Sexual abuse and sex offending. Sexual abuse history among adult sex offenders and non-sex offenders: A meta-analysis.



Sexual abuse and sex offending

Sexual abuse and sex offending

Researchers have invested a great deal of effort in exploring these issues so that we may begin to understand or explain why some individuals engage in sexually abusive behaviors, and so that we are better able to make decisions about the kinds of interventions that may be most effective for certain aspects of this population.

This has proven to be much easier said than done, however. Or that the typical rapist is a masked knife—wielding man lurking in a dark alley or hiding behind a bush waiting to jump out and grab an unsuspecting woman who is passing by. And for a variety of reasons, even some criminal justice professionals may seek to identify such a profile for sex offenders.

For example, law enforcement agents may have the expectation that if there is a profile of the typical sex offender, it might be easier to identify suspects when incidents of sexual assault are reported and the perpetrators have not yet been caught.

Still others, such as some treatment providers or some supervision officers, may hold onto the belief that there is a profile of a sex offender, because it will make it simpler to treat and supervise them. And finally, some professionals may believe that if there truly is a profile, we can identify persons who might be at risk of becoming a sex offender and therefore be able to prevent sex offenses from happening to begin with. Who is the Typical Sex Offender? In fact, because they are such a heterogeneous group, it is sometimes difficult to discern how they are uniquely different from other types of criminals or from those of us in the general public, other than the fact that they have engaged in sexually abusive behaviors.

Do you believe that sex offenders are more similar to other community members than they are different? Why or why not? Monster, Victim, or Everyman? He goes on to provide a brief review of the research literature, which suggests that sex offenders are a diverse group of individuals who may in fact be more similar to us than they are different. As you have likely experienced in your work, there is no usual age that represents the sex offender—some are young, some are middle—aged, and some are more elderly.

It does appear that, within samples of adult sex offenders, older sex offenders recidivate at lower rates than younger adult offenders. Nor can any generalizations be made about where they are most apt to fall along the socioeconomic spectrum or social achievement spectrum. This is different from other types of crime, in which socioeconomic status or level of social achievement seems to be a risk factor.

In fact, you may have found yourself having a hard time trying to stay just one step ahead of an offender who seems to have great skill at outsmarting others. At the same time, these same professionals may be equally challenged with respect to how to best tailor strategies and interventions for those offenders whose level of intellectual functioning falls well below the average. Some sex offenders have mental health difficulties, such as depression, anxiety, or other disorders, just as many people in the general public do.

As you saw, although we know that females do commit sex offenses, the vast majority of sex offenders that come to the attention of the authorities are male. Common Characteristics of Sex Offenders At this point, given the known heterogeneity of sex offenders, some of you may be wondering whether sex offenders share any common characteristics that can be helpful for understanding their behaviors. It is important to remember that not all of these issues are present in every sex offender.

Keep in mind that some of these features or characteristics can also be found in samples of other criminals, or within the general population, or even among some of the people in this room! But because these characteristics have been found in samples of sex offenders, experts believe that they may somehow be related to why individuals begin engaging in sexually abusive behavior, particularly when these factors interact with other variables and circumstances.

And some, but not all, of these characteristics also predict reoffending among known sex offenders. Commonly Identified Characteristics Enlarge Slide 4 Deviant sexual arousal, interests, or preferences For decades, researchers have found that some sex offenders have interests in—or are aroused to—things that are considered to be outside the realm of healthy or appropriate sexual interests or behavior, including, but not limited to, the following: Either through self—report or through the use of certain types of physiological assessment instruments, the presence of some of these and other types of deviant sexual interests or arousal patterns can be identified.

Some sex offenders may even prefer one or more of these types of behaviors over healthy, consenting sexual relationships with age—appropriate partners—hence, the term deviant sexual preferences.

Because these types of interests, urges, arousal, or even preferences can be so strong, it is believed that they are a significant driving force behind the initial onset of sexually abusive behaviors for some sex offenders. Additionally, researchers have found that deviant arousal, interests, or preferences are linked to recidivism.

