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Sex Offender Treatment Podcast Episode cover image
From Surviving to Living
(10) SEX OFFENDER (S0) TREATMENT: Personal Growth and Transformation
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During my prison experience in 2012, I initially resisted a sex offender treatment program, feeling misunderstood and defensive. Embracing change, I pursued a new job and healthy lifestyle, losing weight and feeling better.

I share difficult experiences such as a misunderstanding in jail, and I describe parenting from behind bars and my joyful reunion with my children after a year and a half.

I discuss my difficult journey in personal growth and relapse into deeper depression. Are you working towards change today? Are you fearful it won’t ‘stick?’ Learn the difference between behavior modification and permanent life transformation and how you can start today.

TRANSCRIPT

Are you interested in extraordinary personal growth? Do you want to feel great and live a transformed life?

Join me as we explore my prison experience, navigating a sex offender treatment program, a new job, and newfound opportunities. Discover unexpected moments of hope and profound lessons learned along the way.

From resistance to redemption, we’ll uncover the secret to permanent total life transformation and how you can begin today! Listen until the end, you won’t want to miss a word! This is sex offender treatment.

Told sex offender treatment would remove barriers and open doors to privileges, I nevertheless began in December 2012 with an attitude problem. I’d asked repeatedly over the past year to be admitted to the program as early as possible, yet now that I was here, I felt vulnerable.

Intake began with hours of psychological testing, both written and interviewed. Afterwards I sulked in the treatment director’s office, arms crossed, sullen. Noticing my posture she pointed out, “You look upset.”

Miserable, I explained, “I don’t understand why I need sex offender treatment. This is stupid. I am NOT a pedophile!” Having voiced my concern, I glared at the wall. My face burned. I felt hostile, defensive. I was ready to do anything necessary to remove barriers for myself as a parent, but I was outraged at the requirements.

The director leaned over and responded, “We don’t think you are a pedophile. That’s not the purpose of the treatment.”

Surprised, I removed my glare from the wall and shifted my gaze to her desk, considering. My thoughts returned to a time nearly 3 years earlier. Recently arrested, I sat in county jail waiting for bail to be posted. One day I was told a psychologist was there to interview me for sentencing recommendations.

“Ms. Aho, you have a professional visit. Come with me.” Sitting at a table I looked up in surprise. The guard nodded and pointed at the door. I turned to follow her gaze. Another guard waited outside the red door, his face visible through the window.

I stood, smoothed my shirt, and walked to the entrance of the pod. The door clicked open, and I joined the guard in the hall. We headed for a small legal visiting room. As we neared, I could see a woman waiting for me inside. A metal table sat in the middle of the small room.

The door clicked open, and I was led inside. I studied the woman as I sat. She was medium everything, medium size, medium coloring, medium age. She didn’t smile as the guard left us alone, the door clicking behind him.

Nervously I looked around and waited. I began to feel shaky, anxiety tightening my stomach up. The woman coughed and introduced herself, “I am here to ask you some questions, a psych evaluation,” she explained.

I nodded slightly, wondering. The woman picked up a notepad from the table, clutching it in her arms. She studied it a moment. Waiting, my ankle suddenly itched. Mumbling, “Excuse me,” I leaned forward to scratch my leg. Startled, the woman jumped backwards, away from me in fear, staring at my hand.

I am a small person, a mere 5 feet tall, 120 pounds. My crime included no violence, no weapons, no drugs, no addictions, nothing that would indicate a surprise physical attack from me might be likely. Bent forward, my hand still halfway to my ankle, I paused in surprise. Her fear scared me.

I peered up at her questioningly, my eyebrow arched. Frozen, she stared at my hand and didn’t notice. She looked terrified.

I finished scratching my ankle and sat back. I wanted to leave this room. This lady scared me. It seemed she had my psych eval already completed, some conclusions already formed. We hadn’t yet started but it couldn’t end well.

Returning to the present day, I studied our treatment director, my hostility returning. I demanded, “What am I here for then?”

Leaning back in her chair, she crossed her legs and responded, “Let me ask you a question. Why did you have sex with your son’s friend?”

“My marriage was awful. I hated my life. I wanted a divorce. I wanted…to run away from all my problems.” Embarrassed, I turned away, fusing my stare to the floor in shame.

Leaning forward again the director asked, “I wonder then, why did you use sex to solve a problem?” Surprised, I met her eyes. She appeared kind and respectful. It was a good question. My resistance slipped, a little.

Have you ever felt resistant to acknowledging personal challenges or seeking support? Does this resonate with any moments in your own life when you felt vulnerable or avoided asking for help?

Early in my incarceration I was told the prison had a step-down process for receiving visiting privileges if you were an inmate deemed a possible threat. Visiting privileges were assessed, from no visits to all privileges.

The visiting room at Shakopee is welcoming, with carpeting and toys and books for children. Blue chairs in rows face each other and march across the carpet. Tall windows to the outdoors bookend the room.  Smaller windows line a third wall, facing small rooms where non-contact visits, visits behind glass, occur.

