Episodes

  • Throughout the first season of Beyond Fear: The Sex Crimes Podcast, we have received dozens of questions and comments from listeners. The conversations we have had one-on-one with each other and those we have had with some of you who have reached out have affirmed our belief that the work we do and the way we accomplish it are both incredibly important.

    We’ve learned over the years that bringing our full selves to the table is critical. It is with that lesson in mind that we bring you the bonus episode of season one. As we noted, we have received dozens of interesting and important questions from our dedicated listeners. We could not possibly answer all of these questions in a single episode and will use many of them as topics for our second season.

    Instead, we decided to tackle two questions that survivors ask us all the time. We decided to answer them intimately and authentically – perhaps with an honesty and openness with which we have not always answered. The greatest gift we can give others is to be one hundred percent ourselves. We want anyone who has been harmed and those who have caused harm to fully understand the indelible impact that sexual harm can have. We also want listeners to understand that healing is not linear, that is is complicated and messy. It is layered. Healing is sometimes, as in the case for both of us, entangled in navigating both sexual trauma and mental illness.

    The two questions we tackle in this deeply personal episode include:

    How do I know I am “over it”?How to I navigate medical doctors/procedures/appointments as a survivor?

    In the episode we talk about two books that have been integral to our understanding of trauma. The first is called The Body Keeps the Score, by Dr. Bessel van der Kolk. This book helped us both to understand how trauma impacts us and changes us as a cellular level. The second book is called Trauma and Recovery, by Dr. Judith Herman. It was this live changing book, which was first published in 1992, that helped us both to fully recognize that we were not alone.

    Later in the episode we talk about the importance of trauma informed medicine. We believe that trauma informed care is critical for survivors of all forms of trauma to receive the medical care they need.

    Our friend Christine “Cissy” White, whose work can be found at http://www.healwritenow.com, talks about how it is not trauma informed if it isn’t informed by trauma survivors. Her work has significantly impacted how we think about medical care.

    Finally, we discuss a potentially important and impactful intervention called pelvic floor physical therapy. This is not a very well known intervention, but many survivors who experience chronic pelvic pain, it can be life changing. You can learn more about pelvic floor physical therapy from thee following links:

    Why Going to Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy Transformed My Life

    Pelvic Physical Therapy: Another Potential Treatment Option

    For a transcript of this episode click here.

    For a direct download of this episode

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  • In Episode 12 of Beyond Fear, we interview David Prescott, an internationally known expert on treatment for those who sexually offend.

    A mental health practitioner of 36 years, David Prescott is the Editor of Safer Society Press. He is the author and editor of 20 books in the areas of understanding and improving services to at-risk clients. He is best known for his work in the areas of understanding, assessing, and treating sexual violence and trauma. Mr. Prescott is the recipient of the 2014 Distinguished Contribution Award from the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers and the 2018 recipient of the National Adolescent Perpetration Network’s C. Henry Kempe Lifetime Achievement Award. Mr. Prescott currently trains and lectures around the world.

    In this episode, we talked about everything from the history of treatment, to the need for trauma informed practice, to the use of person-first language.

    David recently co-authored a book Trauma-Informed Care: Transforming Treatment for People Who Have Sexually Abused.

    In the episode, we talked about a recent blog post on person first language that you can find here.

    For a transcript of this episode, click here.

    For a direct download of this episode, click here.

  • The image that comes to mind when we think about a person who commits a sexual offense is more often than not, male. While it is true that the vast majority of sexual harm around the world is committed by men, women can – and do – commit sex crimes. In this episode of Beyond Fear, Alissa interviews Alexa about her expertise on female sexual offending. Alexa sheds light on this important, understudied and often misunderstood issue.

    The names that come to mind when we think about women who sexuall offend are those that have become household names: Mary Kay Letourneau and Debra LaFave. Both were attractive, relatively young school teachers who sexually abused younger boys. However, we cannot and should not reconcile all sexual abuse committed by women with that which was committed by these two women.

    Sexual abuse by women happens for a variety of reasons. Some of these reasons are similar to those we understand about men who sexually offend and some are quite different. It is important that we recognize and understand these reasons so we can promote prevention efforts.

    A few important things we do know:

    Women who sexually offend have significantly high rates of all forms of abuse and family dysfunction in childhood.Approximately 10% of sex crimes are committed by women.Women are likely to offend with a co-offending male partner.Sexual abuse by women causes similar harm to sexual abuse by men, but it is far less likely to be reported.

    For an interview with Debra LaFave click here.

    For a transcript of episode 11 click here.

    For a direct download of the episode click here.

