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Archive for Monday, November 14, 2011

Man who was twice convicted on child sex charges now advocate for treatment

In 1972, Wayne Bowers, an assistant in the Kansas University sports information department, was convicted of "enticing a minor." Today, he works with other sex offenders to seek treatment. In contrast to the situation at Penn State, KU moved swiftly to remove Bowers.

In 1972, Wayne Bowers, an assistant in the Kansas University sports information department, was convicted of "enticing a minor." Today, he works with other sex offenders to seek treatment. In contrast to the situation at Penn State, KU moved swiftly to remove Bowers.

November 14, 2011

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Wayne Bowers, who was twice convicted on child sex charges, says treatment has enabled him to get on with his life. He’s headed two national groups, Sex Offenders Restored through Treatment and Sex Abuse Treatment Alliance. In that role, he has spoken at many conferences and frequently been interviewed by national news media.

Wayne Bowers, who was twice convicted on child sex charges, says treatment has enabled him to get on with his life. He’s headed two national groups, Sex Offenders Restored through Treatment and Sex Abuse Treatment Alliance. In that role, he has spoken at many conferences and frequently been interviewed by national news media.

Amid last week’s media frenzy over Penn State’s child sex abuse scandal, Wayne Bowers was reminded of a not-too-dissimilar incident that happened at Kansas University decades earlier.

In 1972, Bowers, who at the time was a 26-year-old assistant sports information director for the KU athletic department, was convicted of enticing a minor.

“It’s certainly been on my mind the past week,” Bowers said in a telephone interview on Monday.

At 66, Bowers is retired, lives in Oklahoma and takes care of his aging mother. He has spent much of the past 20 years advocating for the treatment of sex offenders. He’s headed two national groups, Sex Offenders Restored through Treatment and Sex Abuse Treatment Alliance. In that role, he has spoken at many conferences and frequently been interviewed by national news media.

“I’m proud of where I am today. But I’m very sorry about what happened there,” Bowers said of his conviction in Lawrence.

In 1969, with KU’s football team fresh off an Orange Bowl appearance, Bowers had a big break when he landed the newly created position of assistant sports information director at KU. A few years later he was about to get another big opportunity, the chance to provide color commentary on KU’s radio network for an upcoming game.

Before coming to Lawrence, Bowers had sought therapy for his inappropriate behavior with young boys. In Lawrence, he said, he would cruise an area seeking out young boys. A couple of times he had invited boys up to KU’s football stadium press box, where he said inappropriate activity took place.

Right before the weekend that Bowers was supposed to go on air, he was arrested on his way back from the press box. KU quickly released him from his job, and Bowers eventually pleaded guilty to a charge of enticing a minor. He served 20 months in prison. As Bowers remembers it, the crime didn’t receive much — if any — media attention and was not discussed openly by KU.

“There was much less scrutiny, much less sentencing; everything was different,” he said of the time period.

Eleven years later, Bowers was caught again. This time the arrest made headlines; he owned a newspaper in Hesston and was active in coaching youth sports. He also knew the boys that he abused. He was convicted of indecent liberties with a child and sentenced to five years.

Before that sentencing, Bowers traveled to Baltimore to be treated by Fred Berlin, the founder of the Johns Hopkins Sexual Disorders Clinic. While the therapy he received during his prison term for the Lawrence crime had done little to help, at Johns Hopkins it was like a “second education,” he said. He better understood pedophilia and the trauma it caused victims.

“It was a new life for me, facing up to really who I am and how do I deal with that,” he said.

He was in therapy for 13 years and has spent the years following his treatment helping other sex offenders receive help. Bowers said he doesn’t have an answer when people ask him how he knows he won’t offend again.

“The thing I can answer, I know the boundaries I must keep. I know the triggers I have to stay away from, I know the places I can be at and not be at,” he said. “As long as I do all those things, follow all those things, I guarantee you I am safe today.”

The incident at Penn State, Bowers said, should be used as a teaching tool, one that gets athletic departments, schools and other youth organizations talking. Jerry Sandusky, the former assistant Penn State football coach accused of sexually abusing eight victims, showed that sex offenders are more than “dirty old men in a trench coat,” Bowers said. They are coaches, teachers, religious leaders and law enforcement officers. And, most of all, they are not strangers.

“There were clues in my life that, had people been aware of it, they might have talked about it,” Bowers said.

