Public Health Aspects of Youth Sexual Offenders

By Pratt, Helen D.; Greydanus, Donald E. | International Public Health Journal, October 1, 2016 | Go to article overview

Public Health Aspects of Youth Sexual Offenders


Pratt, Helen D., Greydanus, Donald E., International Public Health Journal


Introduction

Most of the sexual abuse literature focuses on adult perpetrators or child/teen victims. In the past five years, only a few new articles have been published discussing adolescent sexual offenders (1-4). Most of those articles consisted of meta-analyses of previous studies. The office of Juvenile Justice Delinquency and Prevention, National Center on Sexual Behavior of Youth (NCSBY) has published statistics (20092011) on youth sexual offenders (1-4). Otherwise there has not more current data since the original article by the authors of this chapter who have published on adolescent sexual offending (5-7). There is still a paucity of data available in the literature on adolescent sexual offenders who are involved in sexual abuse of younger children. Primary care clinicians must be prepared to act in a manner that does not contaminate forensic evidence nor alter the testimony of either the perpetrator or victims in a legal trial. Clinicians may encounter these youth in their practices under several circumstances: adolescent revelation, parental report, or at the request of legal representatives.

What we know about sexual offenders, in general, is based only on those individuals who are caught or prosecuted. Even youth who are caught, arrested, and convicted frequently receive minimal punishments (i.e., probation, community service). The costs to society for the crimes of juvenile sex offenders are considerable, not only for those inflicted on crime victims and society as a whole, but also for those imposed on offenders and their families. The rehabilitation focus of interventions for those youth referred to treatment programs is considered to be controversial because the interventions are not evidenced-based for the adolescent sexual offender population. Most adjudicated adolescents live and are treated in community settings and often reoffend. Unfortunately, there remains little empirical evidence of the long-term effects of different interventions with adolescent sexual offenders (5-7).

Definition

Adolescent sex offenders are defined as youth between the ages of 13 and 17 years who commit illegal sexual behavior as defined by the sex crimes statues of the legal jurisdictions in which they reside. Legal meanings of sexual offenses vary from state to state (10). However, statutes typically define sexual offenses in terms of: a) penetration offenses, which include penetration of virtually any body orifice for a sexual purpose, and are felonies; and b) crimes not involving physical contact (e.g., voyeurism, exhibitionism, obscene phone calls). Such offenses progress from privacy issues at the misdemeanor level to the felony level, depending on the specific circumstances of each case. The addition of physical force or coercion will almost always result in a felony life offense. Most adolescents are not sexual predators, nor do they meet the accepted criteria for pedophilia (9).

Epidemiology

The incidence of sexual victimization of children by adolescents has become a serious problem in our society. Juveniles account for more than one-third (35.6 percent) of those known; less than 1 percent of all arrests of youth 17 years of age and younger were for sex offenses (3). Each year, there are approximately 2,200 arrests of juveniles for forcible rape and this includes an additional estimated 9,200 arrests of juveniles for other types of sex offenses. The percentages of adolescents arrested for sexual offending in 2010 were for youth in the following age groups: younger than 9 years (5%); younger than 12 years (16%); between ages 12 and 14 (~13%), and between ages 15 and 17 (46%) (10-12). The vast majority (93 percent) were male. The number of arrests of juveniles in 2010 was 21% fewer than the number of arrests in 2001.

Clinical features

Adolescents do not typically commit sex offenses against adults, although the risk of offending against adults increases slightly after an adolescent reaches age 16. …

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