The Once Fallen "Sex Offender Dictionary"
Derek W. Logue
Last update: Jan. 15, 2010


The purpose of this dictionary is to help the reader gain a clearer understanding of the terms used in
articles, studies, or comments related to sex offender issues. Keep in mind that "common usage" words
are not always accurate uses of the term, and misnomers are addressed in the definitions given here. This
dictionary is not all-inclusive nor given phonetic attention a la Miriam-Webster's; after all, this is a definition
list only as it relates to sex offender issues.


  1. Actuarial Tests: Tests used in risk assessments; virtually all actuarial tests look at :static” or unchanging factors
    in determining whether or not someone is likely to re-offend
  2. Adam Walsh Act (AWA): Controversial law passed in 2006 setting a nationwide minimum standard for the public
    sex offender registry, mandatory minimums, civil commitment, GPS programs, increasing federal jurisdiction, and
    federal funding to monitoring and tracking sex offenders
  3. Age of Consent: The age at which a person can legally consent to sexual activity. Currently, most states set the
    age of consent at 16 to 18, though there is a movement to set the age of consent universally at age 18 (or
    possibly higher)
  4. Anti-clustering laws: Laws that limit the amount of registrants residing within a single building or geographical
    location, such as zip code
  5. Anti-loitering laws: Laws that prevent registrants from loitering in one location; “loitering” standards vary from
    being at a location beyond a reasonable time or not serving a legitimate purpose to simply being within the set
    buffer zone at any time
  6. “Antis:” Online identifier for individuals who attack, harass, and threaten registrants online; generally members of
    certain fringe groups, hate groups, and/  or cults
  7. “Big Registry:” Term much like Big Oil and Big Tobacco in describing the current state of sex
  8. offender legislation, i.e., backed by powerful lobbyists, a misinformation campaign to justify the need for and
    safety concerns of the product, and the massive amount of money spent on the product
  9. “Bookville:” Name given to homeless camp under the Julia Tuttle Causeway in Miami, Florida, named for
    controversial South Florida lobbyist Ron Book, who lobbied for strict residency laws which led to Miami being
    virtually off-limits for registrants, and head of the Miami-Dade Homeless Trust
  10. Buffer Zones: A set distance around specific geographical locations, such as a school or park, where registrants
    are not allowed to reside and/ or loiter; distances are typically measured from property line to property line “as the
    crow flies” (a straight line)
  11. Castration: The process of reducing the sex drive either by removal of the sex organs (surgical) or by use of
    chemicals that interfere with the functions of the sex organs (chemical). Castration is very controversial and can
    cause serious health problems, but is also reversible for the most part
  12. Chemical castration: The practice of using certain chemicals (such as Depo-Provera) to interfere with the
    normal functions of sex organs, thus greatly reducing overall sex drive. Effects tend to last as long as the
    treatment is continued
  13. Child Sexual Abuse Accommodation Syndrome (CSAAS): A controversial and generally rejected actuarial
    test (as unable to pass the Frye test), developed by Roland Summit in the 1980s, that claims to be able to identify
    children who are sexually abused
  14. Child Victim Advocate: Typically synonymous with victim’s rights groups, these individuals lobby for laws
    regarding the rights of victims and the punishment and monitoring of those convicted of sex crimes
  15. Civil Commitment: The practice of incarcerating an individual in a clinical inpatient treatment facility due to a
    high risk the individual will commit a crime in the future. The controversy over the practice generally involves the
    practice of sending individuals for treatment beyond their prison sentences in an effort to extend incapacitation
  16. “Civil in nature:” The common argument that states sex offender laws are “regulatory” or “civil” rather than
    “punitive” or “punishment/ criminal” in nature
  17. Clustering: The natural effect of laws and practices that limit where registrants can live, where law-abiding
    registrants reside in the few remaining locations they are legally allowed to live, thus concentrating in a select few
  18. Community Notification: The practice of sending out notices to the community whenever a registrant moves into
    a community; practices can vary from simple postcards in the mail to door-to-door visits from law enforcement,
    and could be limited to “high-risk” sex offenders; usually synonymous with Megan's Law/ the public registry
  19. Constitution: A legendary document said to contain laws that include protection of civil and human rights, but
    seemingly inapplicable to those convicted of sex crimes
  20. COPA (Child Online Protection Act): Controversial law requiring internet providers to block suspected child