Comments

someone8 2 years, 9 months ago

He should still be sitting in jail for what he did. Those poor kids have to live with it for life! They did nothing wrong but they are ultimately the ones who suffer. No sympathy here for an abuser of children!

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Fred Whitehead Jr. 2 years, 9 months ago

I thought that once you are a sex offender, you are not redeemable. Conventional wisdom I see here says that sex offenders cannot be cured. So what is the deal here? This guy was convicted, and now is advocate for the resurrection of sex offenders?

There is a national alliance for these folks? Well, it sounds to me that those who proclaim that these people are non-curable have some explaining to do. This topic is so incendary (see last week's events at Penn State where people were destroyed without anyone being convicted of any offense yet) there seem to be those who make some hasty conclusions about this problem.

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Bob Forer 2 years, 9 months ago

I think you are right when you state that these people are non-curable, ie., once a pedophile, always a pedophile. I am not an expert on this, but i believe the conventional wisdom of the experts is that it is impossible to purge pedophiles of their urge to engage children in sexual activity. However, I think, and again, I could be wrong, that at least some of the professional community believes that with long term and extensive therapy, a small minority of pedophiles can be taught methods of suppressing and controlling their deviant desires so they are able to control themselves from re-offending. In this regard, perhaps it is similar to an alcoholic. An alcoholic in recovery is still an alcoholic, and will remain one for the rest of their life. They simply have learned sufficient coping mechanisms to refrain from drinking.

The extensive treatment program for pedophiles is relatively new--perhaps within the last twenty-five years or so, and I don't know how much data is out there indicating the success rate, that is, the percentage of pedophiles in the programs who have avoided recidivism.

The fact that these programs exist, for example, the one at Larned State Hospital indicates that a least a portion of professional community feels there may be some long term benefit.
But like alcoholics, most of whom are unsuccessful in remaining alcohol free, I think that the success rate for a recovering pedophile is very low.

in my humble opinion, for what it is worth, I think that like other personality disorders, there are too many nuances of the disorder to establish a hard and fast rule as to whether a pedophile will reoffend even with extensive treatment. Maybe the best way of explaining this is that it may depend on how strongly ingrained the pedophalia is in their psyche, which would mean offenders with the strongest pathologies are impossible to control, while those at the other end of the spectrum have a chance when afforded extensive and long term treatment.

Just a thought.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 9 months ago

In my reading of this article, I don't see where Bowers claims to be "cured." Rather, he's learned to understand the nature of his "condition," (for lack of a better term) and how to prevent himself from acting on his pedophiliac impulses.

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oldbaldguy 2 years, 9 months ago

I have represented sex offenders. Without expensive intervention in lieu of or long term imprisonment, they will reoffend

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Bob Forer 2 years, 9 months ago

What if the offender is ordered to take depo provera (chemical castration). Theoretically, he could be closely monitored to ensure he remains on the drug, but not be required to undergo therapy. Does this drug, without concurrent therapy, work?

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bearded_gnome 2 years, 9 months ago

as far as I know it is just plain prudent to require therapy for more than one focus if chemical castration is done by order: first of course to deal with the pedophilia; but also to learn to be different and be comfortable with it in living as a castrated man. though these men have committed crimes, they will have major body image issues to deal with, and probably did even before the castration.

indeed, it is often the case that these men were sexually abused or suffered severe neglect as children/teens.

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Fred Whitehead Jr. 2 years, 9 months ago

Another thing that bothers me is the all encompassing term itself. News media people love to use the term "sex offender" in their nightly newscasts, it inflames so many passions. But a lot of different types of offenders are lumped into this category, from rapists and child molesters to cases like the kid who had sex with his under age girlfriend and now that they are married with a family, he carries that stigma around and his young childern are shunned because their father is a.......SEX OFFENDER!! This is the sort of collateral damage that this hysterical designation can create.

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Irenaku 2 years, 9 months ago

This is certainly a difficult subject. When someone joins AA or NA or OA, they are typically applauded for facing their addiction/disease and living in recovery. Sex offenders are not so graciously applauded. Part of me thinks this guy should be locked up forever...there is a thin line between his actions and Sandusky's. The other part of me sees him as a young boy who was likely molested or abused and therefore a victim, like the Second Mile boys. Considering this, he does need treatment, and it has apparently been helpful to him. Very difficult subject, indeed.