And there may also be people in the general public who have some types of deviant interests or preferences—but they may not ever engage in sex offending behaviors. Nonetheless, it is an important risk factor for sex offenders.

Cognitive Distortions or Pro—Offending Attitudes Those who work in this field generally agree that sex offenders are aware that acts such as rape and child molestation are not only illegal but also harmful to others. Yet they engage in this behavior anyway. This is likely the result of cognitive distortions, or pro—offending attitudes.

What happens is that sex offenders may tell themselves and even tell others that the behavior is not harmful or that it is less serious, or claim that the victim enjoyed the behavior or initiated the sexual contact, or they may come up with justifications for engaging in sex offending behaviors, such as believing that women deserve to be treated in these ways.

The reality is that we all use different types of cognitive distortions to some extent. That way, we, too, can avoid feeling guilty or badly about what we are doing. Put simply, the process of using cognitive distortions is not unique to sex offenders. The types of cognitive distortions that sex offenders use, however, are often related specifically to their own problem behaviors, including general antisocial behaviors or sex offending behaviors.

Not surprisingly, researchers have attempted to measure these kinds of cognitive distortions among samples of sex offenders, and have found that they are fairly common—and oftentimes to a much greater extent than they are found in other samples of criminals or the general public.

It also seems logical that cognitive distortions would be related to continued offending. And the research seems to indicate just that—pro—offending attitudes have indeed been found to be associated with recidivism among sex offenders. For some time it was believed that sex offenders lacked the ability to be empathic in general, although later it was suggested that their deficits were more specific to their victims.

We all know that many people in the general public have difficulties managing certain emotions at times, and many of us can and do act in impulsive ways occasionally. So, although these kinds of problems or features are seen commonly among groups of sex offenders, it does not mean that they are unique to sex offenders. Nor does it mean that these kinds of variables cause people to commit sex offenses. Nonetheless, the research and literature does indicate that some of these factors—specifically emotional and behavioral self—regulation difficulties—may be part of what leads someone down the path to sex offending, and they are also associated with reoffending.

That, too, is a common characteristic of sex offenders. In other words, the research suggests that the offense for which an individual is apprehended may not actually be the first or only abusive behavior in which he has engaged.

Rather, as I mentioned earlier, we need to acknowledge that for many sex offenders, there is often more to the story than initially meets the eye. History of maltreatment How many of you have heard that most sex offenders have been sexually abused themselves?

This is an area that researchers have been interested in for many years with this population. Indeed, returning to Dr. Marshall points out, however, the literature does not support the notion that all sex offenders have been sexually abused. Some have been, and some have not. Among the studies that have examined childhood maltreatment including sexual victimization among sex offenders, there is quite a bit of variation.

This seems to suggest that there may be some sort of relationship between having been maltreated and later engaging in sex offending behaviors, especially when other kinds of vulnerability or risk factors are present. But in and of itself, there is no research that supports the notion that it actually causes sex offending.

And we know that there are many people who have been subjected to physical, sexual, or emotional abuse during their childhood or adolescence, yet they never go on to commit sex offenses. You may also find it interesting to know that when researchers have attempted to explore recidivism among sex offenders based on a history of sexual abuse, no relationship has been found.

And I also noted that some of these characteristics have been found to predict reoffending—or sexual recidivism. So that you have a clear understanding of the kinds of factors that are related to recidivism, I will highlight them based on the kinds of factors that are static or unchangeable, and those which have the potential to change over time. Key Examples of Static Risk Factors For example, among other factors, researchers have found the following static factors tend to predict sexual recidivism: Key Examples of Dynamic Risk Factors And in addition, among the kinds of factors or variables that have the potential to change over time, and which predict sexual reoffending, are the following: Sex offenders are not all alike.

In fact, even though there are some characteristics that many sex offenders share, it appears that there may be more variability—and potential for differences—within the sex offender population overall than there are sweeping similarities. Does this variability mean that our management efforts are a lost cause? More apt to be the case is that different subtypes, subgroups, or typologies of sex offenders exist.

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Sex, Lies, and Sex Offenders - Part 2 - Sadistic vs Non-Sadistic Offenders - Protect your children!