My criminal charge placed me on the list awaiting assessment when I arrived. Thankfully I was allowed visits with my children, however the visits would be behind glass. To increase my privileges, I could take parenting classes and complete SO Treatment.

By this time My four younger children were now living 3,000 miles away from me and hadn’t visited in over a year, ever since my husband had kidnapped them from my parents. We spoke on the phone, and shared letters and emails but I missed seeing them, hugging them.

 I didn’t know when I’d ever see them again, but I planned to be prepared for that day. I completed parenting classes immediately and now treatment provided the next goal, a finish line. I attacked it.

This clear motivation focused me. I had spent the last half of 2012 in a fog of depression, gaining extra weight and feeling unhealthy. I began going to the gym, working out a little, easing into feeling better.

“Have you thought of getting a job in here?” Laying on my back I twisted, looking around. Kelly was heading across the nearly empty gym, making her way over to me. Not waiting for an answer she continued, “We need another worker in here, Linda just went home.”

Kelly, while not exactly a friend, was a familiar face. She loved the gym, worked there. I considered her question. I’d just reached top pay in the kitchen, despite my poor attendance record. They gave you a raise no matter what. If you were not being fired, you were moving up.

Switching jobs would mean dropping back down to base pay, being poor, more poor, again. I did want to be thin again, though, and working at the gym would mean constant access.

“I’d like that,” I replied, excitement building. Kelly smiled. Without missing a step she pivoted, heading for the gym office. “I’ll tell my boss. He’ll get you transferred.”

Kelly wasn’t kidding. I applied formally for the job, but I was transferred before that paperwork even hit the mailbox. It felt good to be wanted and I eagerly attacked the new job and lifestyle. I became a gym rat. Working out became a passion. I ran, lifted weights, and sweated. I felt good, looked good.

“We’re going on vacation to Washington,” my mom told me over the phone one evening. “Your husband has agreed to let us see the grandkids, so we are going to spend a week with them.” It was April, and the news stirred many emotions in me.

It had been over a year since I’d seen my children, and pictures were rare. During my 8 years of incarceration there were times I went so long without pictures of my children, that when photos finally arrived, I didn’t recognize them at all.

In my mind my children remained the ages I left them. In life they aged. On the phone their voices changed a lot. Sometimes years passed without a picture and then – and then I didn’t recognize their sweet faces. I’d stare and stare at photos, feeling distance and sadness. It was horrifying. As this had already begun to happen, I was desperate to stop it. Desperation in an already unhealthy person can lead to worse behavior.

“I want to see them!” I stammered. My mind began racing, worrying. “I want to see them, too!” I reiterated more forcefully.

“What do you mean?” My mom asked slowly, thinking. I didn’t know what I meant but my mind was screaming.

“What if we never get this opportunity again? He is unstable! I want to see them too. Can’t you bring the kids here to Minnesota?” I pleaded. I was not very gracious, probably crying. I knew it sounded unreasonable, difficult. I couldn’t imagine not asking.

My parents agreed. What an amazing gift! How very generous of them despite my not so gentle request. Arriving in June, my children would enjoy an old-fashioned family road-trip with my parents that summer. I think about that now. What a sacrifice! Amazing!

I became laser focused. I wanted to acquire full visiting privileges so I could hug my children! I completed treatment at the beginning of June and immediately appealed to visiting. WITH URGENCY!! My children would be here in less than a week. I was used to disappointment. I was so determined! I barely slept, barely ate. Agitated, I paced all night. I imagined great visits, feared the worst.

The day before my children arrived two wonderful things happened. The first was a prison-wide visiting room rule change that increased freedoms for everyone having a visit with a child. Rules currently prevented children over age 5 sitting next to their parent. Kids 6 years and older had to visit as if they were an adult, not allowed to touch their mom in any way except for a hug at the start of the visit. The rule change lifted this age limit to 10.

Later at work, my caseworker and a Lieutenant appeared at the gym. Wiping down workout equipment I looked up to see them at the door. Both waved at me, both had big smiles. I set down my towel and walked over to them. Their smiles grew.

My caseworker held a sheet of paper. She looked down at it, then passed it to me. “Your visiting privileges have been increased, congratulations!” She beamed. “You have worked very hard for this; we are very excited for you!” She finished.

The lieutenant nodded his agreement, added his own approval. I took the paper; afraid it might disappear. It was my appeal form, successfully won. I was being granted normal visits with my children. I cheered with joy! I floated to my room after work to tell my family the great news. We would be visiting in person!

The next few days were a dream. I spent hours and hours in the visiting room. Allowed 3-hour visits due to the distance in travel, we spent 3 hours each day Sat, Sun, Weds, Thurs, Fri, and again one more time on the final Saturday together.

