Colorado’s Sex Offender Management Board (SOMB) will no longer use the term “sex offender” in its guiding principles and philosophies, reported The Denver Post.
In a 10-6 vote on Friday, the board approved the proposal to replace the phrase “sex offender” with “adults who commit sexual offenses.” This decision is now in a 20-day public comment period before its final ratification by the board.
The rhetorical change follows an attempt by the SOMB to reform Colorado policies regarding the treatment of sex offenders. Critics argue that maintaining a sex offender registry and forever labeling offenders does nothing to assist their rehabilitation.
Apryl Alexander is an associate professor at the University of Denver who has provided treatment for sex offenders in several different states. Alexander asserted that Colorado’s policies are ineffective.
“We do have to be tough on crime, I believe that. We have to make our communities safe,” Alexander told The Denver Post. “The issue is, are our communities safe? Is anything changing? The issue is that, on sexual violence, not much is changing.”
However, many victim-focused groups are concerned that the change in language will put the focus on the abusers, instead of representing victims. Jessica Dotter, a sexual assault resource prosecutor for the Colorado District Attorney’s Council and SOMB board member, expressed concern about the new label.
“To call it ‘a person who has committed a sexual offense’ is very offensive to victims and others,” Dotter said.
In fact, Dotter argued that victims of sexual abuse “want their offender to be held accountable and to be known as an offender.”
This decision will not affect statutory language, law enforcement terminology, or the process of registering sex offenders, it only changes the policies and guidelines as written by the SOMB.
Despite the Sex Offender Management Board adjusting this language, only the legislature overseeing the board can actually change the name.