8244 – Sexual offender myths

From – CSOM

Myths and Facts About Sex Offenders

There are many misconceptions about sexual offenses, sexual offense victims, and sex offenders in our society. Much has been learned about these behaviors and populations in the past decade and this information is being used to develop more effective criminal justice interventions throughout the country. This document serves to inform citizens, policy makers, and practitioners about sex offenders and their victims, addressing the facts that underlie common assumptions both true and false in this rapidly evolving field.

Some particularly informative ones –

“All sex offenders are male.”

The vast majority of sex offenders are male. However, females also commit sexual crimes.

In 1994, less than 1% of all incarcerated rape and sexual assault offenders were female (fewer than 800 women) (Greenfeld, 1997). By 1997, however, 6,292 females had been arrested for forcible rape or other sex offenses, constituting approximately 8% of all rape and sexual assault arrests for that year (FBI, 1997). Additionally, studies indicate that females commit approximately 20% of sex offenses against children (ATSA, 1996). Males commit the majority of sex offenses but females commit some, particularly against childrenGeotarget

“Children who are sexually assaulted will sexually assault others when they grow up.”

Most sex offenders were not sexually assaulted as children and most children who are sexually assaulted do not sexually assault others.

Early childhood sexual victimization does not automatically lead to sexually aggressive behavior. While sex offenders have higher rates of sexual abuse in their histories than expected in the general population, the majority were not abused. Among adult sex offenders, approximately 30% have been sexually abused. Some types of offenders, such as those who sexually offend against young boys, have still higher rates of child sexual abuse in their histories (Becker and Murphy, 1998).

While past sexual victimization can increase the likelihood of sexually aggressive behavior, most children who were sexually victimized never perpetrate against others.

Some points from the report include:

  • studies of general criminal recidivism find criminal offenders are unlikely to specialize. However, studies also find that whereas sex offenders may commit other crimes, other types of offenders rarely commit sex offenses.(p.5)
  • instruments to predict general recidivism are not necessarily applicable to determining sex offender recidivism (p.5)
  • being sexually abused as a child was not found to be related to becoming a repeat sex offender(p.11)
  • The underreporting of sexual assault contributes to the underreporting of recidivism which leads to sex offenders having a low base rate (defined as the overall rate of recidivism of an entire group of offenders). This low base rate problem decreases our ability to accurately predict recidivism.

  • Studies show different base rates for different types of sex offenses. For example, child molesters have a higher rate of rearrest than rapists (52% versus 39 percent when tracked over 25 years).
  • One review of recidivism rates (p.7) found: “Incest offenders ranged between 4 and 10 percent. Rapists ranged between 7 and 35 percent. Child molesters with female victims ranged between 10 and 29 percent. Child molesters with male victims ranged between 13 and 40 percent. Exhibitionists ranged between 41 and 71 percent.”

  • Several studies and interviews of sex offenders support the claim that sex offender recidivism is highly underreported, with imprisoned perpetrators having many times more victims than the official criminal reports record.(p.3)
  • Typical sex offender treatment approaches are highlighted as a (1) cognitive -behavioral approach, a pyscho-educational approach, and the pharmacological approach. (p.12) Literature reviews show the “cognitive behavioral approach holds considerable promise” in decreasing sex offender recidivism. (p.16) Characteristics of a more effective treatment program include: “skills-based training, modeling of pro-social behaviors and attitudes, a directive but non-punitive orientation, a focus on modification of precursors to criminal behavior, and a supervised community component”(Quinsey, 1998)

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