Sexual Offending: Theory, Research, and Prevention
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Published By Leibniz Institute For Psychology (ZPID)


Susan Alexa Pusch ◽  
Thomas Ross ◽  
María Isabel Fontao

The aim of this study was to identify family characteristics and dynamics relevant to the initiation and maintenance of intrafamilial child sexual abuse. An understanding of essential characteristics of the affected families could help to prevent such crimes. In order to provide an overview of the current state of research, a literature review based on the PRISMA criteria was conducted. For the research in the databases PsycInfo and PSYNDEX, predetermined criteria and search terms were used. Fifteen relevant articles from 1991 to 2020 were identified. The studies examined perpetrator-victim relationships, the role of the mother, the relationship between the parents and characteristics of the families in which child sexual abuse took place. Relevant core characteristics of incestuous families are dysfunctional, violent, and conflictual relationships between the parents, and between parents and children. However, these factors are often not specific to intrafamilial abuse. Only six articles published after 2000 were identified. Little evidence for each individual construct was found, so the effects should not be overestimated. Further research on intrafamilial child sexual abuse is necessary.

Jan Looman ◽  
Joshua Goldstein ◽  
Brian R. Abbott ◽  
Jeff Abracen

Some are unclear whether risk assessment instruments, specifically dynamic risk instruments, have demonstrated utility in the risk estimation, treatment recommendations, and monitoring change over time in men at risk for or under sentence of Indeterminate Detention (ID) for sexual offenses. We compare two datasets, the first consisting of individuals representing a routine sample of persons convicted of a sexual offense and the second of men representative of a high risk/needs sample. These two distinct samples (n = 442, mean Static-99R score = 2.4; n = 168, mean Static-99R score 4.5) were then also scored on the Stable-2007. For both groups this scoring occurred in an institutional setting. The Stable-2007 predicted sexual recidivism in Sample 1 independently and in conjunction with the Static-99R. In the high-risk sample the results were the same. In both samples a compound outcome variable (Sexual + Violent reoffense) was also calculated with the Stable-2007 predicting the compound outcome variable in Sample 1 but not Sample 2. This is interesting in that it suggests that the Stable-2007 assesses constructs specific to sexual re-offense in higher risk offenders and not general traits of violence or common anti-social behaviour. Limitations and directions for further research are discussed.

Sharon M. Kelley

In many parts of the United States, individuals can be civilly committed as Sexually Violent Persons (SVP) to a secure treatment center based on their history of sexual offenses, current mental disorder, and current risk for sexual recidivism. While the specific criteria vary between jurisdictions, SVP civil commitment is indefinite, and periodic examinations occur to determine if ongoing commitment is necessary. Release recommendations may be made in part based on patients’ treatment progress. Therefore, incorporating treatment change into periodic risk assessments is an important role of the SVP evaluator. The current paper sought to explore the benefits of using an actuarial tool within SVP populations to measure decreased sexual recidivism risk as a result of treatment change. Specific discussion of the use of the Violence Risk Scale – Sexual Offense version (Olver et al., 2007, is provided.

Andrew J. R. Harris

Public safety is the primary reason to assess future risk in men with a history of sexual offending. Over the last twenty-five years our knowledge of, and ability to assess, dynamic risk factors in men with a history of sexual offending has meaningfully improved, but understanding, adoption, utilization, and reasonable implementation of the fruits of this new knowledge is not universal. This article presents a brief overview of the development of dynamic risk assessment for men with a history of sexual offending, primarily following the work of R. Karl Hanson and his associates. This is followed by a review of a meta-analysis on the reliability and validity of STABLE-2007 and two other independent studies that provide useful ancillary information. Utilizing STABLE-2007 with men faced with, or under sanction of indeterminate detention is the focus of this paper and we will review how mental health diagnoses affect recidivism assessment, some concerns about implicit assessment biases, how to employ stable dynamic assessment in secure facilities, address treatment implications resulting from dynamic assessment, and present ideas for future research. I will close by presenting nine (9) arguments why using STABLE-2007 is recommended practice with indeterminate detention populations.

Mark E. Olver

Indeterminate detention (ID) is a high stakes sanction reserved for exceptionally high risk-high need (HRHN) persons who are deemed to pose an undue risk to public safety. It is one of the most extreme measures that is routinely taken by justice systems to manage sexual violence risk and prevent sexual and violent recidivism. Naturally, risk assessment is most frequently employed as a mechanism to keep dangerous people in custody; but seldom is risk assessment viewed as a possible ticket out for men with an ID designation who have made substantive risk changes and whose risk can be safely managed in the community. This article features applications of a dynamic sexual violence risk assessment and treatment planning tool, the Violence Risk Scale-Sexual Offense version (VRS-SO), with ID individuals and other HRHN men, to assess risk in a dynamic manner to inform risk management efforts and release decisions. VRS-SO data on an ID sample are presented along with clinical illustrations of dynamic risk assessment. Several propositions are made with supporting data from VRS-SO normative research with treated sexual offending samples regarding the use of dynamic tools with ID men and the perils and pitfalls of relying solely on static measures. Ultimately, dynamic risk instruments can be used to track progress and monitor risk change over multiple assessments to inform release and reintegration decisions with ID persons. In this regard, dynamic assessment has the potential to help, rather than hinder, reintegration of ID sentenced persons and can inform safe, fair, and humane decisions.

