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Juvenile sex offenders

Juvenile Sex Offenders

Youthful Sex Offenders

This paper means to address the subject of minors who commit sexual offenses, the causation and whether or not youths who do commit sexual offenses have diagnosable and treatable psychiatric and/or anti-social disorders. But first let me state, for the issue of criminality, and the lack there of, children who commit crimes are protected under what is called the youthful offender act. The youthful offender act protects youths from serving hard time with adult criminals and seals their criminal records so they cannot be publicly viewed or held against an individual if he or she commits other crimes later in life. However, youths who commit sexual offenses are required to register under the sex offender’s registration act, more commonly known as Megan’s Law. This has some people up in arms about the privacy rights of their children who commit sex crimes and the stigma it involves. A Detroit Press Article released on Oct. 15, 2001 entitled "Teen Sex Offenders Face Years of Stigma. Even for Lesser Mistakes, They're Stuck on Blacklist", by L.L. Brasier, states: He was 16, wanting to be one of the guys, playing truth or dare. The dare: touch a girl's breast during a football game at Hazel Park High School last year. He did. As a result, the boy will be branded as a sex criminal until the year 2024. He'll be listed on the state's public sexual-offenders registry, alongside teenagers who had consensual sex with their 15-year-old girlfriends, rapists who attacked women in their homes, serial pedophiles and a man who peeps under the stalls in women's bathrooms.

"It is horrendous. Mind-boggling," said Oakland County Circuit Judge Gene Schnelz, who heard the case. While some disagree, Schnelz believes it is inappropriate that the boy be branded a sex offender--but Schnelz had no choice but to order the boy to register under the state law. Failure to register is a felony. Here we see that the law has certainly provided for penalties of sex offenders, however, there is still work to be done as far as exclusions and modifications of those penalties.

I have found several statistics regarding child offenders. I will try to apply several approaches to the cause of the offenses, however none of these theories are mutually exclusive. If I have learned anything this semester about criminology, it is that no one single theory is correct about any given circumstance.

IIn one report; 1 while the behavior is sexual in expression, adolescent sexual offending may have more in common with other coercive behavior such as bullying than with the satisfaction of sexual needs or curiosity. 2 Between 1980-1995 the arrests of children under the age of 12 years old have increased 125% for sex offenses (excluding rape) and 190% for forcible rape. In 1992, the State of Washington's Department of Social and Health Services published a report identifying 691 sexually aggressive youths in state custody, 33% of whom were under the age of 12. IIAnd another reports; Juvenile perpetrated sexual aggression has been a problem of growing concern in American society over the past decade. Currently it is estimated that juveniles account for up to one-fifth of the rapes, 3and one-half of the cases of child molestation 4committed in the United States each year. The majority of cases of juvenile sexual aggression appear to involve adolescent male perpetrators; however, a number of clinical studies have pointed to the presence of females and prepubescent youths who have engaged in sexually abusive behaviors. ~

Looking at social process theories one might conceive that youths who perpetrate these crimes against other children are lacking elements of social bonds; Commitment (family, success, future goals), Belief (honesty, morality, fairness, responsibility), Attachment (family, friends, community), and Involvement (school activities, sports, community organizations religious groups, social clubs). These youths may also lack important containments which counter Internal pushes (self control of restlessness, discontent, hostility, rebellion, mental conflict anxieties, and need for immediate gratification), External pressures (adverse living conditions such as relative deprivation, poverty, insecurity and minority status), and External pulls (involvement in deviant groups, mass media and pornography).

The principles of differential association including criminal behavior being learned within intimate personal groups may be prevalent. For example, if a child experiences hostility from older relatives or witnesses the father raping and or beating the mother, the social support for deviance overcome social controls and the child embraces deviant values and behaviors. Definitions of right and wrong are extremely varied, and in this culture conflict the attitudes towards criminal behavior of the important people in the child’s life influence the attitudes that he or she develops.