    porn sites and provide filtering software; uses “harmful to minors” standard for determining what is banned
  21. Cyber-stalking: The practice of using the Internet to harass, threaten, or intimidate another person
  22. Double Jeopardy: The Fifth Amendment concept that states a person cannot be tried for the same offense twice
  23. Double Standards: Term describing the fact that the practice of prosecuting, processing, and punishing sex
    offenders is unequally applied to certain groups, particularly males, while certain groups, like attractive females or
    politicians, receive little to no punishment for the same offense
  24. Due Process: Legal term (14th Amendment) that states a person cannot be punished without a definitive legal
    process (trial); the entitlement of a citizen to proper legal procedures and natural justice
  25. “Duke Lacrosse case:” Infamous 2006 case of malicious prosecution which ended in all three defendants found
    not guilty and the disbarment of the chief prosecutor (See "Nifonged")
  26. Entrapment: A legal term, an act of setting a person up to commit a crime in order to prosecute them
  27. Evidence Based Research (EBR): Statistics and evidence based upon proven facts, as opposed to personal
    opinions, biases, or prejudices
  28. Ex post facto: Latin for “after the fact,” the constitutional standard that states actions cannot be criminalized then
    applied to those committed who committed such acts before the act was criminalized
  29. Failure to Register: A criminal charge arising from the failure of the registrant to meet the standards of sex
    offender registration; this is a broad term that could include such acts as being unable to pay fines associated
    with registration or being homeless
  30. False Allegations: The act of making a false accusation for a crime; sadly, false allegations are common and
    rarely prosecuted
  31. Fixated Offender: An offender type that has a sexual preference for children, synonymous with pedophile, and
    the type most likely to re-offend; fixated offenders make up only a small number of the sex offender population
  32. Frye Test: Test to determine validity of scientific tests, such as polygraph examinations; standard is“generally
    accepted by the scientific community as valid”
  33. GPS: Devices that utilizes satellites or towers to read signals from electronic ankle bracelets worn by registrants
    for the purposes of monitoring movement; there are two types of devices: active, which sends out frequent
    signals, and passive, which sends daily logs of activities
  34. Habitual Offender: An individual who commits multiple crimes
  35. Halloween Laws: Laws that restrict activities and participation of registrants in Halloween practices including
    giving out candy or wearing masks
  36. “Halloweenitis:” The social fear that strikes people during the Halloween season, which includes urban legends
    of sex offenders attacking would-be trick-or-treaters
  37. “Harmful To Minors:” material judged by “contemporary community standards” as appealing to the “prurient
    interest” and showed sex acts or nudity; much broader definition than the “obscenity” standard
  38. “Hug-a-thug:” Derogatory expression applied those who advocate treatment or restoration programs for
    convicted criminals
  39. “International Megan’s Law:” Proposed law in US legislature which requires registrants to notify other
    countries when traveling abroad
  40. Jacob Wetterling Act: 1994 Federal bill creating a national sex offender database, which was limited to law
    enforcement or those who worked directly with children
  41. “Jessica’s Law:” Other name for mandatory minimum sentencing bill
  42. Julia Tuttle Causeway: see “Bookville”
  43. Incest: The act of an individual having sexual relations with a close relative. Those who have committed incest
    crimes are generally determined to be the least likely to re-offend
  44. Internet Solicitation: The crime of obtaining illicit sex or engaging in sexual communications through electronic
  45. KIDS Act of 2008: Federal bill requiring registrants to register all online identifiers, such as email addresses and
    screen names
  46. Lolita: Named for the book of the same name, denotes an underage girl who aggressively pursues sexual activity
    with significantly older males
  47. Mandatory Minimums: A set minimum time in which a person is incarcerated for specific crimes
  48. Mandatory Reporting Requirement: The requirement that agencies that work with children report suspected
    abuse; also refers to the requirement all registrants register with local law enforcement in a timely manner
  49. MASORR (Multifactorial Assessment of Sex Offender Risk for Recidivism): Individual ratings of 1 to 5 are
    initially assessed, and a separate score is assessed after treatment, measuring motivation to participate in
    treatment, degree of change achieved, and impressions made upon the treatment provider. The test scores are
    combined to determine risk
  50. Malicious Prosecution: The act in which a prosecuting attorney pursues a case out of malice, often
