"They sow the best stories you ever heard in your life about why they're the way they are," said Jeremy Shaw, an Adult Probation and Parole supervisor in the sex offender unit.
"Sex offenders are notorious for deluding themselves, for justifying what they did," said Don Strassberg, a University of Utah psychologist who has studied sex offenders. Offenders often make excuses for their behavior such as "she came on to me" or "I was drinking."
Hearing that a reporter had interviewed a child molester whom he had investigated years ago, a former sex crimes detective wanted to know if he seemed like a nice guy.
The answer was yes.
"They're all nice guys," said Weber County Sheriff's Sgt. J.P. Hansen.
That persona helps them form relationships with their victims. But on the inside, say psychologists and therapists, perpetrators are tormented by their sexual deviance.
"There's a misconception that these offenders enjoy what they're doing," said Blakelock, the Utah State Prison psychologist.
Offenders isolate themselves emotionally and sexually. They lead double lives. They harbor secrets and go to great lengths to get their victims, especially children, to stay silent.
"Kids who are threatened are really good at keeping things quiet," Mitchell said.
Blakelock has treated some 600 sex offenders in his 11 years at the Utah State Prison. Though he says rarely are any two alike, he has observed two primary reasons men commit sex crimes.
Some are deviantly aroused by specific age or gender. For others, life is a mess. They're full of self-loathing. They say they're anxious, unloved and unwanted. "Sexual assaulting helps them feel better about themselves," he said.
Men can perpetrate on children without children being their primary interest. It could stem from a desire to control or it could be availability or not being successful with women, he said.
Says Blakelock, "They rationalize that they're emotionally safe with a child."
"This is something that most people don't know: There are lots of men who commit offense against children who are not pedophiles," Strassberg said. It's not about sex for all offenders. For some it's a matter of power and control.
Burt said he was going through a second divorce when he started hurting his victim. He drank a lot and used methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin.
But she wasn't his first victim. He recalled assaulting a 6-year-old and an 11-year-old when he was 13.
Seldom are perpetrators caught the first time. Nearly every convicted sex offender has what are called "uncharged victims," people they admit to sexually abusing but were never prosecuted for.
That information typically comes out in treatment where therapists believe disclosing all victims, whether charged or not, is the first step to successfully completing the program.
But not all offenders are forthcoming.
Acknowledgment usually doesn't come until offenders enter a treatment program in prison or a halfway house. And then it often surfaces only after they have flunked a polygraph test.
There is one thing, however, that clinicians don't want to know: The identities of the uncharged victims. They're careful to tell their clients not to reveal more than a scant description like gender and age. Telling more, they say, undermines the trust needed to successfully treat sex offenders.
Why? Because if a therapist knows details about a crime, he or she has to report it and that doesn't serve the disclosing component of therapy very well, they say.
Treatment isn't geared toward "curing" offenders. Rather, it's geared toward teaching them to control deviant urges. It teaches them empathy for their victims. Therapists want them to learn to care again.
Successfully treating sex offenders is complex.
"You can't say don't do it anymore and expect they won't do it anymore," said Mark Gaskill, a Salt Lake marriage and family therapist who has counseled sex offenders.
Strassberg said the best research shows it's "very, very difficult to impossible" to change an offender's target of sexual interest. He said it would be like trying to convince a heterosexual person to find members of the same sex attractive.
Sex offenders can learn to control and manage their thoughts and urges through interventions. They can be taught to avoid places or situations that make them vulnerable to their distorted thinking.
"People can change, but to degrees," Blakelock said.
Sex offenders have to buy into treatment for it to work, Strassberg said. Just because an offender participated doesn't mean he's involved or motivated. But those who complete the program are less likely to sexually assault someone in the future."I want them to think about why this happens and how can I help it from happening again," Blakelock said.
- Lehi toddler killed in accident remembered as...
- Preparing to split up, LDS General Primary...
- A river runs dry: Water and the future of...
- Cyclist killed on training run after...
- Photo gallery: Holi festival immerses Utahns...
- Utah taxpayers will pay millions more in wake...
- American Fork cyclist killed during training...
- Boy, 3, killed in Lehi scooter accident
- President Obama to make first trip to... 114
- BYU student claims he was evicted after... 57
- Utah taxpayers will pay millions more... 41
- Sen. Harry Reid's retirement recalls... 40
- Cyclist killed on training run after... 23
- School leaders look for solutions to... 22
- A river runs dry: Water and the future... 15
- Man who crashed truck into house... 12