Sexual abuse and sex offending

Researchers have invested a great deal of effort in exploring these issues so that we may begin to understand or explain why some individuals engage in sexually abusive behaviors, and so that we are better able to make decisions about the kinds of interventions that may be most effective for certain aspects of this population.

This has proven to be much easier said than done, however. Or that the typical rapist is a masked knife—wielding man lurking in a dark alley or hiding behind a bush waiting to jump out and grab an unsuspecting woman who is passing by. And for a variety of reasons, even some criminal justice professionals may seek to identify such a profile for sex offenders.

For example, law enforcement agents may have the expectation that if there is a profile of the typical sex offender, it might be easier to identify suspects when incidents of sexual assault are reported and the perpetrators have not yet been caught. Still others, such as some treatment providers or some supervision officers, may hold onto the belief that there is a profile of a sex offender, because it will make it simpler to treat and supervise them.

And finally, some professionals may believe that if there truly is a profile, we can identify persons who might be at risk of becoming a sex offender and therefore be able to prevent sex offenses from happening to begin with.

Who is the Typical Sex Offender? In fact, because they are such a heterogeneous group, it is sometimes difficult to discern how they are uniquely different from other types of criminals or from those of us in the general public, other than the fact that they have engaged in sexually abusive behaviors.

Do you believe that sex offenders are more similar to other community members than they are different? Why or why not? Monster, Victim, or Everyman? He goes on to provide a brief review of the research literature, which suggests that sex offenders are a diverse group of individuals who may in fact be more similar to us than they are different.

As you have likely experienced in your work, there is no usual age that represents the sex offender—some are young, some are middle—aged, and some are more elderly.

It does appear that, within samples of adult sex offenders, older sex offenders recidivate at lower rates than younger adult offenders.

Nor can any generalizations be made about where they are most apt to fall along the socioeconomic spectrum or social achievement spectrum. This is different from other types of crime, in which socioeconomic status or level of social achievement seems to be a risk factor. In fact, you may have found yourself having a hard time trying to stay just one step ahead of an offender who seems to have great skill at outsmarting others.

At the same time, these same professionals may be equally challenged with respect to how to best tailor strategies and interventions for those offenders whose level of intellectual functioning falls well below the average. Some sex offenders have mental health difficulties, such as depression, anxiety, or other disorders, just as many people in the general public do. As you saw, although we know that females do commit sex offenses, the vast majority of sex offenders that come to the attention of the authorities are male.

Common Characteristics of Sex Offenders At this point, given the known heterogeneity of sex offenders, some of you may be wondering whether sex offenders share any common characteristics that can be helpful for understanding their behaviors.

It is important to remember that not all of these issues are present in every sex offender. Keep in mind that some of these features or characteristics can also be found in samples of other criminals, or within the general population, or even among some of the people in this room! But because these characteristics have been found in samples of sex offenders, experts believe that they may somehow be related to why individuals begin engaging in sexually abusive behavior, particularly when these factors interact with other variables and circumstances.

And some, but not all, of these characteristics also predict reoffending among known sex offenders. Commonly Identified Characteristics Enlarge Slide 4 Deviant sexual arousal, interests, or preferences For decades, researchers have found that some sex offenders have interests in—or are aroused to—things that are considered to be outside the realm of healthy or appropriate sexual interests or behavior, including, but not limited to, the following: Either through self—report or through the use of certain types of physiological assessment instruments, the presence of some of these and other types of deviant sexual interests or arousal patterns can be identified.

Some sex offenders may even prefer one or more of these types of behaviors over healthy, consenting sexual relationships with age—appropriate partners—hence, the term deviant sexual preferences. Because these types of interests, urges, arousal, or even preferences can be so strong, it is believed that they are a significant driving force behind the initial onset of sexually abusive behaviors for some sex offenders. Additionally, researchers have found that deviant arousal, interests, or preferences are linked to recidivism.

