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Addicted to Sex
WebMD FeatureReviewed by Charlotte E. Grayson Mathis, MD, MDJim (not his real name) couldn't understand why anyone would want to be monogamous. As a 47-year-old divorcé who worked as a part-time bartender, he had sex with as many women and men as he pleased.
Then he fell in love with a young mother of two who was separated from her husband. She liked to party, and he was always jealous of anyone who came near her. He constantly kept tabs on where she was and who she was with. But no matter how much she consumed his thoughts, inside he felt empty. That's when he realized something was really wrong in his life.
At the urging of a therapist who was treating him for depression, Jim went to a meeting of Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous. "I thought I was going to walk in and see dirty old men with raincoats," he says. What he found, however, was an understanding community of people with similar troubles -- a diverse group "made up of priests, carpenters, 70-year-old men, 50-year-old women, housewives, career professionals, gays, straights, blacks, and whites."
Modeled after the Alcoholics Anonymous 12-step program, the organization currently hosts about 1,200 meetings around the world. Now in its 25th year, the group is one of a handful of nonprofit organizations dedicated to helping members recover from sex and love addiction.
"I've become a person," Jim says after years of membership in the program. "Before, I was always hiding, keeping secrets. Now I can be open and vulnerable."
A Brain Problem?
"Lust is an ancient problem," says a source who wishes to remain anonymous at another recovery group, Sexaholics Anonymous. She notes that sometimes children of broken families, who live in environments that feature molestation or affairs, may grow into adults who can't distinguish between what's acceptable and what's not. The problem can be made worse by the many sexual images in today's media.
The theories on why people self-destruct using sex and love run the gamut.
"People do it a lot of times to escape," says Jim.
Jim acted out his addiction by having multiple sex partners, and, ultimately, obsessing over a woman who was emotionally unavailable to him. Others derail their lives by frequently masturbating (sometimes as much as four or five times a day), having inappropriate fantasies or extramarital affairs, continually logging onto pornographic web sites on the Internet, or hurting themselves sexually with various objects.
Peter R. Martin, MD, a professor of psychiatry and pharmacology at the Vanderbilt Addiction Center in Nashville, Tenn., says the root causes of problems related to sex aren't known, just as there are still questions about how people become addicted to drugs.
He says scientists are starting to believe it has something to do with how the brain processes our drives and that there may sometimes be problems with the "reward centers" of a person's brain.
It's unclear how sexual addictions fit within the realm of mental illnesses, says Martin. Because of this, he prefers to call the disorder "problematic hypersexuality" rather than "sex addiction."
It's interesting, he adds, that a lot of problems in which the brain is obsessed with one activity -- whether it's sex, drugs, or alcohol -- tend to occur together.
Scientists are now studying medications that could possibly treat addiction to love and sex. In the meantime, doctors like Martin use psychotherapy and techniques used for treating other addictions to help people who have life-disrupting sexual thoughts and actions. This may involve prescribing drugs for problems that go along with it, like depression or anxiety.
Twelve-step programs use meetings and the sharing of stories to provide comfort for the troubled. The idea is that there are other people who are trying to deal with the same problems.
Jim says his salvation came through being in the company of people whose lives had also spun out of control.
Do You Need Help?
On its web site, the group Sexual Compulsives Anonymous lists some characteristics most of its members have in common:
They use compulsive sex as a drug, to escape from feelings like anxiety, loneliness, anger, and self-hatred, as well as joy.
They become immobilized by romantic obsessions. Becoming addicted to the search for sex and love makes them neglect their lives.
They try to bring intensity and excitement into their lives through sex, but feel themselves growing steadily emptier.
Even when they get the love of another person, it never seems enough, and they're unable to stop lusting after others.
They try to conceal their dependency demands, growing more isolated from themselves, from God, and from the very people they long to be close to.
