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Understanding Sex Offenders and Sexual Victimization.

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Presentation on theme: "Understanding Sex Offenders and Sexual Victimization."— Presentation transcript:

1 Understanding Sex Offenders and Sexual Victimization

2 Learning Objectives Name the most common victim-offender relationships and locations for crimes; Discuss the issues surrounding sexual victimization; Describe ways in which sex offenders differ from one another; Understand implications of diversity on sentencing; and Describe some of the current uncertainties about sex offense and recidivism data.

3 Overview Research on Judges’ Challenges in Sex Offender Cases Incidence and Prevalence Trends Victim Issues in Court Practices Uncertainties in Sex Offender Data Offender Characteristics Recidivism Research Dynamics of Sexual Victimization

4 Factors that Pose Difficulties in Sex Offender Cases Disproportionate media attention Negative public sentiment Widespread myths, conflicting information Proliferation of sex offender-specific laws Imperfect science

5 Research on Judges’ Difficulties in Sex Offender Cases What Difficulties Have You Faced?

6 Judges’ Difficulties Presiding Over Sex Offense Cases (Bumby & Maddox, 1999) Legal/Technical Perspective More or Much More Difficult No More Difficult

7 Judges’ Difficulties Presiding Over Sex Offense Cases (cont.) (Bumby & Maddox, 1999) Public Scrutiny/Pressure Perspective More or Much More Difficult No More Difficult

8 Judges’ Difficulties Presiding Over Sex Offense Cases (Bumby & Maddox, 1999) Personal/Emotional Perspective No More Difficult More or Much More Difficult

9 Specific Decision-Making Difficulties Reported by Judges Pre-existing relationship between accuser and accused Reluctance or refusal of victim to testify Limited evidence, lack of corroborating evidence (Bumby & Maddox, 1999)

10 Specific Decision-Making Difficulties Reported by Judges (cont.) Defendant’s injection of reasonable doubt into circumstances of the crime Interpretation and application of (and limited confidence in) assessments Limited information about “what works” (Bumby & Maddox, 1999)


12 Incidence and Prevalence Trends Childhood Sexual Abuse –1 in 4 girls –1 in 6 boys Rape –1 in 6 women –1 in 33 men (See, e.g., Finkelhor, 1994; Finkelhor et al., 2005; Tjaden & Thoennes, 2006)

13 Does This Prevalence Data Compare to Your Experience?

14 What are the Challenges in Jury Selection and Management?

15 D YNAMICS OF S EXUAL V ICTIMIZATION Victim-Offender Relationship Locations Where Victimization Occurs Reporting Rates Short- and Long-Term Impact

16 Myth or Fact? Those who commit sex crimes are usually known to their victims.

17 Sexual Victimization of Children and Adolescents: Victim-Offender Relationship by Victim Age 0 to 5 Family Acquaintance Stranger 6 to 11 12 to 14 15 to 17 80% 60% 40% 20% 0% (Snyder & Sickmund, 2006)

18 Rape: Victim-Offender Relationship Strangers Known (Tjaden & Thoennes, 2006)

19 Myth or Fact? When sexual victimization occurs, it usually takes place at a location that is not familiar to the victim.

20 Most Common Locations Where Sexual Assaults Occur Adult victims –Victim’s home (39%) –Home of friend, other relative (24%) Child and adolescent victims –Home (81%) –School (8%) (Rennison, 2001; Snyder, 2000; Snyder & Sickmund, 2006)

21 Myth or Fact? Reporting rates for sex crimes are higher than for other kinds of crimes against persons.

22 Reporting Rates for Various Crimes Against Persons (Rand, 2008) 100% 80% 60% 40% 20% 0% 66% 57% 42% Robbery Aggravated Assault Rape/Sexual Assault

23 Examples of Potential Short- and Long-Term Impact on Victims Fear, anxiety Depression, suicidal ideation and attempts Self-esteem, self-image difficulties Relationship difficulties Substance abuse Delinquency Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder


25 Balancing Offender Focus with Victim Awareness System responses that consider victims as well as offenders Policies and practices that are sensitive to victims’ needs, interests

26 Roles for Judges Be knowledgeable about rape shield laws Know legal status of privileged communications that occur in the context of victims’ counseling sessions Allow support persons for victims during court proceedings Model appropriate, victim-sensitive conduct Inquire of impact of plea agreement on victims

27 Roles for Judges (cont.) Hold pre-trial conferences, motions, or evidentiary hearings in a manner that does not intimidate victims Be sensitive to the timing of trials Allow flexibility in court scheduling to accommodate the needs of victims Minimize court appearances for victims Ensure compliance with victims’ rights legislation

28 Plea Bargaining and Prosecution Practices Potential unintended consequences of plea bargains Victim advocates Victim impact statements Vertical prosecution Accurate charges Specialized units

29 What Percentage of All Arrests Are for Sex Offenses? A.Less than 1% B.1 to 10% C.Greater than 10%


31 Limitations of Sex Offense Data ● Many offenses not reported – 58%/84% sex offenses not reported – 32% robberies not reported ● All reports do not lead to arrest ● All arrests do not lead to charges ● All charges do not lead to convictions ● Convictions on lesser charges may result from plea agreements

32 Arrests for Sex Crimes: Adult Males vs. Adult Females Males Females (FBI, 2005)

33 Myth or Fact? Individuals can be identified as sex offenders based on a specific set of profile characteristics.

34 Sex Offender Demographics Variable: –Culture/race –Socioeconomic status –Employment –Marital status

35 Variations in Offending Behaviors Known age of onset Known targets (victims) Known motivations Deviant arousal, interests (paraphilia) Known patterns of behavior Known frequency, duration/course History of detection

36 Additional Variations Among Sex Offenders Recidivism risk Intervention needs Amenability to treatment Response to criminal justice sanctions

37 Myth or Fact? As a group, sex offenders have a very high known recidivism rate.

38 What Does Sex Offender Recidivism Mean and How Is It Measured? Conviction of new sex offense Conviction of a new violent offense Conviction on any new offense Violation/revocation of probation/parole Arrest New criminal charge Complaint Self-disclosed event

39 Key Recidivism Findings About Sex Offenders Relatively low known sexual recidivism rates as a group Higher rates of known non-sexual recidivism Lower known recidivism rates than other felony offenders

40 Known Recidivism Rates for Sex Offenses: Previous Conviction vs. No Previous Conviction No Previous Conviction Previous Conviction (Harris & Hanson, 2004)

41 Implications for Sentencing Look for heterogeneity of sex offenders Individualize sentences –Capitalize upon existing judicial discretion –Consider assessment data to inform decisions

42 Summary The incidence of sex crimes is widespread and sex crimes have a significant impact on victims. Sex offenders usually know their victims and perpetrate sex crimes in familiar places. Judges need to understand victim issues and related justice system practices.

43 Summary (cont.) Sex offenders are a diverse population: –Differ in numerous ways, including known recidivism risk; and –Different Diagnoses. As a group, sex offenders have relatively low rates of known recidivism. Recidivism is a challenge to define and measure; research is evolving.


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