65 Fed. Probation 8 (2000-2001)
Polygraph Testing Leads to Better Understanding Adult and Juvenile Sex Offenders

handle is hein.journals/fedpro65 and id is 156 raw text is: 8 FEDERAL PROBATION

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Se Ofnes

Jan Hindman, M.S.1
It's About Childhood: The Hindman Foundation, Baker City, Oregon
James M. Peters, J.D.2
Assistant United States Attorney-Boise, Idaho

health and probation communities have gath-
ered information about the history of sex of-
fenders from self-reports, often via one of
several standardized sexual history inventory
and data gathering forms.3 A collection of stud-
ies summarized in 1995 by forensic psycholo-
gist Anna Salter, however, revealed that
self-reporting often fails to uncover the true
extent of an offender's sexual history. Not sur-
prisingly, fear of legal sanctions and family and
societal reproach leads most sex offenders ei-
ther to deny their crimes altogether or admit
to the minimum they think necessary.4 Rec-
ognizing this, many treatment programs have
begun to use polygraph testing to validate of-
fenders' self-reports.5 This article reviews sev-
eral previously unpublished research studies
conducted by Hindman on the impact of
polygraphy on adult and juvenile sex offend-
ers' self-reports of offenses and their history of
personal victimization. The methodology of
each study varied. The methods include:
1. Self-report with no polygraph, and no
mention of polygraph.
2. Self-report when the subjects knew they
would undergo polygraphy.
3. Comparison of self-report with and with-
out polygraphy.
4. Self-report compared with polygraphy in
the same subject.
We summarize those studies and related
research, and make recommendations for
polygraph use with sex offenders in clinical
settings. The data reported here were gath-
ered from hundreds of offenders over a pe-

riod of more than two decades.6 From them
emerged a phenomenon the authors term the
Magical X. In a significantsegment of the data
base, critical numbers related to the extent of the
offenders' criminal behavior and their personal
histories of victimization reverse themselves when
subject to the scrutiny of a polygraph examina-
tion. In other words, when verified by poly-
graph, the numbers of the offenders' prior
victims rise significantly, while the percentage
of offenders who experienced victimization in
their own lives drops significantly.
A Brief Retrospective
To understand where we are now in this field,
knowing where we have been is important.
Three decades ago, the sexual exploitation of
children was a subject that came to the atten-
tion of most people infrequently, if at all. One
author of an academic dissertation published
in 1975 observed that [vlirtually no litera-
ture exists on the sexual abuse of children.7
Fondling and sexually assaulting children
were against the law then just as they are now,
but these laws were not often enforced. The
few cases reported to law enforcement were
routinely shuttled quietly off to family court,
unless the incident involved serious violence.
Many law enforcement agencies viewed such
cases as little more than time-consuming so-
cial work, and child molesters were more of-
ten the targets of jokes than prosecution.
During the 1970s and 1980s, a paradigm
shift occurred. Spurred on in part by the
emerging women's rights and children's pro-
tection movements, people who had been
sexually abused as children, such as Louise
Armstrong, began publishing books about

their experiences! Both law enforcement and
the media uncovered well-publicized cases of
child pornography and sexual exploitation
rings that brought those issues onto the public's
radar screen.9 In the behavioral research com-
munity, Robin Lloyd published a highly re-
garded book about prostitution among young
boys in the United States,0 while psychiatrist
Judith Herman published one of the first sig-
nificant books on incest, and psychologist
Nicholas Groth wrote a creative and influen-
tial study on the behavior of sex offenders.2
In Congress, the House and Senate Judi-
ciary Committees began in 1977 to investi-
gate the child pornography industry, and
ultimately enacted the first of a series of fed-
eral laws designed to address child sexual ex-
ploitation. 3 Most states followed with similar
laws, 4 and supplemented mandatory report-
ing statutes that had passed in every state dur-
ing the 1960's,5 requiring those who have
professional contact with children to report
to child protection agencies or law enforce-
ment whenever there is reason to believe a
child is being abused or neglected.6
The result of increased public awareness
together with the new laws was that reports
of child sexual abuse and exploitation soared
throughout the 1980s.17 Law enforcement
agencies and prosecutors who once gave such
cases scant attention began to sit up and take
notice. Some created special units to respond
to such reports, and methods of investigation
improved greatly.' At the same time, as more
offenders were convicted of sex crimes, there
was a corresponding growth in the number
of mental health professionals seeking to
evaluate and treat them.'9

Volume 65 Number 3

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