And there may also be people in the general public who have some types of deviant interests or preferences—but they may not ever engage in sex offending behaviors. Nonetheless, it is an important risk factor for sex offenders. Cognitive Distortions or Pro—Offending Attitudes Those who work in this field generally agree that sex offenders are aware that acts such as rape and child molestation are not only illegal but also harmful to others.

Yet they engage in this behavior anyway. This is likely the result of cognitive distortions, or pro—offending attitudes. What happens is that sex offenders may tell themselves and even tell others that the behavior is not harmful or that it is less serious, or claim that the victim enjoyed the behavior or initiated the sexual contact, or they may come up with justifications for engaging in sex offending behaviors, such as believing that women deserve to be treated in these ways.

The reality is that we all use different types of cognitive distortions to some extent. That way, we, too, can avoid feeling guilty or badly about what we are doing. Put simply, the process of using cognitive distortions is not unique to sex offenders. The types of cognitive distortions that sex offenders use, however, are often related specifically to their own problem behaviors, including general antisocial behaviors or sex offending behaviors.

Not surprisingly, researchers have attempted to measure these kinds of cognitive distortions among samples of sex offenders, and have found that they are fairly common—and oftentimes to a much greater extent than they are found in other samples of criminals or the general public.

It also seems logical that cognitive distortions would be related to continued offending. And the research seems to indicate just that—pro—offending attitudes have indeed been found to be associated with recidivism among sex offenders. For some time it was believed that sex offenders lacked the ability to be empathic in general, although later it was suggested that their deficits were more specific to their victims.

We all know that many people in the general public have difficulties managing certain emotions at times, and many of us can and do act in impulsive ways occasionally. So, although these kinds of problems or features are seen commonly among groups of sex offenders, it does not mean that they are unique to sex offenders. Nor does it mean that these kinds of variables cause people to commit sex offenses.

Nonetheless, the research and literature does indicate that some of these factors—specifically emotional and behavioral self—regulation difficulties—may be part of what leads someone down the path to sex offending, and they are also associated with reoffending. That, too, is a common characteristic of sex offenders. In other words, the research suggests that the offense for which an individual is apprehended may not actually be the first or only abusive behavior in which he has engaged.

Rather, as I mentioned earlier, we need to acknowledge that for many sex offenders, there is often more to the story than initially meets the eye.

History of maltreatment How many of you have heard that most sex offenders have been sexually abused themselves? This is an area that researchers have been interested in for many years with this population. Indeed, returning to Dr. Marshall points out, however, the literature does not support the notion that all sex offenders have been sexually abused.

Some have been, and some have not. Among the studies that have examined childhood maltreatment including sexual victimization among sex offenders, there is quite a bit of variation. This seems to suggest that there may be some sort of relationship between having been maltreated and later engaging in sex offending behaviors, especially when other kinds of vulnerability or risk factors are present.

But in and of itself, there is no research that supports the notion that it actually causes sex offending. And we know that there are many people who have been subjected to physical, sexual, or emotional abuse during their childhood or adolescence, yet they never go on to commit sex offenses. You may also find it interesting to know that when researchers have attempted to explore recidivism among sex offenders based on a history of sexual abuse, no relationship has been found.

And I also noted that some of these characteristics have been found to predict reoffending—or sexual recidivism. So that you have a clear understanding of the kinds of factors that are related to recidivism, I will highlight them based on the kinds of factors that are static or unchangeable, and those which have the potential to change over time. Key Examples of Static Risk Factors For example, among other factors, researchers have found the following static factors tend to predict sexual recidivism: Key Examples of Dynamic Risk Factors And in addition, among the kinds of factors or variables that have the potential to change over time, and which predict sexual reoffending, are the following: Sex offenders are not all alike.

In fact, even though there are some characteristics that many sex offenders share, it appears that there may be more variability—and potential for differences—within the sex offender population overall than there are sweeping similarities. Does this variability mean that our management efforts are a lost cause?

More apt to be the case is that different subtypes, subgroups, or typologies of sex offenders exist.

Sexual abuse and sex offending

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  1. For these reasons, relying on rearrest and reconviction data underestimates actual re-offense numbers. But in and of itself, there is no research that supports the notion that it actually causes sex offending. Why or why not?

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