A psychosexual court evaluation focuses on an individual’s sexual development, sexual history, paraphilic interests, sexual adjustment and recidivism risk level.The psychosexual evaluation includes a full social and family history, employment/school history, case formulation, and specific treatment recommendations. The psychosexual evaluation is forensic in nature, which generally means that the subject may be non–voluntary and the referral stems from legal proceedings. In addition, a rather unique and critical component of the psychosexual evaluation is the detailed and thorough sexual history, which includes the exploration of sexual development, attitudes, fantasies, and adjustment. To enhance the reliability, comprehensiveness, and usefulness of psychosexual evaluations, multiple sources of data must be taken into account. Important sources of information include relevant documentation, interviews with the adult or juvenile sex offender, interviews with non–offending partners, and both general and sex offense–specific assessment instruments.
When conducting psychosexual evaluations, the evaluator will explore offense–related factors such as the frequency, range of sexually abusive behaviors, the targets of the sex offenses, the individual’s account of the offense, potential motivators, and any previously undetected sexually abusive behaviors. Also important to consider are the presence or absence of social supports, current living arrangements—particularly with respect to access to victims or potentially vulnerable persons—and the ability and willingness of other responsible adults within the home to provide adequate safeguards as necessary.
Effective interviewing techniques are a vital aspect of the psychosexual evaluation. Because an overarching goal of an assessment is to collect quality information, the evaluator adopts a style and approach that will ultimately facilitate engagement, active participation, and disclosure throughout the evaluation process. As is the case with all clinical assessments, informed consent will be obtained from the individual and from parents/guardians of youth or developmentally disabled persons.
Who can benefit from psychosexual court evaluation?
Individuals who have been charged with sexual crimes, children who have displayed inappropriate sexual behaviors, children and adults who have been sexually abused in the past, sexual addicts, defense and prosecuting attorneys, group homes, schools, detention facilities, social services, foster care providers, residential facilities.
Generally speaking, psychosexual evaluations are designed to identify the following:
- Level of risk for sexual and non–sexual recidivism;
- Recommended types and intensity of interventions including level of care;
- Specific dynamic risk factors needs to be targeted through interventions;
- Amenability to interventions;
- Responsivity factors that may impact engagement in and response to interventions; and
- Strengths and protective factors relative to the individual including family, peer.
When to seek psychosexual court evaluation
Ideally, psychosexual evaluations are conducted pre–sentence or disposition and post–conviction or adjudication as a means of assisting judges and other interested parties with making well–informed disposition determinations. When conducted prior to the official ruling or finding by the trier–of–fact, several ethical and other controversies may arise. Included among these concerns are the potential for the defendant’s self–incrimination pertaining to current allegations, the possibility of additional charges being pursued because of disclosures of previously undetected offenses, and the introduction of overly prejudicial information that undermines the presumption of innocence or that otherwise influences the court’s finding.