Academic journal article Law and Psychology Review

The Geriatric Sex Offender: Senile or Pedophile?

Academic journal article Law and Psychology Review

The Geriatric Sex Offender: Senile or Pedophile?

Article excerpt

I. INTRODUCTION

Rape, child molestation, and other sexual offenses are undoubtedly among the most egregious crimes that plague our society. In recent years, there has been a significant amount of discussion and research focusing on the motivations and psychological disorders that lead sex offenders to commit their crimes; however, there has been very little discussion about those sex offenders who commit their crimes in their golden years. While the commission of most types of crimes tends to decline with age, sex offenses generally decline at a much lesser rate than other types of crimes. (1) Furthermore, studies have suggested that sex offenders are more likely to start committing their crimes, or to keep committing them, in their elder years. (2) In the United States for the year 2006 there were 2,571 persons over the age of sixty who were arrested for sex offenses (excluding forcible rape and prostitution) and an additional 287 persons in the same age group who were arrested for forcible rape. (3) This article will look in detail at elderly sex offenders (considered individuals over the age of sixty for the purposes of this article) and the crimes that they commit, as well as special problems and issues that offenders of this type and age present. It will examine how these perpetrators can live seemingly "normal" lives, raise families, be good standing members of their communities, and then turn into "dirty old men" (4) as they enter the final years of their lives.

Part I of this article offers a brief introduction of the issue and general roadmap to the rest of the article. Part II will examine and discuss the types of offenses that are committed by elderly sex offenders. Part III will then look at the general characteristics, motivations, and psychological considerations that might lead them to commit these offenses at such a late stage in their lives. Part IV will address special punishment and reform issues that arise when dealing with elderly sex offenders. Finally, Part V will look at the developing trends of geriatric sex offenders in anticipation of the drastic rise in the elderly population that is about to occur in the United States. Part VI will offer a brief conclusion and wrap-up of the matters discussed in this article.

II. OFFENSES PERPETRATED BY ELDERLY SEX OFFENDERS

While the vast majority of all sexual offenses are still committed by younger men, statistics show that nearly four percent of all persons arrested for sexual crimes in 2006 were age sixty and above. (5) Generally, older sex offenders engage in more passive sexual activity as compared to their younger counterparts. (6) For example, fondling by elderly offenders is more prevalent than intercourse. (7) Research has shown that elder offenders are more likely to commit "nonviolent" sexual offenses such as pedophilia or exhibitionism as opposed to "violent" offenses such as forcible rape. (8) Specific examples of these "nonviolent" offenses include improperly touching an acquaintance, statutory rape, exposing of the genitals (usually to a minor), and other acts of exhibitionism. (9)

Elderly sex offenders most often select children as their victims and are more likely to do so than younger sex offenders. (10) Potential reasons given for this include the belief by the perpetrator that "elderly men are unattractive to adult females and fear rejection by them," the fact that "a 'grandfather' image tends to be trusted," and, most likely, because young victims are "less able to defend themselves, easier to bribe, more amenable to threats and less likely to report the incident." (11) As one elderly incarcerated sex offender suggested, "you can dominate a younger person to where you make them feel like it's all right." (12) Furthermore, there is usually some type of relationship between the elder sex offender and his victim, such as grandchild, other relative, or close family friend, that provides elder sex offender access. …

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