If you committed a sex offense in Mississippi, you don’t want to be only known as a sex offender. But that’s often the reality for people guilty of committing sexual crimes, even if they’re one-time offenders. Fortunately, new research is finding that using person-first language can be helpful for the future of those suspected of sex-related crimes.
The damages that labels can cause
Applying labels such as sex offender or pedophile to those guilty of sex offenses judges them only by a crime they committed. Receiving such hateful labels in person or online can make anyone’s life a living hell. This type of language also puts the offense ahead of the person.
The power of using person-first language
Science shows that labels have more power than people think. Using positive language that puts people first can help make life easier for everyone, from people with disabilities to those guilty of past crimes. For example, using person-first language could refer to someone as a “person with a sexual attraction to younger people” instead of saying they’re a “pedophile.”
Another problem with using labels is that they hinder someone’s attempts to reintegrate into society. Research shows that 80% of adults guilty of sex crimes never do this again. But putting labels on people makes it seem like they repeatedly commit sexually-related offenses. Person-first language first became used in the medical field. Instead of labeling someone as a “schizophrenic,” medical experts began referring to these people as those “living with schizophrenia.”
Using bias in written language remains a growing problem for people guilty or suspected of committing crimes. However, moving away from offense-first labels helps people see the person behind someone’s troubled past.