  • In Episode 9, “Why Should I Care?!”, Alexa interviews Dr. Alissa Ackerman about sex crimes policies in the U.S. Alissa is widely considered an expert on sex crimes policy and much of her research has examined the efficacy of the sex offense registry, residence restrictions, and community notification. Notably, her research, and that of most other researchers, have found that sex crimes policies have done nothing to make society safer and have not reduced rates of sexual violence since their implementation.

    In this episode, we discuss two policies that apply only to those who have committed what the law defines as a “sex crime”: the publicly available sex offender registry and residence restrictions. These policies were enacted after the high-profile abductions and murders of young children by a known “sex offender”. The names of these child victims, Adam Walsh, Megan Kanka, and Jacob Wetterling, are well known. Unfortunately, these cases do not represent typical sex offenses. In fact, these are the rarest type of sex crimes.

    The assumptions underlying sex crimes policies is the notion that sex offenders are somehow different from everyone else. That they do not stop offending and each offense is more violent than the last. As we discussed in Episode 8 with Dr. Danielle Harris, most people who have committed sex offenses do desist, or stop offending. Additionally, studies of recidivism rates consistently indicate that people who offend sexually recidivate at lower rates than most other offenders and are more likely to recidivate with a non-sexual offense than a sexual one. The collateral consequences of these laws, the shame, stigma, inability to find housing and employment, are precisely the elements that are necessary for a person to reintegrate into their community in a positive, prosocial way.

    Why should you care?! Anyone that wants to end sexual violence should care about the ineffectiveness of sex crimes policies and their collateral consequences. Instead of spending money on policies that are doing nothing to decrease rates of sexual violence, money and legislative efforts could be better directed toward sexual violence prevention.

    In this episode we referenced several studies. You will find links to those research articles below. If you would like more information, please feel free to email us.

    To read about Alissa’s work with the data from NCMEC, click here.

    To read more about the sex offender registry in an article by Dr. Alissa Ackerman, Dr. Andrew Harris, Dr. Jill Levenson, and Dr. Kristen Zgoba click here.

    To read more about research on the efficacy of sex offense policies on reducing rates of sexual violence, read an article by Dr. Alissa Ackerman, Dr. Meghan Sachs, and Dr. David Greenberg here.

    We highly recommend the documentary Untouchable which provides a comprehensive understanding of these policies and the very human impact of them.

    Please note that Alissa references the findings of a meta-analysis conducted to evaluate the impact of sex offense legislation. She actually was referring to a comprehensive literature review on the topic which can be accessed here.



    For a transcript of this episode, please

  • Research shows that, like people who commit other crimes, those who sexually offend also desist from offending. This is both hard to hear and important to acknowledge. In Episode 8 of Beyond Fear, we made the deliberate decision to pivot from conversations about survivor experiences to a focus on the experience of individuals who have sexually offended.
    When we first started studying sexual violence, we both wanted to study the effects of victimization, but it didn't take us much time to figure out that in order to stop sexual violence we had to go further upstream. Victimization doesn't end without stopping offending.

    In this episode we interview Dr. Danielle Harris, a friend and colleague based at Griffith University in Brisbane, Australia, whose work focuses almost exclusively on desistance from sexual offending. What we know from the research is that recidivism rates, or reoffense rates, for people who sexually offend is quite low. In fact, studies consistently find that sexual recidivism rates for those who sexually offend are low.

    So why does this matter? Why should we care about people who sexually offend? Why do their experiences of reintegration matter to us? And why should they matter to you?

    Well the answer is quite simple, actually. What we are doing doesn't work. First, the vast majority of people who commit sex crimes will never be processed through the criminal justice system and even if they were, this still wouldn't end sexual violence (this is an entire episode in itself). Second, people who commit sex crimes are not monsters or boogeymen. They are our family members, our friends, our clergy, our coaches, our teachers... they are people we know and they are people we love. It is easy to treat people as castaways when we treat them as "the other", but people who commit sex crimes are just that.... people... who commit sex crimes.

    This requires that we understand why they offend in the first place and how to help them to stop. This is at the heart of Danielle's work.

    In "The Deliberate Shift", we talk about Danielle's path to this work, the major findings of her research, why she continues this research agenda, and why we advocate for a better understanding of those who sexually offend.

    In this episode we referenced several books and studies.

    To find out more or to purchase Desistance from Sexual Offending, click here.

    To find out more or to purchase Making Good, https://www.apa.org/pubs/books/4316097 click here.

    Sample, L. L., & Bray, T. M. (2003). Are sex offenders dangerous? click here.

    For additional reading, check out Chapter 5 of the Sex Offender Management and Planning Initiative Report on adult sexual recidivism https://smart.ojp.gov/sites/g/files/xyckuh231/files/media/document/recidivismofadultsexualoffenders.pdf

    For a transcript of this episode, please https://docs.google.com/document/d/1wQhExAdX0xsADwpruVLi7rStx8dgSaZV4rNkDNAOUcI/edit

    To download a direct MP3,https://www.buzzsprout.com/1054714/5110456-episode-8-the-deliberate-shift.mp3 please click here.

