The Colorado board plans to no longer recognize the term “sex offender” in its own guidelines and policies.
The board, which monitors standards for the treatment of people already convicted of sex offenses, voted 10-6 on Friday on a controversial proposal to replace “sex offender” with “adult sex offenders.” Members of the board of directors were not aware of this issue and voted even narrower – 8-7 votes earlier this year – to first consider the issue of changing the language.
The board’s decision on Friday is now subject to a 20-day public comment period before final ratification by the board, the spokesperson said.
The argument for a new language is based on the increasingly popular theory of human first terminology. Designating someone as a “sex offender,” as advocates of this change say, can hinder rehabilitation efforts by creating a persistent sense of the person being a danger to public safety.
That’s the point, say the opponents of this change.
Jessica Dotter, a sexual assault attorney for the Colorado District Attorney’s Council and member of the SOMB, said ahead of Tuesday’s vote that the new terminology – “adult sex offenders” – “cannot convey or represent any victim orientation. … “
Dotter said that victims of sexual assault “want their perpetrator to be held accountable and known as the perpetrator.”
Several law enforcement officials, including Colorado Springs District Attorney Michael Allen, supported her in this.
The change in language does not affect the sex offender registry, either by name or by policy. What happened on Friday is more than symbolic.
But SOMB Chair Kimberly Kline told reporters this week that such a change could affect actual behavior.
“If we’re talking about how someone talks about themselves … it can increase the risk,” she said. “Ultimately, if we reduce the risk, it’s victim-driven.”
Ironically, the Sex Offender Management Board (SOMB) will not change its name, even if it removes the word “sex offender” as an obsolete language. This title is determined by the statute of the state and therefore up to the legislature.