One of Lovefraud’s prime messages is that most sociopaths (or psychopaths) do not live up to their media hype. Most sociopaths are not sadistic, sexually violent serial killers.
However, the hype is founded on truth, and there are some sociopaths who fit the descriptions you see in TV crime shows. These predators are the ones people think of when they hear the term “psychopath,” and they are truly scary. (I’ll call them psychopaths for the rest of this post.)
Sex crimes and sexual offenders get a lot of attention in the United States these days. This is certainly justified—there is no excuse for sexual violence. Some sex offenders are psychopaths, but not all of them. Child molesters, for example, frequently have other mental problems.
Psychopathic sex offenders
The most important thing to understand about sex offenders who are diagnosed as psychopaths is that chances are good that they will recidivate—which means they will commit offenses again after being released from prison or treatment.
One study of sex offenders found that within six years of release from prison, more than 80% of the psychopaths, but only 20% of the nonpsychopaths, had violently recidivated. Many of the offenses were sexual in nature (Quinsey, Rice and Harris, 1995).
Another study of sex offenders released from prison found that the violent recidivism rate was 90% for psychopaths and 50% for nonpsychopaths. This study also found that 70% of the sex offenders who exhibited both psychopathy and deviant sexual arousal committed another sexual offense, compared to 40% of other groups (Rice and Harris, 1997).
When a sexual offender is a psychopath, having him (or her) released from prison is often bad news for the community.
Sexually violent predator laws
Several American states have responded to the threat of sexual violence by passing laws that enable states to keep sex offenders in custody after they’ve done their prison time. The first was Washington State, which passed its law in 1990.
Since then, according to the Washington State Institute for Public Policy, the following states have passed laws to either confine or keep tabs on sexual offenders: Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin.
These laws have caused some controversy. Some lawyers believe the laws violate due process> and constitute double jeopardy—the offenders are being convicted of the same crime twice.
The American Psychiatric Association is against the laws. It states, “Psychiatry must vigorously oppose these statutes in order to preserve the moral authority of the profession and to ensure continuing societal confidence in the medical model of civil commitment.”
The Kansas Sexually Violent Predator Act was upheld by the United States Supreme Court in 2002. The court held that “the United States Constitution does not require a finding that a dangerous sexual offender exhibits total or complete lack of control to justify a civil commitment.”
This is a good thing when it comes to sex offenders who are psychopaths. Remember, psychopaths are not delusional. They know the rules, they just choose to break them.
So here’s the bottom line. When a sex offender is a psychopath, he knows exactly what he is doing, and chances are good that if he is convicted and released, he’ll offend again. Therefore, it’s important for the criminal justice system to identify these predators and take appropriate precautions.