24-Hour Crisis Hotline: (877)SAFEGBC or (877)723-3422 Mental Health & Substance Abuse Issues

Navigation Link

Review of "Case Studies in Sexual Deviance"

By William T. O'Donohue
Routledge, 2013
Review by Elin Weiss on Jun 24th 2014
Case Studies in Sexual Deviance

Case Studies in Sexual Deviance: Toward Evidence Based Practice is edited by William T. O'Donohue and contains a number of chapters that discusses case studies of sexually deviant behaviors such as voyeurism, telephone scatologia (obscene phone calls that sexually arouses the caller), exhibitionism, possession of child pornography and sexual masochism. Different chapters also focus on, and discuss, different treatment options and models and the strengths and weaknesses of these models.

The first article speaks about "problem sexual behaviors" (PSB) which is described as "non-normative sexual behaviors by youth under the age of 18…" (p. 18). This article, and several of the other, mentions what research has found to be commonalities among those who engage in non-normative sexual behaviors or deviant sexual behaviors (both minors and adults). These personal and social traits can be: past sexual victimization, physical and/or emotional abuse, high levels of poverty, low academic achievement, inconsistent family discipline and parental substance abuse, to name a few.

The use of case studies is always interesting as the reader is allowed to follow specific clients and is informed about how the authors have gone about treating different deviant behaviors. The chapters all discuss treatment options, being very frank about limitations and strengths of the different forms of treatment that they use. Some of the articles also mention more practical difficulties such as having incomplete background information regarding a client, missing documents, or issues of consent.

The different authors are conscious of the fact that there are difficulties with each of the models used and are honest in their discussion of both potential and known weaknesses. The editor also includes an overview of problems of assessment in the first few pages of the book naming it: "General Problems in the Assessment and Treatment of Sexual Deviance". It is always appreciated when authors take the time to critically discuss the topic under study.

The book is very informative and is a great read for anyone in the field as it poses questions about treatment and recidivism. Some of the chapters, I feel, were better than other and I especially enjoyed the chapter on exhibitionism by Jill S. Levenson. This chapter was clear and concise while still being very informative and easy to read. It was simply an excellent article.

Having a Women's Studies background, a few things stood out to me, both in a positive and negative way. First, I do not agree with the use of the word "sex with children" (p. 99) in the article "The Good Lives Model Of Offender Rehabilitation". Sex is something that is consensual between adults and the use of the word sex is often criticized by feminists as it is commonly applied in an inappropriate manner in articles discussing sexual abuse of minors or women. All authors need to make sure that they instead use wording such as sexual abuse of minors/children or rape of minors/children to not fall into the trap of blaming the victim or confusing the act of sexually abusing a person with the act of having sex. The article "Possession Of Child Pornography: A Case Study" mentions this by stating that the use of the term "child pornography" is being replaced with the term "child sex abuse images" (p. 195-196) to ensure that the severity of the offense does not go by unnoticed.

I also reacted to some of the wording describing an adult mans sexual abuse of underage girls as a way for him to soothe himself and seek intimacy and relatedness. For example the authors write that: "What primary goods was the offender attempting to obtain in committing the offense? In the case of John, it would appear that the most important goods (there might also be others) were relatedness and community" (p. 82) and that: "John's description of his use of pornography and prostitutes suggested that he used these activities as a means of coping during times he felt stressed" (p. 84) and that: "His sexual offending behavior arguably represented a misguided way to obtain his goods of pleasure, inner peace, and relatedness" (p.89).

The article did not clearly specify if this was the offender's perspective or the author's perspective and whether or not the authors believed in these statements as another article stated that the literature on rapists has shown that some men justify aggression and punish women for previous mistreatment in their lives and that sexual abuse is related to power and control and not to relatedness or intimacy.

Overall this is a book that I would highly recommend. It is interesting, fairly easy to read, critical of assessment models while honestly describing the issues and problems of treatment of sexual deviant behaviors while also incorporating good ethical questions concerning treatment. I would have wished for some reading on group therapy and the role of the family in treatment but realizes that not all aspects of treatment and treatment models can be covered in one book.


© 2014 Elin Weiss


Elin Weiss has a Bachelor's Degree in Psychology and a Master's Degree in Women's Studies from University College Dublin, Ireland.