 My daughter Vivi, now 6 years old, colored pictures for me while we talked. Along the wall were children’s books. Vivi loved books. She always asked me to read to her. After 2 years without her, the first book held a surprise for me.

Lifting her onto my lap I opened a book and began to read to her. On the third page something unexpected happened, perhaps unanticipated by me because we had been apart so long. I had forgotten the little details of parenting. The reminder was a surprise and delight to me.

Vivi, like all children soothed by a good book, did a trust fall. My arms were wrapped around her as I read, but suddenly all her weight sagged against me, and my arms were barely prepared to absorb her collapse. Her head also dropped, resting on my shoulder. I stuttered, stopped reading, staring at the top of her head, wondering. Vivi seemed unaware of my surprise, didn’t notice I’d stopped. She breathed deeply and waited. Tightening my hold, I resumed reading, my throat tightening.

Then there was my youngest son Timmy, who hated leaving. Age 10, he appeared small and fragile. Timmy had a medical condition requiring daily treatment and care. Left untreated, or poorly treated, Timmy suffered painfully. Timmy was suffering quietly now. He wanted rescue, needed comfort. I wished to save the day but was no hero. I lacked the maturity, the ability.

Thomas and Lukas, Timmy’s older brothers, were 12 and 14. Thomas is a social butterfly, very charismatic. While he visited, he joked with the guards, strolling around like he owned the place. Lukas supervised his brother with a lordly smile and plenty of eye rolling. We enjoyed puzzles together as we talked and shared.

Thomas and Lukas did struggle to understand why their younger siblings could take pictures with mom like old times, arms around shoulders, smiling, while they were not allowed to do so. Forced to behave as adult visitors, pictures included “visible distance” between me and them “for safety and security.”

The week passed quickly. Soon it was over. My heart was soothed, it sang. Yet I felt heartbroken at its end. I hoped another visit might happen again soon. I didn’t know if I would ever see them again while I was in prison.

Horror returned four months later. I received news that Timmy was in the hospital receiving lifesaving surgery. Succumbing to fear and depression, I lost my job. My weight increased again, this time to 190 pounds on my 5-foot frame.

I would never have another visit with my 4 younger children while I was in prison, and to date that is the last time I ever saw my daughter.

I treasure that week, but life would return to a living hell again.

Listener, Are you in a difficult situation? Are you looking for hope, real change? Have you worked in the past only to fail again, relapse again, even worse than before?

Jesus said in Luke 11,

“When the unclean spirit comes out of a person, it roams through desert places in search of rest, some unsuspecting soul; and not finding any, it says, ‘I will go back to my house (the person) from which I came.’ 25 And when it comes, it finds the place swept and put in order. 26 Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they go in [ to the person] and live there; and the last state of that person becomes worse than the first.”

Notice that when the person is swept up and put in order, they are also vacant, empty. This means there is no one home who is stronger than the evil spirit and his friends. Might as well be no one home at all!  

Jesus continued to say in Luke 11

When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are safe; 22 but when one stronger than he attacks him and overcomes him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted and divides his spoil. 23 Whoever is not with me is against me

Does this resonate with you? Do you feel weak in the face of your addiction, anger, instability, and worse? Have you cleaned yourself up in the past only to end up far worse later? Are you scared it might happen even now?

I understand. Jesus provides the solution to confident, permanent total life transformation. He says in John 15:

Dwell in me, and I will dwell in you…however cut off from vital union with me you can do nothing.

Jesus is the strong Man. So how can this help you today? Jesus explained before he went to heaven:

because I live, you will live also.

20 At that time you will know [for yourselves] that I am in My Father, and you [are] in Me, and I [am] in you.

Jesus explains how that happens and how we know as he continues:

21 The person who has My commands and keeps them is the one who [really] loves Me; and whoever [really] loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I [too] will love him and will show and reveal Myself to him. [I will let Myself be clearly seen by him and make Myself real to him.]

We know that a small child in the first year of school knows little compared to a graduate student. Both will make mistakes, both will progress. Learning is a process and has many moving parts.

Knowing God, obeying God, is like that. God says in

Psalm 37

The steps of a [good] man are directed and established by the Lord when the Lord delights in his way and busies Himself with his every step.

24 Though he falls, he shall not be utterly cast down, for the Lord grasps his hand in support and upholds him.

How can we apply these things to our lives today to live confidently, fearlessly, boldly? The most important step is to admit your need your need for a strong man in your ‘house’, your need for Jesus. Then ask Jesus to be that strong man. Jesus says again in Luke 11

how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask and continue to ask Him!

It would be many years for me before I learned this lesson and peace arrived, but as I wrote this podcast episode my son Tim sat happily with me in my office, now a healthy adult. All of my boys are doing well. God is writing your story too. I am praying for you. He has great plans for us!

Dear Jesus, I pray for the person listening right now, and I pray for me, that you would be our strength, our strong savior. Protect us, transform us. Make us bold. Amen

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