Oakland, CA—April 13, 2018
Mills alumna Marilyn Callahan, a retired clinical social worker, was recently profiled in statesman journal. Callahan is renowned as a pioneer in sex-offender treatment and is promoting the new book she co-authored.
At just 20 years old, Callahan graduated from Mills College in 1955. She began working with sex offenders before the term was even coined. She developed her own treatment program because there was none, focusing first on looking at sex offenders as human beings. Her approach was customized to each client, arming the offenders with tools to develop empathy and avoid destructive cycles of behavior.
Callahan met her co-author, Tim Buckley, 12 years ago through her pro bono work. Buckley had been mentoring people out of prison and when one of his mentees, a sex offender, needed a therapist who was both reputable and inexpensive, his research led him to Callahan.
Detailed in the new book titled “S.O. The New Scarlet Letters: Sex Offenders, Their Treatment and Our Challenge,” Callahan believes in rehabilitation and redemption. Her approach is based on truth, empathy, and hope. “Sex offenders are human beings,” she says. “They may have made bad choices, but there’s a good side to them.” Realizing some may consider this a backwards approach, Callahan has made it her mission to bring this belief to light.
Now at the age of 83, and after a 50-plus-year career, Callahan stays in touch with many of her former clients—several of them agreed to contribute to the book, sharing their treatment stories.
The authors say the book is as much about society as it is about sex offenders. They say labeling sex offenders and making it difficult for them to start over when they get out of prison harkens back to the days of the Scarlet Letter, a brand placed on someone who committed adultery, which explains the book’s title.