The Sex Offender Management Board of the State of Colorado has voted to rebrand the term “sex offender,” replacing it with the euphemistic phrase, “adults who commit sexual offenses.”
The board’s decision passed following a 10-6 vote on Nov. 19 will not change the language used in criminal justice proceedings, the Colorado Sex Offender registry, or the name of the Colorado Sex Offender Management Board itself. It does, however, apply to the “Standards and Guidelines for the Assessment, Evaluation, Treatment and Behavioral Monitoring of Adult Sex Offenders.” Some on the board argued this new phrasing will aid rehabilitation efforts.
The SOMB reportedly considered a number of other terms to replace the phrase “sex offender,” including people who are “in treatment for engaging in sexually abusive behaviors” and those “who have committed sexual offenses.” Following this vote, the proposed change will be open for public comment for 20 days, and then the board will vote again on whether to alter the decision and make it final.
The rationale for the language shift is reducing stigma against those convicted of sex crimes, with the Denver Post claiming “many attorneys, people on the sex offender registry and even some victims have criticized Colorado’s management of this population as overly harsh and counterproductive to the goal of rehabilitation.”
This argument is also being used in Colorado to criticize the sex crimes registry that requires those convicted of sexual crimes to publicly report their residence and reside away from places children congregate such as schools and playgrounds. Earlier this year in relation to this public discussion, the Denver Post sympathetically portrayed the story of a man convicted of sexually assaulting a minor being removed from volunteer positions after he served his time because people found him on the registry.
The SOMB’s language decision has been met with backlash, with Sexual Assault Resource Prosecutor Jessica Dotter telling KOAA that such a change “minimizes victim experiences and trauma,” continuing to note that “If the self-image of sex offenders is prioritized over the devastating impact on victims’ lives, we are concerned that would negatively impact public trust.”
Michael J. Allen, a Colorado district attorney, also spoke out against the change, telling the outlet that “The Sex Offender Management Board should spend its valuable time on finding effective ways to treat a challenging group of convicted criminals, rather than coming up with new ways to label them,” going on to note that “there is no reputable study in existence that shows that such a change in terminology will have any measurable effect on the successful treatment of sex offenders and recidivism.”
Lawmakers in the state also previously shot down a bill from Democratic Rep. Kerry Tipper that would have erased the phrase “sexually violent predator” from state law.
This official decision to change the language that is used to denote sex offenders comes just days after a national controversy erupted in response to assistant professor Allyn Walker of Old Dominion University publicly advocating for pedophiles to instead be referred to as “minor attracted persons” in an attempt to destigmatize pedophilia. Walker has since been put on administrative leave by Old Dominion University following widespread backlash.
These rhetorical changes mimic those that were present in the Centers for Disease Control’s woke language guide. That also exchanged terms like inmate and prisoner for “people who are incarcerated or detained.” Criminal was changed to “people in pre-trial or with charge” or “people who were formerly incarcerated.”