Coping with Stigma: How Registered Sex Offenders Manage their Public Identities

Evans, Douglas N. and Michelle A. Cubellis (2015). Coping with Stigma: How Registered Sex Offenders Manage their Public Identities. American Journal of Criminal Justice, 40(3): 593-619.

The purpose of this paper is to explore the ways in which registered sex offenders (RSOs) cope with stigmatization and manage their identities when they are subjected to or anticipate social condemnation. In-depth interviews were conducted with 20 RSOs. Respondents discussed methods they use to cope with and manage their stigmatized identities, including honesty, concealment, and isolation, which are addressed in prior literature on stigma management. Additional coping strategies were discussed: grouping, in which RSOs seek out other individuals who are similarly stigmatized as a source of social support and understanding, and denial, in which whereby stigmatized individuals disavow the label that society has ascribed upon them to subjectively reform their identities as separate from their sex offense conviction. Stigmatization of RSOs has negative effects on their social participation and methods of coping with their stigmatized identities may have implications for public health. Recommendations for improving the supervision of RSOs in the community are discussed.