Differing jurisdictions have different descriptions and definitions in the law relative to sex offenders. However, generally there are several basic questions before the court.
1. Is the defendant a danger to the community as the result of a sexual perversion or sexual disorder?
2. What is the likelihood the defendant will commit further sexual offenses?
3. Is the defendant amenable to treatment and, if so, what kind of treatment is recommended? Do appropriate treatment resources exist within the local area?
4. Is the defendant a threat of physical harm to the victim(s) in the present case?
Different evaluators perform the examination differently. Circumstances can dictate varying approaches, but generally the exam consists of a review of records, an interview with the defendant, psychological testing, and use of standardized actuarial assessment instruments. Only occasionally does the evaluator have the opportunity to interview the victim(s).
1. Record review is necessary. The evaluator needs to have as much information about the offense as possible which does not come from the defendant. Typically the evaluator does not have opportunity to interview the victim(s). Police reports and reports of other interviews with the victim are very important here. Collateral interviews with people who know the victim, the defendant or the situation can be useful.
2. Interview is necessary for several reasons. The evaluator needs to become acquainted with the behavioral response patterns of the defendant. There needs to be a full understanding of the defendant’s history relative to childhood/adolescence, abuse suffered, substance use/abuse, legal problems, and, most importantly, a complete sexual history. The evaluator also needs to assess the defendant’s current psychological functioning. Finally, the defendant needs to tell his/her story of the alleged sexual abuse of the child/adolescent. Significant information can be learned from the defendant’s statement of the offense(s) including attitude about the offense, remorse, culpability, potential for rehabilitation, and future dangerousness both to others and to the present victim(s). The actuarial instruments rely in part upon defendant attitude.
3. Psychological testing can be useful. Presently, there are no psychological tests which directly assess sexual abuse problems or proclivities. However, testing can be useful in several ways. Formal testing can help establish whether or not the defendant has a serious mental disorder and/or a serious substance abuse disorder and/or serious intellectual limitations. Such information is important relative to decisions about recidivism and rehabilitation. Testing can be useful to help assess the defendant’s honesty during the examination.
4. There are several well considered instruments used to predict future sexual misconduct. None of these are 100% valid or reliable, but they do offer additional useful information that should not be overlooked. These include the SVR-20, Static 99, RRASOR, SORAG, and others. These are instruments which the evaluator uses as a rating system for prediction of future sexual dangerousness once all the other data has been gathered.
5. There are many paper/pencil self-report instruments which the defendant can complete on his/her own. Many of these are more typically used in the treatment process, but also they can be useful in a forensic setting.
6. The examiner must know the law upon which the examination is predicated. Knowing the law and the legal expectations of an examination will allow the examiner to produce a report which is instructive and useful to the court.