Juvenile Sexual Offending: Causes, Consequences, and Correction

Juvenile Sexual Offending: Causes, Consequences, and Correction

Juvenile Sexual Offending: Causes, Consequences, and Correction

Juvenile Sexual Offending: Causes, Consequences, and Correction

Excerpt

Sexual offenses encompass a wide spectrum of behaviors in a variety of situations, victimizing many types of persons. Sexual aggression in the form of violent or sadistic rape has long been feared and punished, and other deviant sexual behaviors and paraphilias have been shunned and prohibited. Sexual deviance has generated many myths and misconceptions. In the past, sexual offenses often eluded report and recrimination because of the lack of accurate information and the reluctance of many cultures to discuss sexual issues. Juveniles who committed sexual offenses were often exempted from responsibility for their abusive sexual behaviors and many of their exploitive behaviors were considered “adolescent adjustment reactions” or “exploratory” stages of development.

As society has come to recognize the incidence and prevalence of child sexual abuse, clinical work and research have illuminated the negative impacts of early sexual exploitation on the developing child. Legal, educational, and social service approaches have been mobilized to intervene on behalf of sexually abused children. Since the 1980s, the sexual abuse of children has been defined as criminal and perpetrators are now held accountable and punishable; mandatory reporting has been legislated to aid in earlier detection; prevention messages have sought to teach children to resist and report sexual victimization, and treatment programs have evolved to treat those who are abused and those who abuse them, and also their families. The primary prevention of sexual abuse, however, is dependent on eliminating the danger or potential of sexual exploitation by stopping sexual offending. Effective intervention to prevent further offending by identified offenders and to prevent the development of offending by the next generation is ultimately the only proactive alternative in sexual abuse prevention. It is by asking the question, “Who are these sex offenders, and where do they come from?” that attention turns to children and adolescents who sexually abuse others.

Recognition that sexually abusive behaviors that begin in childhood or adolescence might continue into adulthood has led to the development of early intervention programs to address these behaviors immediately, in hopes of preventing both the victimization of others and the habituation of these behaviors. Programs for identified youth developed rapidly in the 1980s, adapting treatment strategies that were in use in adult programs, based on the belief that the adolescents who sexually offended were destined to become the adult offenders of the future, unless something interrupted that development.

As research has evolved through three decades, there is now much more known about juveniles who sexually offend, and much of the new knowledge is good news. Long-term follow-up studies continue to demonstrate much lower rates of sexual recidivism by juveniles than expected, and even less after participation in specialized treatment programs. The growing body of research and clinical knowledge has . . .

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