Student Services Overview

DATE: Thursday, October 25, 2012
TIME: 10:00 a.m
PLACE: Lecture Hall, Lambert Road campus
CANDIDATE: JoEllen Wiggington
DISSERTATION TITLE: "Monsters Among Us: The Psychology Of the Formation of Public Perceptions About Sexual Offenders "
CHAIR: Dr. Christine Peterson
READER: Dr. Anson Levine

Wiggington, J. (2012). Monsters Among Us: The Psychology Of the Formation of Public Perceptions About Sexual Offenders (Doctoral dissertation, Pacifica Graduate Institute, 2012)


Sexual offenders have become today’s lepers. California presently has more than 118,500 registered sexual offenders. Those included on the sex offender registry range from teens having consensual (albeit unlawful) sexual contact, or those prosecuted for public urination to predatory child molesters and serial rapists. The inclusion of relatively innocuous offenders on the registry undermines the very purpose of it: to assist law enforcement and help to protect the community.

Legislators respond to media driven public fears about the most sensational cases (the monsters among us) with ever more restrictive and punitive sanctions which do little to improve public safety but prevent offenders from successfully reintegrating into society after their sentences are served. These sorts of policies (i.e. residency restrictions and public registries) not only impact the offenders themselves, but can have devastating affects on their families and can increase the risk of reoffense by undermining the very factors research shows prevent recidivism (family support, employment, treatment options, etc.).

This work attempts to build upon previous research to determine the origins of public perceptions of sexual offenders and to reveal how these perceptions can be changed. It provides evidence that public beliefs about sexual offenders, while generally bound by myths and stereotypes, may be altered by exposure to the realities of the issue and to real life sexual offenders. Psychologists can play a role in providing treatment and advocating for rational approaches to this marginalized and wounded population.


Please note: All oral defense attendees must shuttle from the Best Western Hotel in Carpinteria.