“Pervert Park” Documentary

Chelsea Gold

“Pervert Park,” a documentary available on Netflix that came out in 2014 is the story of a community of adults found guilty of sexual offenses. Living in a trailer park in Florida, often for the duration of their probation, the individuals portrayed in this film receive therapy and rehabilitation services through Florida Justice Transitions. Together as a community they are able to share their stories with one another, as well as the frustrations of life post-offense. Due to legislation such as residence restrictions and registration and notification statutes many individuals who commit sexual offenses have a difficult time reintegrating back into the community once they are released. They often struggle to find a stable living situation, a job and to maintain relationships as a consequence of these laws (see Jeglic & Calkins, 2016 for a review). While it is easily to vilify those who commit sexual offenses because of the nature of the crimes they commit, we often forget these individuals are human beings as well. In this documentary you hear about the individuals — their stories and their struggles. Many report histories of sexual trauma themselves, which continues to haunt them. While research has shown that a history of sexual abuse is not a risk factor for future abuse, a higher percentage of sex offenders do report being abused as children, as compared to the general population (Jennings, Zgoba, Maschi, and Reingle, 2014) . The film highlights that few people want to acknowledge that those who perpetrated sex crimes may have once been victims themselves, however in pioneering research, Dr. Jill Levenson has developed trauma informed sex offender treatment to deal with some of these very issues which she found were affecting risk and reintegration (2014). However, as stated by one of the residents of the community, “being molested is not the reason they are sex offenders, it is a trigger and a catalyst.” This documentary puts a human face on those who commit sexual violence. It is thought provoking view into the lives of individuals convicted of sex crimes as they work to transition back into the community.

Watch it HERE on PBS

Read NY Times article HERE

Works Cited

Budd, K., Mancini, C., & Lamb, Michael E. (2016). Crime Control Theater: Public
(Mis)Perceptions of the Effectiveness of Sex Offender Residence Restrictions. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 22(4), 362-374.

Jennings, W., Zgoba, K., Maschi, T., & Reingle, J. (2014). An Empirical Assessment of the
Overlap Between Sexual Victimization and Sex Offending. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology,Vol 58, Issue 12, pp. 1466 – 1480.

Levenson, J. (2014). Incorporating trauma-informed care into evidence-based sex offender
treatment. Journal Of Sexual Aggression, Vol. 20(1), pg. 9-22.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

John Vaccaro December 18, 2016 at 2:11 am

Working as a Forensic Intensive Case Manager with individuals coming out of state prison, many of whom are level III sexual offenders, I see firsthand how damaging stigma targeted at sexual offenders can be. My job includes finding homeless offenders supportive housing per their mental illness. Many supportive housing agencies have rudely informed me that their intake policies explicitly bar sexual offenders – regardless of level or nature of crime – from receiving supportive housing placements. In addition, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (www.hud.gov), which provides funding for housing agencies that service thousands of consumers nation wide, prevent Level III sexual offenders from admission to HUD funded beds. Sexual offender stigma is a real and tangible issue that negatively impacts hundreds of individuals locally everyday. Simply hearing their stories and realizing – like Ms. Gold mentioned – that they are human too can quickly change perception. Translating this into policy change, however, is the real challenge.

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