An Exploration of Stigma in the Lives of Sex Offenders and Heroin Abusers

cover_devbehaviorFurst, R. Terry and Douglas N. Evans (2014). An Exploration of Stigma in the Lives of Sex Offenders and Heroin Abusers. Deviant Behavior. Published online October 2014 (00:1–16).

Research was conducted on variations and commonalities of sexual offenders and heroin abusers and how they manage stigma in their everyday lives. Interviews with 13 sex offenders (SOs) and 44 heroin abusers (HAs) were conducted in New York City. Results suggest that both SOs and HAs disclose or conceal their stigmatized status based on their relationship to others and the situations in which they anticipate social condemnation. Both groups have formed intra-group hierarchies based on status, where child molesters and heroin abusers receive the most disdain. Some heroin abusers manage their stigma by engaging in behavior that we term redemptive passing, in which stigmatized individuals attempt to pass as non-stigmatized through deceptive means in order to make amends for prior harms they have caused. The stigmatization of sex offenders and heroin abusers has important implications for health, as members of these groups are less likely to seek treatment in order to distance themselves from their stigmatizing status.