    manipulating available evidence or withholding evidence of the innocence of the accused; see “Nifonged”
  51. “Megan’s Law:” Short name for the 1996 bill that created public sex offender registries coupled with community
    notification procedures
  52. Miller test: Court standard to determine obscenity, and thus whether or not certain speech is protected by the
    US Constitution
  53. MiSOST-R (Minnesota Sex Offender Screening Tool-Revised): An actuarial test that uses 16 factors, 12
    historical factors (like prior sex offenses) and 4 institutional factors (such as cooperation with prison sex offender
    treatment). This test is unique in not taking related or “incest” victims into consideration in scoring. Total scores of
    -10 to +30 determines risk on a scale of 1 (low) to 6 (high)
  54. “Nifonged:” Term used to denote a prosecutor in a malicious prosecution case; named for Mike Nifong,
    prosecutor in the so-called “Duke Lacrosse case”
  55. Offense-based classification: Classifying registrants into tier levels based upon the details of the crime rather
    than perceived risk; the Adam Walsh Act is one such law which utilizes offense-based classification
  56. Pandering: Political term for misusing or abusing an issue for the purpose of generating votes or
  57. publicity
  58. Pedophile: A clinical term for a person who has a sexual attraction to prepubescent children for a set period of
    time; the common and derogatory usage denoting everyone who is on the sex offender registry is a misnomer
    and fallacy, as only a small minority of registrants are clinical pedophiles
  59. Penile Plethysmograph: Also known as “peter readers;” devices that measure blood flow to the penis under the
    theory minute changes in erections mean those tested have degrees of sexual attraction towards the objects
    shown; these devices are generally rejected by courts for failure to pass scientific validity tests
  60. Pervert: Derogatory term for individuals listed on the public registry
  61. Polygraph: So-called “lie detector” test; device that measures changes in heart rates and other bodily functions
    that measures increased stress levels in the body some believe identifies when one is lying; not accepted as valid
    by the courts, yet are utilized in many sex offender treatment programs
  62. Predator: Derogatory term for individuals listed on the public registry, intended to note someone who has a
    history of repeat or violent offenses
  63. Predator Panic: Coined term to denote a societal fear fueled by myths of those listed on the sex offender registry
  64. Propaganda: Information spread in a manner to instill a particular set of beliefs upon to all that receive the
  65. Proximity Laws: An occasionally used term describing residency restrictions or anti-loitering laws
  66. Public Safety: Legal term denoting certain laws are created and enforced in order to protect society as a whole,
    as opposed to individual safety
  67. Punitive: Another term for punishment, generally used to describe the sanctions imposed in criminal law; punitive
    measures are subject to constitutional scrutiny
  68. Recidivism: The rate at which a person convicted of a crime commits a subsequent crime. There are two types
    of recidivism: a “general” recidivism rate which measures recidivism rates for any crime, and “specific” recidivism,
    which measures how many criminals repeat the first offense. Recidivism is measured in a variety of ways, from re-
    arrest rates to re-conviction rates
  69. Reformed Former Sex Offender (RFSO): Those listed on the public registry that claim victory over sexual
    addiction and refuse to accept the lifelong stigma of being a “registered sex offender”
  70. Registered Sex Offender (RSO): A person listed on the public sex offender registry
  71. Registrant: A shorthand term for “registered sex offender”
  72. Regulatory: Legal term denoting the effects of civil laws; term often applied to sex offender legislation; regulatory
    measures are claimed to not be covered by the US Constitution
  73. Rehabilitation: The effective process of treating the afflictions of individuals, teaching them to control and
    manage their deficiencies, and become productive citizens
  74. Relapse Prevention: A technique in the treatment of sex offenders teaching techniques to avert deviant sexual
    thought patterns
  75. Residency Restrictions: Laws that restrict where a person convicted of a sex crime can live, usually a set
    distance from certain child-oriented locations, such as schools, daycare centers, or parks, a straight-line “as the
    crow flies” distance of up to 2500 feet, measured from property line to property line
  76. Restorative Justice: A school of sex offender treatment that emphasizes the restoration of offenders through
    teaching victim empathy and acts of atonement for past deeds
  77. Retroactive: The legal term for applying a law to cover actions that occurred before the law was enacted;
    generally prohibited by the US Constitution
  78. “Risk Alone:” The concept of targeting people on the sole basis that they pose a perceived risk of a particular