    Follow us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/fearcrimes, on Instagram @beyondfearpodcast, and on Twitter @fearcrimes,

    If you have questions about this episode or any of our previous ones, please reach out to us at beyondfearpodcast@gmail.com.

  • The Beyond Fear Podcast is one continuous story, where episodes build from one to the next with the ability to reach back to previous episodes when necessary. Yet, when we started writing the story in episode 1, we didn’t fully recognize the impact that telling the story would have on us. Recording Episode 7 was one of those experiences that is hard to put into words.

    In this Episode, we sit down with Alexa’s mom, Stacey Branchini, for a intimate, unscripted and candid conversation about the impact of a criminal trial on a survivor and their family. Often referred to as “the second rape”, the criminal trial is often just as traumatizing as the assault itself. This is evident in our decision to invite Stacey to talk with us, because as we worked on writing this episode Alexa was unable to remember many o f the details from after her rape. Including Stacey provides a unique perspective of this process and also highlights how trauma due to the rape impacted Alexa’s ability to recall certain events around that time.

    In this episode, Stacey and Alexa often refer to “the foundation”. After Alexa’s rape and the criminal justice process that ensued, her family founded the “It Happened to Alexa Foundation” to help survivors and their families navigate the justice process. Specifically, the It Happened to Alexa Foundation provided financial support for survivors and their support networks at the time of trial. This included airfare, lodging, money for meals, and more throughout the time of the trial.

    We hope that this episode provides insight for our listeners into “the second rape”. When we first began working on this episode we envisioned a more academic episode, but we believe Alexa’s story highlights what the justice process is often like for survivors and their families.

    We know that material like this can be difficult to listen to. It is okay to listen in short chunks, to listen with a friend, or to turn us off.

    If you have questions about this or any of our previous episodes, or if there is anything you’d like to know about our work, we hope you will email us at beyondfearpodcast@gmail.com.

    For a transcript of this episode of Beyond Fear, click here.

    For a direct download of this episode of Beyond Fear (MP3), click here.

    Follow us on Facebook at Beyond Fear: The Sex Crimes Podcast, on Instagram @beyondfearpodcast, and on Twitter @fearcrimes

  • In “How Hasn’t It Affected Me?” Alexa and Alissa have a candid, unscripted, and vulnerable conversation with Monishia “Moe” Miller and Guy Hamilton-Smith. We each talk about the ways that sexual violence has impacted our lives.

    As with all episodes of this podcast, we want to warn our listeners that this can be difficult to listen to. It is okay to listen with a friend, listen in short chunks, or walk away. To offer fair warning for this episode, in particular, we talk about both in the short and long-term impacts of sexual violence in our personal stories, including substance abuse, self-harm, eating disorders, workaholism and suicide attempts.

    This was a special episode for us to record. We spoke with two individuals we both admire and respect. The four of us created a safe space to talk very intimately and vulnerably about the ways that sexual violence still impacts us.

    Material like this can be hard to listen to. It may bring up triggers for you. There are resources available should you need. The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (www.rainn.org) has an abundance of resources, including the National Sexual Assault Hotline.

    Some of the material we referenced in this episode includes:

    Van der Kolk, Bessel (2015). The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind and Body in the Healing of Trauma.

    Classen, C. C., Palesh, O. G., & Aggarwal, R. (2005). Sexual revictimization: A review of the empirical literature. Trauma, Violence & Abuse, 6(2), 102-129.

    Maker, A. H., Kemmelmeier, M., & Peterson, C. (2001). Child sexual abuse, peer sexual abuse, and sexual assault in adulthood: A multi-risk model of revictimization. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 14(2), 351-368.

    Nelson, E. C., Heath, A. C., Madden, P. A., Cooper, M. L., Dinwiddie, S. H., Bucholz, K. K. et al. (2002). Association between self-reported childhood sexual abuse and adverse psychosocial outcomes: Results from a twin study. Archives of General Psychiatry, 59(2), 139-45.

    Arata, C. M. (2002). Child sexual abuse and sexual revictimization. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 9(2), 135-164.

    Fleming, J., Mullen, P. E., Sibthorpe, B., & Bammer, G. (1999). The long-term impact of childhood sexual abuse in Australian women. Child Abuse & Neglect, 23, 145-159.

    Vandiver, D., Braithwaite, J., & Stafford, M. (2017). Sex crimes and sex offenders: Research and realities. NY: Routledge

    https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/blog/trauma-sexual-assault-and-eating-disorders

    Moe is an adjunct lecturer of criminal justice at California State University, Fullerton, where she teaches courses in Juvenile Justice and Corrections. She received her Master of Science degree from California State University, Los Angeles in Criminal Justice Administration. Her research includes trauma and delinquency, youth services, and juvenile justice reform. She has worked as a youth advocate in the juvenile justice field for over twenty years.

