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Motivations Behind Sexual Harassment

The mayor is accused of sexual harassment. We take a closer look at what motivates someone to sexually harass others, what treatment is available and does it work?

Mayor Bob Filner admitted he needs help.

"I have begun to work with professionals to make changes in my behavior and approach, in addition my staff and I will participate in sexual harassment training provided by the city," Filner said in a videotaped statement released Thursday afternoon in response to sexual harassment accusations.

Filner stopped short of saying he sexually harassed anyone. But, what does his participation in treatment really mean and how likely is it to change behavior?

San Diego psychotherapist David Peters says there are a number of issues that could lead someone to sexually harass others.

“In most cases the sexual harasser is someone who’s got impulse control problems, there’s immaturity and some unmet intimacy needs from long ago, childhood or adolescent conflicts that are unresolved and they’re truly trying to enjoy the social interaction and the arousal of it with denying that they’re doing any harm,” Peters says.

During his apology, Mayor Filner said he plans to reach out to current and former staff, both men and women.

"In the next few days, I will be reaching out to those who now work in the Mayor's Office or have previously worked for me - both men and women - to personally apologize for my behavior," Filner said.

Peters says an apology could go very poorly if it’s not done with absolute sincerity.

“We can often tell if someone’s just going through the motions to patch up a relationship or whether someone is truly contrite and truly looking at themselves deeply," he says.

Peters says it would take a long time to understand whether someone who sexually harasses others could be rehabilitated.

Peters says he would want to, "find out if there is a compulsive disorder, is there a mental illness, if not then what’s with the immaturity?

"What are the issues in the background that have led to this behavior and as I’ve said, given that someone has been confronted many times before, this is a long piece of work in most cases. I’ve not met the mayor, I don’t know the case individually, but given the general facts no matter who it is, probably a long period of time.”

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