  79. Risk-Based Classification: The classifying of registrants into tier levels based upon perceived risk via clinical
    evaluation and may include a battery of actuarial testing
  80. Romeo and Juliet: Named for the famous Shakespeare play involving young lovers; A term used to describe a
    consensual relationship between teens with a significant age difference; the Adam Walsh Act has a “Romeo and
    Juliet” statute that places a four year age difference between teen lovers for the purposes of determining criminal
    sexual activity
  81. Scarlet Letter: Named for the Nathaniel Hawthorne book of the same name, denotes any technique utilized for
    public shaming, such as a publicly accessible registry, identifying ID cards, signs, bumper stickers, licenses, or
    other identifying mark to name and shame those convicted of sex crimes
  82. Sensationalism: A media term referring to the over-saturation of a news story. As a rule of thumb, missing child
    or sex offender stories will typically become "sensationalized"
  83. Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA): The provision in the Adam Walsh Act that
    regulates the national public registry and sets minimum standards for other states to follow
  84. Sexting: The act of sending sexual images or messages by cell phone or instant messaging services
  85. Sexual Assault Cycle: A pattern of faulty behaviors and beliefs that perpetuate a cycle of sexual addiction;
    those in treatment programs use the cycles to understand their reasons for committing sexually deviant acts
  86. “Sexual Predator:” Generalized and often derogatory term for a registrant perceived to be high- risk
  87. “Sexually Violent Predator:” Same as “sexual predator,” with the term “violent” added to make it sound more
  88. Shelter Laws: Laws that restrict registrants from using homeless shelters or emergency shelters during times of
    inclement weather
  89. Situational Offender: Offender type not attracted to children, though some have committed crimes against
    children; situational offenders are not pedophiles, and are more responsive to treatment programs; situational
    offenders make up the majority of sex offenders
  90. SORAG (Sex Offender Risk Appraisal Guide): An “actuarial test” that looks at 14 items, 10 of those similar to
    the VRAG, and scores test from -27 to +51 and falling into a similar scale of 1 (low) to 9 (high)
  91. STATIC-99: Arguably the most widely used actuarial test, the STATIC-99 looks at 10 risk factors including the 4
    RRASOR factors, scores range from 0 to 12, with a score of 6+ considered high risk.
  92. Static Factors: In Actuarial testing, factors that tend not to change over time, such as age of offender when
    crime was committed
  93. Stereotypes: Generalized beliefs about a group of people, usually derogatory in nature
  94. “Stranger-Danger:” The emphasizing of warning and preventing sex crimes committed by those
  95. people not known to the victim, once popular, but is increasingly debunked even by most child victim advocates
  96. Surgical castration: Physical Castration by cutting off or separating sex organs
  97. Syndrome evidence: indicators of child sexual abuse as defined in the CSAAS (Child Sexual Abuse
    Accommodation Syndrome)
  98. Tier System: A classification system utilized by many states that divides registrants into separate categories,
    either by perceived risk (risk-based) or by the details of the crime (offense-based)
  99. “Tough on crime:” The common mantra for pandering politicians who use sex offender issues to generate
    campaign interest and votes
  100. Treatment: The process of helping offenders manage and overcome the issues which cause sexual offending,
    and teach them to become healthy and productive citizens in the community
  101. Trolls: Internet term for individuals or members of particular groups that attack, harass, defame, impersonate,
    slander, or threaten others who do not share their opinions, typically done in a cowardly anonymous fashion
  102. “Unintended Consequences:” A somewhat overused term, mainly utilized by proponents of sex offender
    legislation as an excuse, denoting the negative effects of hastily and ill-proposed legislation and claiming they
    simply did not know the laws would cause negative effects
  103. Victim’s Rights Groups: Synonymous term for “child victim advocate,” typically denoting groups that support
    increasing sex crime legislation
  104. Vigilantism: The act of harassing, intimidating, threatening, and/ or attacking people because of the target’s
    appearance on the registry
  105. “Violent” offense: For purposes of determining tier levels, violence means either there was physical force used
    in the crime, or the crime involved a minor. By letter of the law, even acts where the minor was willing (but unable
    to legally consent to sex) are considered “violent”
  106. VRAG (Violence Risk Appraisal Guide): An “actuarial test” that looks at 12 static factors and scores test from
    -26 to +38, falling into a risk scale from 1 (low) to 9 (high)
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