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Former sex offenders find sexual urges can be curbed through treatment

A man who receives treatment at a sex addiction clinic in Yokohama grabs a bracelet made of embroidery floss that his sister gave him, to calm himself down when he feels the urge to commit a crime. (Mainichi)

Four months have passed since the revised Penal Code for sex crimes went into effect in July of this year. To eradicate horrific sex crimes, it is crucial to work on rehabilitating sex offenders. Two former offenders who are receiving treatment for their sex addiction at a private clinic spoke to the Mainichi Shimbun about how they tried to quit multiple times but had failed to do so, until they changed their lifestyles and the way they viewed their victims.

The two men are receiving outpatient treatment at Ohishi Clinic in Yokohama, which specializes in various addictions, including sex addiction. One of the patients is a 40-year-old man who was handed a 13-year prison sentence for rape resulting in injury (renamed "forcible intercourse leading to injury" under the amended Penal Code) and was in prison until the summer of 2016.

He recalls his foray into sex crimes began when he was in the sixth grade of elementary school, when he stole underwear belonging to a girl who lived nearby that was being dried on a clothes line outdoors.

The man's urges escalated, and he eventually assaulted women he didn't know. He was arrested for attempted rape (renamed "attempted forcible intercourse and other acts" under the revised Penal Code) at age 21, and was sentenced to prison. He was let out on parole after a year and a half, but he again committed sex crimes and was arrested. "I couldn't control myself," he says.

After he was released from prison, he began receiving treatment from Dr. Masayuki Ohishi at Ohishi Clinic at the prompting of his volunteer probation officer. He undergoes cognitive behavioral therapy, through which he eliminates things that could trigger him to commit sex crimes. Some measures he employs include not going out at night and not focusing his eyes on women when out in crowded areas. He also carries a bracelet made with embroidery floss that his older sister gave him and holds onto it when he feels a sexual urge.

The other patient who spoke to the Mainichi is aged 42, and reveals that he was also a sixth-grade elementary school student when he committed his first sex offense. Under a lot of stress from bullying, he took a first-grade boy into the school's healthcare room when the nurse was away and touched the young boy's genitals.

He continued to be bullied in junior high school. Unable to stop himself from targeting young boys at parks and touching their bodies, he was arrested before he graduated from junior high school, and was sent to a juvenile reformatory. After he was released, he repeated similar acts for which he was arrested three times, and spent time in prison.

Following his release from prison, he dedicated himself to caring for his elderly mother. He began outpatient treatment at the clinic around three years ago, where, once a week, he participates in a group therapy session in which he talks about his own experiences and listens to those of others in an attempt to look at himself objectively.

"I still have moments where I want to touch young boys," he confesses. "But my mother died two years ago, and that's when I decided, 'I'm not going to do it anymore.' I went through employment training at the clinic, and I find the cleaning job I got through that fulfilling, so my mind doesn't go to sex crimes."

Akiyoshi Saito, whose book, "Otoko ga chikan ni naru riyu" (The reason men become molesters) was published in August, serves as the manager of the mental health welfare department at Omori Enomoto Clinic in Tokyo's Ota Ward, which treats sex addicts. Based on his 12-year experience offering treatment, he says, "People have this image that those who molest others are losers with a strong libido but no partners or wives, but that's not necessarily the case. Some repeat sexual offenders are men who look as though they would have no involvement in crime, and married men."

Saito says that some patients have the twisted notion that women who are molested like it. "We want to understand the thought processes of repeat sex offenders, and apply the information to our treatment methods so that we can reduce the number of victims as much as possible."

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