For those still unsure of whether they have a problem with sex and love addiction, Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous has drawn up 40 questions for self-diagnosis, including:
Where to Turn
The following organizations are resources for people who have addictions to sex and love:
American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry (AAAP)
Codependents of Sexual Addiction (COSA) 763.537.6904)
Sex Addicts Anonymous (SAA) 800.477.8191
Sexaholics Anonymous (SA) 615.331.6230
Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous (SLAA) 781.255.8825
Sexual Compulsives Anonymous (SCA) 800.977.HEAL
Sexual Recovery Anonymous (SRA) 212.340.4650
States Implementing Laws that Provide Immunity from Prostitution Charges for Minor Victims
Since the development of state protective response laws is an emerging area fraught with implementation challenges, many state statutory responses have been built on earlier models, with each state identifying an approach that works for that state and adapting it to its unique policy and resource landscape. Within the range of state responses, four general categories of protective system responses have emerged10:
1. Immunity without referral provides immunity from prostitution-related charges to direct juvenile sex trafficking victims away from a punitive response but does not statutorily direct them into an alternative system or specialized response for access to services.
2. Immunity with referral provides immunity from prostitution-related charges and directs juvenile sex trafficking victims to an alternative system or specialized response for access to services.
3. Law enforcement referral to a protective system response does not make minors immune from prostitution charges but directs or allows law enforcement to refer minors suspected of prostitution offenses to child welfare or other system-based services instead of arrest.
4. Diversion process does not make minors immune from prostitution charges but allows or requires juvenile sex trafficking victims to be directed into a diversion program through which victims can access specialized services and avoid a delinquency adjudication.
States that do not fit into these statutory categories may still be implementing components of a JuST Response. Based on existing research and knowledge gained from the experiences of states that have been implementing protective response laws, three basic elements have emerged as critical to a complete juvenile sex trafficking (JuST) response: statutory protective provisions, multidisciplinary interagency state system protocols, and access to an array of funded service options. Georgia and Maryland for example each have protocols for connecting youth to services or avoiding a punitive response. No doubt there are other non-punitive service responses beyond these statutory categories that have not yet been explored or developed.
To explore the methods and challenges of deploying protective responses that integrate the critical elements of statutes, systems and services, the JuST Response Mapping Report merges Shared Hopes research and policy analysis to provide a national overview of existing state juvenile sex trafficking responses and an in-depth analysis of responses in example states that represent each of the four statutory frameworks most commonly found under existing state laws. While this report goes beyond those frameworks and explores the implementation of system responses and access to services, there are two reasons for organizing state JuST responses according to their statutory frameworks:
(1) The states statutory framework is a prerequisite to statewide change: By mandating a fundamental shift in how the state views juvenile sex trafficking victimsfrom criminals to victims of exploitationthe statutory framework can survive shifts in power that informal policies and executive-led initiatives are less likely to survive. The stability provided by a framework of law makes it less difficult to commit resources and energy to the hard work of implementing a protective rather than a punitive response.
(2) Since four approaches to enacting a statutory framework implementing this paradigm shift have arisen over the past several years, comparing implementation of these responses allows for a more structured analysis, i.e., comparing one states immunity response with another states immunity response provides a more accurate reflection of how similar laws can play out very differently depending on each states policy and resource landscape. Comparing immunity with diversion, for example, illustrates how the different laws play out, but comparing immunity with immunity illustrates how the different approaches to implementation play out.
It should be noted that the division by statutory category is meant to help guide the reader through a comparison of approaches and is not meant to minimize the concurrent importance of system protocols and available services. In addition, a states political climate, resources and advocate personalities invariably influences the implementation of its protective response for juvenile sex trafficked victim. Comparing the implementation of immunity laws in Tennessee and Minnesota provides an excellent narrative of these differences. For instance, Minnesota has one of the best funded state governments in the country11 while Tennessee is more resource limited. While their statutes are similar in terms of providing immunity to minors, implementation of their laws has been very different.12
Two approaches to protecting victims that are not included here are an affirmative defense for sex trafficking victims or definitional changes intended to direct victims to an alternative system process, such as the person or child in need of services (PINS or CHINS). These approaches do not amount to a protective response in most cases because these lawswhile important in helping to lay a foundation for such lack a procedure to affirmatively direct minors out of the punitive system response and into services and/or place the burden on the victim to seek protection and services.