Turning to Freud’s psychodynamic perspective, we can see that feelings and desires governed by the unconscious mind can surface if our conscious mind is not strong enough to govern the preconscious and unconscious mind. The result is acting out deviant fantasies or desires.

In conjunction with Freud’s perspective, Biocriminologist Lee Ellis developed what is known as the arousal theory to explain why adolescents act out. According to arousal theory, for a variety of genetic and environmental reasons, people’s brains function differently in response to environmental stimuli. These are what I like to call chaos seeking behaviors. Not enough stimuli from their surroundings create levels of boredom that starts them on a self-destructive track. Ellis calls these people "sensation seekers" who seek out stimulating activities, which can include aggressive and violent behaviors. It is these sensation, or chaos seekers who cannot govern their unconscious desires, and let those desires surface in unhealthy ways. 6A number of etiological factors (casual influences) have been identified that are believed to help explain the developmental origin of juvenile sex offending. Factors that have received the most attention to date include: maltreatment experiences,

exposure to pornography, substance abuse, and exposure to aggressive role models. However, just because most kids who are offenders have been subjected to these factors, it must also be noted that not all children who are exposed become offenders. In fact most children who are exposed to such factors have the ability to transcend them and live non-criminal lives. 7A United States study on adolescent sexual offenders found that over 60% had been physically abused, almost half had been sexually assaulted and 70% had been subject to neglect, while over half the sample had experienced a combination of these forms of abuse as children.

Juvenile sexual offending appears to traverse racial and cultural boundaries. 8No single profile describes all adolescent offenders. All economic groups, all levels of intelligence, all races, and all religions are represented in the backgrounds of adolescent sexual abusers. There is no clear-cut profile that fits the adolescent sex offender, however some of the signs that may be warning are; loners who are separated from their peer group, they like to play with younger children, underachievers who are generally immature in most areas of functioning, experiencing a variety of social and behavioral problems at school and they see the world as basically antagonistic. And as I have said with regard to being abused, just because a significant number of offenders fit this profile, not all kids who fit this profile are, or become, sex offenders. Furthermore, while most juvenile sex offenders are male (aprox. 98%), there are growing reports of females perpetrating these crimes.

Getting back to the psychoanalytic approach, it would be no wonder that children who are physically and/or sexually abused become traumatized and suffer from several neurotic disorders, including chronic disassociative disorder, schizophrenia and post traumatic stress disorder. Criminals suffer from weak or damaged egos (or conscious mind), probably from unhappy childhood experiences. They are id-dominated (or unconscious mind dominated) personalities who suffer from an inability to control impulsive, pleasure seeking drives. Weak egos are associated with immaturity, poor social skills, and excessive dependants on others; antisocial peers may easily lead people with weak egos into crime. 9Within the overall population of juveniles who sexually assault children, there are certain youths who display high levels of aggression and violence. Generally, these are youths who display more severe levels of personality and/or psychosexual disturbances (e.g., psychopathy; sexual sadism, etc.). Juveniles who sexually offend against children have often been characterized as suffering from deficits in self-esteem and social competency.

In all of the reports and journals I have gathered for this report, there has been a common theme with regard to treatment of juveniles and adolescents who commit sex offenses; psychotherapy and education. In many cases of sex abuse from children, the child grows out of his or her deviant desires at adulthood. So it is conceivable that treatment for such offenses would increase the chances of an offender ending these behaviors at adulthood. 10Contemporary research, as well as clinical observation, suggests that the degree to which youthful perpetrators suffer from disturbances in either the psychosocial or sexual arenas vary. Accordingly, their risk of committing crimes, particularly violent ones, also differs. In addition, the disorders that may develop from being abused during early years are, most times, diagnosable. It is true that sometimes one disorder may be mistaken for another (most cases are misdiagnosed as depression), but with treatment and/or medication, many mental disorders are not only treatable, they are also curable.

Not all juvenile sex offenders commit crimes against other kids. In fact many offenses against other children go unreported while offenses against peers or adults are much more likely to be reported. These juvenile sex offenders are more likely to have histories of non-sexual criminal offenses, and appear more generally delinquent and conduct disordered than those who sexually assault children, and they generally display higher levels of aggression and violence in the commission of their sexual crimes than those who offend against children.

