ve been hurt, and that’s it. that they care, and they just want the person to be held accountable and punished for it … I am very understanding of people who might think this could go too far, or has gone too far, and I think the council is struggling with this and trying to balance the interests of both parties, ”Lobanov-Rostovsky told News5.
Lobanov-Rostovsky said juvenile standards have already used person-centered language for about a decade.
The SOMB also has a victims’ advocacy committee, according to Lobanov-Rostovsky, who said he also discusses language first. He said that since the word victim is a label of the criminal justice system, the committee felt it was appropriate to continue to use it for the time being. Lobanov-Rostovsky said the committee recognizes that people who have been sexually assaulted may wish to use different specific terms, such as the word survivor.
We are survivors, and changing the way it’s worded doesn’t change what we’ve been through.
Victoria Esquibel describes herself as a survivor. “With sexual assault, especially my story, it was very linked and linked to domestic violence. It is very demeaning to be sexually assaulted by someone you are supposed to be in an intimate relationship with, a relationship with. in love … it’s when someone tells you at the end of their act, it’s not rape because you’re my fiancé, “Esquibel said.
She lived in an abusive relationship for almost two years. “The reason he got 18 months probation is because he has never been convicted of this charge before. Or that I have never come forward before. Well the truth is I have tried and got a call to 911 which was ignored. And he violated the restraining order twice and they rejected it, and now the criminal protection order he violated it a few weeks ago and they threw it down. So every time you play down someone’s horrible actions, it triggers, “Esquibel explained.
Esquibel said she has always been disappointed with the way the legal system deals with cases of domestic violence and sexual assault. “We never really feel like we are getting the justice that is deserved, and reading this, I almost feel again that we are protecting the aggressor,” said Esquibel, whose initial reaction to the SOMB’s language change was anger.
She said rehabilitating sex offenders takes more than a name change. “You can put whatever label you want on it, but that doesn’t change whether they’ve abused someone or sexually assaulted someone… We can’t change the word and make it go away, or improve it, we have to change the element of accountability, ”Esquibel said.
The person-focused language switch to SOMB has left Esquibel with questions she wants answered. “There is a dictionary with definitions of words, and we cannot ignore it completely. When someone is a murderer, do we now change the word?
News5 has contacted the 4th Judicial District for a response to the SOMB language change and will update this article with its response.