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Bob Forer 2 years, 9 months ago

You bring up a good point, Irenaku. As part of the recovery process for the traumatized victim, he or she is encouraged to seek "restitution" from the offender. This may in the form of monetary compensation from the offender to help pay the costs of therapy, loss of time and pay from work, etc, and can also be in the form of psychological restitution, which means when the therapist and victim feel the victim is ready, he or she confront the offender face to face. There are no firmly established blue prints as to how this confrontation proceeds,. other than the fact that the defendant must agree to be present, no one is allowed to violate the law, e.g., the victim can't punch out the offender, and the victim must be afforded full and complete control over the confrontation as the victim and their therapist may reasonably dictate.

As a former prosecutor, I was once asked by the victim and her therapist to attend such a session. What I observed is something I had never before witnesses nor imagined, and will probably never see again. Suffice to say, the confrontation proved to be cathartic for the victim, as it was designed, and she felt very good about herself when it was all over. After the session was over and the defendant gone, she thanked me for my support so profusely that I had tears in my eyes. What I observed during and after the session was so profoundly moving and emotional, that my revealing any more details would violate the victim's privacy and could possibly hamper her continuing recovery.

Here's the kicker. Many therapists feel that the restitution afforded by confrontation can be a very positive therapeutic tool in the process of victim recovery. The problem is that an incarcerated offender cannot be forced to attend a confrontation. The offender who is on probation and in a treament program, however, can be required by his therapist to attend such sessions, and if he refuses, his probation or parole can be revoked. The conventional wisdom is that these types of confrontation can be helpful for the victim in their recovery, and also be helpful to the offender as it gives him insight into the profound emotional and psychological damage he has caused his victim(s).

So at least in this aspect, treatment as opposed to prison may benefit both society in general and the victim individually.

You are absolutely right. This is a very difficult subject with no clear cut or clearly indicated answers.

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MrMister 2 years, 9 months ago

Did I read this story wrong, or was the timeline as follows?

1) Mr. Bowers sought treatment for his interest in young boys. 2) He comes to town and starts abusing boys 3) convicted, serves time, more treatment 4) gets a job somewhere else and re-offends 5) conviction, more time served, more treatment

Sounds to me like the trearment model isn't even working for the advocate. Or maybe I just read it wrong.

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Amy Heeter 2 years, 9 months ago

Indeed. Once they cross the line I don't think they should me trusted.

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Armored_One 2 years, 9 months ago

Sexual "triggers" exist in every single human being on this planet. We all have certain things that proverbially "rev the motor", and for pedophiles, that trigger has something to do with childhood.

Just as we learn to not just reach out and grab someone's breast or rear end, a pedophile must learn that same level of control. The problem is sexual appetite, and we are, if nothing else, a very sexual creature. We are all controlled by the crotch, for a less than elegant way to put it. But most adults are capable of finding a suitable partner to feed, and sate, said appetite. Unfortunately for pedophiles, and for that matter any -phile, the ability to find that outlet is much more difficult, leading to a lack of restraint, eventually.

There is a running theory within psychology that such a lack of an outlet is the driving cause behind sexual sadists, rapist and other such people. The cause for such triggers is still very much a mystery, but it is slowly becoming easier and easier to determine those triggers and help avoid those that are truly remoseful in avoiding them in the future.

I am in no way, shape or form advocating child molestation. A willing partner much actually be consciously aware of everything that can and most likely will be involved, including the ramifications, and sadly, neither the molester nor the molested truly grasp it. It removes the ability for consent, which makes it a crime.

Yes, a pedophile needs to be removed from society for a long length of time, not just to protect the populace at large, but to also protect the pedophile from society as well. Sexual triggers isn't a Chinese buffet where you get to pick what goes on your plate. Most are formed before the ability to speak, and quite a few very likely form in the genetic code that actually forms us.

It's much like the age-old argument that if a homosexual can choose to not "be gay" then a heterosexual can choose to not "be straight".

The problem is not only finding a therapy that truly works but in also finding a method that actually makes the person want to participate in said therapy. Without the desire for it to succeed, most therapy will never work.

Until that discovery comes around, all we can do is our best. Learn the warning signs, which are apparent with just a mild bit of research and a passing amount of attention paid to those around you. Intervene if you can, either with law enforcement or with friends and family, depending on what has happened to make you notice the person. It's not all that difficult, but as with the therapy, you have to want to do it.

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