This report is a first step in ongoing research and is not inclusive of all promising state protective responses since over half of the states in the country have enacted some form of protective response law. For example, the responses of states such as Georgia13 that have developed strong agency or community protocols in lieu of supportive statutes are not covered herein.
11 Kiernan, John S.. States Most and Least Dependent on the Federal Government.,WalletHub. Evolution Finance, Inc., 2014., http://wallethub. com/edu/states-most-least-dependent-on-the-federal-government/2700/. Accessed February 24, 2015.
12 These approaches are further explored in the following chapters,
13 The Georgia Care Connection, recently established by the
Governors Office for Children and Families, identifies
commercially sexually exploited children and links them to services
without subjecting them to arrest. The Georgia Care Connection office
serves as the single point of entry and care coordination entity for
these commercially sexually exploited girls, ages 11-17. Learn more
States Implementing Laws that Provide Immunity
from Prostitution Charges for Minor Victims
By ensuring that all juvenile sex trafficking victims are directed away from a punitive court process that can re-traumatize victims and reinforce mistrust of the system, immunity from delinquency charges for prostitution and status offenses related to juvenile sex trafficking is a critical component of a protective response. However, enacting an immunity statute does not come without challenges. A common concern raised by advocates in states that have passed immunity laws is that youth may still be charged with status offenses that mask the intent to arrest victims for prostitution. This is especially prevalent in areas where law enforcement feel there is a lack of safe placement alternatives or a particularly high risk of re-exploitation. States that enact immunity laws in the absence of a statutory procedure to ensure youth receive a specialized service response may face a situation where child serving agencies are unable to adequately respond to a trafficking situation, leaving exploited youth with limited service options. First line responders such as law enforcement and social workers are thus faced with the heart wrenching decision to return a victim to a situation where there is risk of re-exploitation.
Even in states that have passed immunity laws that mandate law enforcement referral of juvenile sex trafficking victims to child serving agencies, factors such as lack of training or implementable protocols within child serving agencies or a lack of appropriately equipped service providers may still leave victims vulnerable to re-traumatization and exploitation. At the JuST Response Congressional Briefing, panelists from two states, Minnesota and Tennessee, discussed their strategies for enacting immunity statutes as the core of their states protective response. Despite the similarity in their laws, which both lack a statutory procedure that specifically mandates a child welfare or alternative system response, the challenges and successes encountered in implementing their laws vary greatly. In Tennessee, immunity laws were enacted prior to identifying funding procedures and protocols to connect youth to services. This progressive law codified thestatus of juvenile sex trafficking as victims of trafficking and created a sense of urgency that has motivated state agencies to come to the table to create a state-wide protocol for identifying and responding to juvenile sex trafficking victims. In Minnesota, amendments to the state delinquency laws established a three-year deadline for the legislature to fund service protocols for responding to juvenile sex trafficking victims before the law establishing immunity for minors became effective. As a result, Minnesotas No Wrong Door14 campaign was able to secure government funding to establish a comprehensive, multidisciplinary plan to ensure communities across the state have the knowledge to identify and the skills and resources to serve juvenile sex trafficking victims.
Another approach to immunity laws is represented by Illinois and Kentucky, both of which combined immunity with a mandatory referral to child welfare for services. While Illinois enacted its law much earlier, enabling Kentucky to build upon Illinois model, similar challenges to implementation have arisen in both states. Such challenges, though similar, provide important learning as solutions are shaped by the policy and resource landscape peculiar to each state.
Oregon - State law establishes a protective response for DMST victims through existing systems1 - no
Type of protective system response: Immunity without referral to
alternative system / Immunity with referral to alternative system No
immunity, law enforcement referral to protective system / No
immunity, diversion n/a