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'I was chemically castrated'

French gendarmes search woods near Fountainebleau after the killing of jogger Marie Christine Hodeau on 30/09/09
France's castration debate follows the killing of jogger Marie Christine Hodeau

This week, the French National Assembly is debating a bill on the treatment of re-offenders.

One of the issues likely to be discussed is chemical castration. This is currently voluntary in France, but some are calling for it to become obligatory after a convicted sex offender attacked and killed a jogger.

In September, Polish MPs passed legislation making it obligatory to chemically castrate certain sex offenders.

So what is life like for those who undergo chemical castration treatment?

Jesse (not his real name) is a 30-year-old Canadian who has undergone chemical castration. He told his story to the BBC World Service's Europe Today programme.

JESSE'S STORY

In 2004, I was convicted of sexual assault and possession of child pornography. I was then incarcerated for a period of about 17 months.

During that time, I was at a treatment centre and I found out through other residents about this type of medication.

My doctor was hesitant at first, but less so after I told him that I was being inundated with deviant thoughts and that I was becoming a suicide risk.

These drugs have changed my life completely. I am not the same person I was

When you tell your doctor you are going to kill yourself, that tends to get them to do things.

The treatment is simply an injection taken once every four to six weeks. It is done in the hip at the local hospital.

It took about six weeks for the full effects to ramp up. Basically it almost completely eliminates your sexual desires.

Old instincts

I started taking it around Christmas time and I noticed the thoughts dropped off to the point where I was not having them anymore.

I would normally be watching TV and have a fantasy about the person, but after a while I realised that I was watching that show and nothing was happening.

So I thought, that the stuff must be working, and I decided to stay on it after my release.

And this was not just about characters on TV. Everywhere I looked it was there.

I can remember what those previous instincts were. It is rather graphic.

The plan is to develop a healthy relationship with someone who is my own age, someone who shares common interests

This was about five years ago now, and I am glad I do not think that way any more.

These drugs have changed my life completely. I am not the same person I was.

During my last visit with my probation officer, I was looking through my file that she had on me and saw a newspaper clipping from my court case.

I remember the details and the court case.

And I also remember thinking that that person is me but it is not me. That person has gone, has died and is not coming back. It has helped me so much I can't measure it.

I could stop taking the treatment, and eventually I will stop taking it.

Can of worms

I have been working closely with my doctor, and the plan is to develop a healthy relationship with someone who is my own age, someone who shares common interests - something that is done every day by countless people around the world.

I believe I have met such a young lady so we will see where it goes from here.

With the help of my doctor we'll decide a date to go off the medication and see what happens.

There were side effects initially. Things like pain in the knees, weight gain

She does not know about my background yet. I will eventually disclose to her, probably in the coming months.

A friend of mine who I met while in the treatment centre has been in a relationship for three years.

Next week I am going to see him and ask him how he told his girlfriend.

I just want to make sure she is the right person before I go and open that can of worms.

I will then tell her what signs to watch out for, so if I start doing them, I will ask her to tell me I am doing it. And then I will let my doctor know as well.

Part of the problem I encountered when I was offending previously is that I had nobody to tell and had nowhere to go.

I did not know there was treatment. I was afraid that if I told anybody I would end up in jail anyway having not done anything.

That is the very prevalent attitude of people before they realise there is help out there.

Without this treatment, there is a very good chance I would be dead.

When I was incarcerated, I had suicidal thoughts.

I had it planned intricately down to knowing what I was going to eat on the day.

It is such a big difference to be able to look back on that and say I did some pretty nasty things in my past but I have also made some pretty amazing improvements in my life since then.

Second chance

There were side effects initially. Things like pain in the knees, weight gain.

The drug itself is expensive. It is about $450 (£255) for one injection.

I am fortunate in that I have a health plan which covers 90% of that.

I attend a group with other individuals who have had similar problems in the past.

There are about 30 of us in the group and we meet once a week. It is run by my doctor who is absolutely brilliant in this field.

If I had been forced to have treatment, it might have led to the same outcome, but my mindset would be different

We sit around and we discuss issues relating to us. If I have a question, I can bring it to the group and we have literally hundreds of years of experience in the room.

I have never walked away from the group thinking that was a waste of time.

If someone was to say to me that it is too much of a risk for me to be out of jail, I would say that if you want to give me the money that would otherwise be used to incarcerate me for the year, I can stay in my home and never leave.

I could use $40,000 a year and sit in my apartment and not go out.

But I think everybody deserves a second chance.

If you look at the American model of lock-them-up-and-throw-away-the-key, it just does not work.

Eventually you have to let them out.

'Extra motivation'

They say you can lead a horse to water but you cannot make them drink.

Forcing treatment on anybody creates an angry person and this could be a barrier to proper treatment.

I would rather see a country have an enticement to take the medication willingly, such as early parole or less supervision.

If I had been forced to have treatment, it might have led to the same outcome, but my mindset would be different.

If you force me to do something, I'm going to resist it and I think this is very common to many people who run foul of the law.

It is a general resistance and resentment to anything you are forced to do.

If things do not go to plan, I will go back on the drugs. But I am confident I can manage it.

I have built up quite a life for myself in the past few years and I have a lot more to lose now than I did before. That is extra motivation to get it right this time.

If I do something again I will probably go to jail for life. But I am not going back. It is not going to happen.

The full interview will be broadcast on the BBC World Service's Europe Today programme at 1700GMT on Tuesday 17 November.



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SEE ALSO
Poland backs chemical castration
25 Sep 09 |  Europe
Castration 'may help stop rapist'
27 Mar 09 |  Tayside and Central
Czechs criticised over castration
05 Feb 09 |  Europe
France announces paedophile curbs
20 Aug 07 |  Europe
Castrate rapists say Kenyan MPs
28 Apr 05 |  Africa
Italian bid to castrate rapists
24 Jun 05 |  Europe
Should child rapists be castrated?
27 Nov 03 |  Africa

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