    Guy is a fellow at the Sex Offense Litigation and Policy Resource Center at the Mitchell Hamline School of Law, a 2019 JustLeadershipUSA fellow, and a writer with bylines in The Appeal, Slate, and other outlets. His work focuses primarily on the ways in which legal responses to sexual violence are ineffective and harmful, particularly focusing on post-sentence registration laws and indefinite civil imprisonment. You can read his writing on his website, https://guyhamiltonsmith.com and follow him via Twitter, @G_Padraic.

  • In Episode 5 of Beyond Fear: The Sex Crimes Podcast, Alexa and Alissa interview Dr. Nicole Fox, an assistant professor in the Criminal Justice Division at CSUS whose current research focuses on how post-genocide communities remember violence through the creation of national collective memories embodied in memorials and monuments. In “The Weaponization of Sexual Violence” we talk about rape as it is used during war and genocide.

    At the 18:00 minute mark in this episode, Dr. Fox mentions an article that has the most accurate counts of the number of rapes that occurred during the Rwandan genocide. You can access that article by clicking here.

    Dr. Fox’s forthcoming book Rising From the Ashes: Memory and Reconciliation in Rwanda After the Genocide is due out in the spring of 2021.

    We recognize that every episode of this podcast can be difficult to digest, but episode 5 in particular is quite heavy. We caution that you listen with care.

    For a transcript of this episode of Beyond Fear, click here.

    For a direct download of this episode of Beyond Fear (MP3), click here.

    Follow us on Facebook at Beyond Fear: The Sex Crimes Podcast, on Instagram @beyondfearpodcast, and on Twitter @fearcrimes

  • In Episode 4: The Many Reasons Why, Alexa and Alissa breakdown some of the various reasons why people commit acts of child sexual abuse and rape. It might come as a surprise, but there is not one reason why these kinds of offenses happen. In order to prevent future sex crimes from happening and to ensure that people who do sexually offend get the help they need, it is crucial that we understand the factors that lead to offending behavior in the first place.

    In this episode, we bust some myths about sexual offending and provide some insight into the complex nature of sexual offending. We discuss paraphilias, cognitive distortions, grooming behavior, opportunities, adverse childhood experiences, and rape myths, among other factors.

    This might be a difficult episode to listen to, as we talk about these factors in an open and non-judgemental way. We recognize how hard this can be and suggest listening with care. It is okay to listen in short chunks, listen with friend, or tune out completely.

    For a transcript of The Many Reasons Why, please click here.

    Follow us on Facebook at Beyond Fear: The Sex Crimes Podcast, on Instagram @beyondfearpodcast, and on Twitter @fearcrimes

    For a direct download of Episode 4: The Many Reasons Why, click here.

  • In Episode 3, Alexa and Alissa interview Dr. Karen Terry about her research on sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.

    Karen J. Terry is a Professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City. She holds a doctorate in Criminology from Cambridge University. Her primary research interest is sexual offending and victimization and sex offender policy. Her current research focus is on the abuse of children in an institutional setting, and she was the principal investigator for two studies on sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests in the United States.

    The interview delves into multiple topics related to sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests including how the two studies were designed, the major findings of both studies, and a discussion of situational crime prevention strategies that can aid in the prevention of sexual abuse.

    For the full report on the Nature and Scope of the Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests click here.

    For the full report on the Causes and Contexts of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests click here.

    Australia’s Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Sexual Abuse can be found here.

  • “It depends…”

    This is the language that research often use when people ask them questions about sources of data.

    This is because the findings we obtain in our research depend on how we ask questions, when we ask questions, who asks the questions, etc. There are also different methods for obtaining data and just because two data sources provide different data doesn’t mean that either is incorrect. It depends…

    In episode 2, Into the Weeds: Measuring Silence, Alexa and Alissa talk about the major sources of counting sexual crimes that occur in the United States. The compare two major data sources and discuss some of the benefits and shortfalls of each.

    In this episode we utilize data from the following sources (each bullet point is hyperlinked):

    The Uniform Crime Report
    The National Crime Victimization Survey
    The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey

    An additional resource we did not use in the episode related to child neglect, abuse and maltreatment is the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS).

    Follow us on Facebook at Beyond Fear: The Sex Crimes Podcast, on Instagram @beyondfearpodcast, and on Twitter @fearcrimes.

  • In episode one of Beyond Fear: The Sex Crimes Podcast, Alexa and Alissa introduce themselves, their stories, and their commitment to understanding every aspect of sexual harm as sex crimes experts and as rape survivors.