Sexual Offenders

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Sexual Offenders

Sexual Offenders


Since the late 1990s, the release of sex offenders to the community has generated a great deal of controversy. In many states, the correctional response to sex offenders has been primarily punitive in nature with legislation focusing on punishment, monitoring, and restrictions. Nevertheless, numerous correctional departments across the United States and the Canadian correctional system have established prison-based therapeutic programs to address the treatment and rehabilitation of sex offenders. Current correctional treatment has been primarily developed for child molesters and is of a relapse prevention perspective; however, rapists and child molesters exhibit differences in biological, psychological, and behavioral factors, such as psychopathy and recidivism. As such, treatment for child molesters is likely to be ineffective with rapists. Correctional treatment should be modified to target multiple and unfamiliar problems for rapists and child molesters (Ommeren, 2005).

Many efforts have been made to classify sex offenders with the goal of improving treatment and risk prediction. Characteristics including personality, physical force, and nonsexual offense history have been used to classify sex offenders; however, the most common method uses victim age to classify sex offenders into groups who victimize them and those who victimize peers (peer offenders). This stems largely from research on sexual offenders, in which there is considerable empirical support for the distinction between rapists and molesters.

Rapists and child molesters exhibit some clear psychological, interpersonal, and behavioral differences. Rapists, on average, tend to be more antisocial and aggressive and can be more accurately classified as violent offenders rather than as sex offenders. Child molesters are nonviolent, their sexual deviancy is often considered pathological and entrenched, and their criminal behavior is driven by their sexual preoccupations. Unfortunately, empirical findings related to such distinctions have rarely translated into modifications to sex offender treatment programs that address the differential needs of subgroups of sex offenders (Schmucker, 2005).

Biological and Psychological Factors

The empirical and theoretical achievements in the sexual offending field have been considerable, and researchers have formulated a number of rich and insightful accounts of sexual offending. The focus of these theories has been broad and has included biological, psychological, and social/cultural levels of analysis (Seto, 2004). An important implication of this theoretical work is that a satisfactory explanation of sexual abuse is likely to be multifactorial in nature, and for a diversity of etiological pathways leading to the onset and maintenance of sexual offending.

Differences in Biological, Psychological, and Behavioral Manifestations of Rapists ...
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