Brian Abbott

It is common, accepted clinical practice to conduct risk assessments of individuals who commit sexual offenses using the combination of sexual violence risk actuarial measures and dynamic risk factors. This assessment approach has utility when identifying treatment targets, assessing progress in sexual offender treatment, and forming risk management plans. Little research has examined this method in forensic contexts such as deciding whether individuals who suffer from mental disorders are likely to engage in sexually dangerous behavior as defined by sexually violent predator or persons (“SVP”) involuntary civil confinement laws in the USA. In particular, it is uncertain whether the combination of sexual violence risk actuarial measures and dynamic risk factors (DRF) produces sufficiently reliable, relevant, and probative evidence for the trier of fact to properly evaluate the SVP legally defined likelihood of sexual dangerousness. This article explores the efficacy of combining actuarial measures of sexual violence risk and dynamic risk factors as applied in SVP risk assessments based on some commonly observed forensic practices among evaluators. Based on the analysis, recommendations for forensic practice and future research are offered.

Yolanda Fernandez

Assessing dynamic risk factors for persons who reside in an institution can be a challenge. Conceptualizing and scoring dynamic risk factors is more difficult when environments are restricted and opportunities for those being assessed to demonstrate changes in behaviour may be few and far between. Additionally, because dynamic risk measures rely partly on file information scoring is dependent on the training and backgrounds of the people who record information and their personal decisions as to what they consider important enough to include in records. This may mean that scoring under research conditions based only on file review does not reflect the reliability of the measure under clinical conditions. Despite these challenges the present paper argues that there is sufficient evidence to support the use of STABLE-2007 as a reliable and valid measure of dynamic risk factors in institutional settings under both clinical and research conditions. Tips are provided on how to conceptualize institutional behaviours in a manner relevant to dynamic risk factors and how to weigh historical versus more recent information. Finally, recommendations are made for implementing a thoughtful system of checks and balances relevant to the assessment process in institutional settings.

Samuel J. Nicol ◽  
Danielle A. Harris ◽  
Mark R. Kebbell ◽  
James Ogilvie

We do not know whether men who access Child Sexual Exploitation Material (CSEM) are contact child-sex offenders using technology - or a new and different type of child sex offender. This study compares men who were charged with Contact Child Sexual Abuse (CCSA) (n = 95) exclusively, and men who were charged with offences involving online CSEM (n = 99) exclusively. This is the first study of its kind in Australia, the first to divide participants into mutually exclusive offending type groups and to do this using police data. Logistic regression results indicated that CSEM offenders were significantly more likely to be older, more likely to be employed, have fewer criminal charges and supervision violations compared to CCSA offenders. The findings further highlighted the heterogeneity of those charged with child sexual offences based on offence typology. The identification of demographic, lifestyle and interpersonal characteristic differences between online CSEM and CCSA offenders’ questions the use of uniform approaches to community supervision and treatment protocols. The implications of these findings are discussed in light of an increased volume of people charged with CSEM offences.

John-Etienne Myburgh ◽  
Mark E. Olver

The development and validation of sexual offense perpetrator typologies remains a useful endeavor with implications for theory and correctional/clinical practice. Most such typologies—which rely on factors such as the individual’s motivation for offending—have not been validated empirically. The current study utilized a validated sexual violence risk-needs instrument, the Violence Risk Scale—Sexual Offense version (VRS-SO; Wong, Olver, Nicholaichuk, & Gordon [2003, 2017], Regional Psychiatric Centre and University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Canada), to develop and validate an empirically-derived adult victim sexual offense (AVSO) typology through model-based cluster analysis of dynamic risk-need domains. The study featured two treated samples of men (n = 283 and 169) convicted for contact sexual offenses against adult victims. A three-cluster solution was identified and replicated across the two samples: high antisociality high deviance (HA-HD), high antisociality low deviance (HA-LD), and low antisociality low deviance (LA-LD). External validation analyses demonstrated that HA-HD men had more dense sexual offense histories, were more likely to be diagnosed with a paraphilia, and had the highest rates of sexual recidivism (Sample 2 only). By contrast, the HA-LD men had greater concerns on indexes of nonsexual criminality, particularly high base rates of antisocial personality and substance use disorders, and high rates of general violent recidivism (particularly Sample 1). The findings suggest that the VRS-SO factors may have utility in discriminating between AVSO types to inform sexual offending theory, case formulation, and risk management.

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