Here is one case study I found interesting:

In 1992, police arrested two brothers, ages 13 and 15, for the rape and attempted murder of a 36-year-old woman. The crime was particularly heinous because the youthful offenders emotionally and physically terrorized the victim. After the rape, the victim asked the brothers if they planned to kill her. When the 13-year-old said yes, the victim asked if she could look at her mother's photograph first. The youngest offender removed the unframed photo from her dresser and tore it into small pieces in front of the kneeling victim. Then, for no apparent reason, he began cutting and stabbing her. She started screaming, and when her neighbors responded to investigate, the subjects fled. As a result of the attack, the victim suffered partial paralysis on the left side of her body. The emotional scars may never heal.

As you can see, these kids were very vicious with this woman. Is this social learning or behavior modeling? The influences of social learning are modeling their behavior after primary family members, environmental experiences, and mass media. However, studies have shown that mass media has less of an affect of behavior modeling than that of a parent of the same sex. What I would like to figure out is why youths who commit sex crimes against adults are so dramatically more violent than when they abuse younger children. So I will attempt my best interpretation from the information I have gathered.

1. Witnessing violence in the home as children as well as being abused themselves.

2. Environmental conditions that surround the child with scenes of violence and crime.

3. Associating with peers who have criminal behavior.

4. Violent T.V. and video games.

5. A desire to out-do their peers.

Many theories can be associated with this list of reasons why kids commit sex crimes. The fact is there is still not enough information available to determine why kids rape. Only recently have these cases been given the attention they warrant. In the past many sex abuse cases perpetrated by juveniles were treated as experimenting, and they were treated more as assaults than sex abuse cases.

Even with the multitude of information available to analyze juvenile sex offenders and treatments for them, there is still much work to be done with regards to all sex offenders, not just kids.

Should kids be labeled and treated as sex offenders? My opinion is yes. I believe with proper treatment adolescent sex offenders can grow up to lead healthy lives with healthy sexual tendencies.



1. Metzner, J.L., "The Adolescent Sex Offender: An Overview." Interchange, January 1988.

2. Office of Children's Research, "A Comparison of Sexually Aggressive Youth Open/Active Department of Children and Family Services Caseloads, Comparing Youth Under and Over the Age of 12." Olympia, Washington: Department of Social and Health Services, 1992.


3. In 1995 juveniles were involved in 15% of all forcible rapes cleared by arrest; approximately 18 juveniles per 100,000 (ages 10 to 17) were arrested for forcible rape in 1995. This latter number is approximately 6 times higher than the figure for Canada.

4. Approximately 16,100 juveniles were arrested for sexual offenses in 1995 (excluding rape and prostitution). This is approximately 3 times the number of youths arrested for forcible rape.

5. Adolescents (ages 13-17) accounted for approximately 89% of juvenile forcible rape arrests, and 82% of the other juvenile sex offense arrests, in 1995.

6. Retrospective research may exaggerate the strength of correlations. Longitudinal research, or the prospective tracking of individuals, typically provides a more accurate index of event likelihood.

7. Social competency is defined as possession of prerequisite skills/attributes necessary for forming and

maintaining healthy interpersonal relationships. These include: social skills, leadership ability, and the ability to act assertively.


8. Lois H. Pierce and Robert L. Pierce,"Juvenile Sex Offenders (1985)," unpublished paper presented at the 1987 New Hampshire Conference on Family Violence.

9. Lois H. Pierce and Robert L. Pierce,"Juvenile Sex Offenders (1985)," unpublished paper presented at the 1987 New Hampshire Conference on Family Violence.


10. J.V. Becker and J.A. Hunter, "Understanding and Treating Child and Adolescent Sexual Offenders," in ADVANCES IN CLINICAL CHILD PSYCHOLOGY 19, ed. T.H. Ollen*censored* and R.J. Prinz (New York: Plenum Press, 1997).

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