April 19, 1997 in City

Predator’s Treatment Questioned Lone Woman Better Off Apart From Dozens Of Men, Report Says

Associated Press

A new federal report suggests that treating a woman in the state’s male-dominated sexual predator program is the wrong approach.

Laura McCollum, 39, was committed in January to the Special Commitment Center in Monroe. She is the first woman in the state and only the second in the nation to be classified as a sexual predator.

But Janice Marques, appointed by U.S. District Judge William Dwyer in Seattle to oversee improvements at the center, has written a report recommending that McCollum should be moved to another location.

There are serious questions about the appropriateness of treating a female offender in all-male sex offender groups, and her presence also presents concerns about privacy and safety, Marques wrote.

There are more than 40 men at the center.

State law allows indefinite civil commitment of people found to be habitual sex offenders after they have finished serving their criminal sentences.

Center ombudswoman Tamara Menteer says McCollum must be escorted to school, church or the infirmary, and all exercise and sports activities are male-oriented.

Also, McCollum does not feel like she can shower without being seen and, despite close supervision, there have been reports of men touching her and of a man exposing himself, Menteer said.

McCollum also told Menteer that she is uncomfortable listening to the sexual fantasies disclosed by men in group therapy.

Psychologist Mark Whitehill, who evaluated McCollum last year, offered “the strongly stated professional opinion that Ms. McCollum should not be treated at the SCC,” Marques noted.

Assistant state attorney general Sarah Coats, who represents the Special Commitment Center, said during a brief hearing before Dwyer on Thursday that the state would like a chance to respond to the report and would file a brief next week.

Lawyers for McCollum will then file a response.

Marques does say in the report that the administrators of the program, psychologists Mark Seling and Robert Smith, believe McCollum can receive good treatment at the center. In addition to group therapy, she also has individual treatment.

During her commitment trial, McCollum admitted molesting dozens of children, male and female. She has told the state she wants to be confined for treatment because she fears she might harm children again.

© Copyright 1997 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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