The Types of Sexual Offenses and Offenders
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The sexual offenses that occur in society today can range from sexually motivated rape to child molestation and many other types of sexual offenses. There are also various different theories to help explain a person’s predisposition to commit a sexual offense or motivating factors that lead to their offending. Sexual offense typologies are researched and their findings are used to classify their behaviors and actions based on the differentiating factors. While it is difficult to fully understand why an individual can commit such crimes, theories and typologies help give a general understanding of their offending.
It is essential to differentiate between the different typologies of sexual offenders. Child sexual abusers, female offenders, and sadist rapist are some of the typologies that vary greatly in their characteristics. Grouping each type into a single category will generalize rape and generate invalid results. The theories on sexual assault victims also require differentiation to ensure that all theories are being studied. For Susan Clancy, her theory was different from other trauma theory but her research and conclusions were valid.
Sexual offenders can be separated into categories based on certain aspects of their childhood, the crime(s) they committed, behaviors, history of victimization, choice of victims, and many other factors. It is essential to study and examine these elements that influence a sexual offender. By studying these factors, it is believed that there is a possibility of avoiding or treating these negative behaviors in the future (Terry, 2013). These theories and typologies can be a stepping stone into understanding sexual offenders but there is a likelihood that most offenders do not fit into a specific category.
In the research that is conducted to identify typologies and reasons for sexual offending, some studies have examined the development of sexual offenders, as well as their careers, and factors that motivate their sexual crimes (Maniglio, 2011). The findings from these empirical studies can yield varying results but are useful in not only differentiating between the different typologies but also from other offenders who do not commit sexual offenses. For those that commit sexual offenses, several studies that have focused on the fantasies, whether sadist or involving forcible rape, found that the engagement in committing sexual crimes originated from sexual fantasies that were abnormal and deviant (Maniglio, 2011).
Although many theorists, psychologists, and criminologist have tried to analyze and develop the best theory to explain what causes a sexual offender to commit such crimes, it appears to not be an easy task. Some of the theorists have also gone more in-depth into their research on rapists than others to study the offender’s peer group, alcoholic tendencies, personality traits, the economic trend at the time of the crimes, and the demographics associated with the crime (Bryden & Grier, 2011). The types of sexually deviant acts that a rapist can vary, many of the typologies become generalized. According to Bryden & Grier (2011), the imperfect definition of rape changes, instead of studying the term of rape many scholars will conduct research on sexual aggression, coercion, and physical contact that was nonconsensual.
Researchers that examine child sexual abusers have noted that there is a correlation between their brain pathology and the type of sexual behavior they choose to engage in (Terry, 2013). The findings of the research on child sexual abusers has produced different contributing factors to their sexual deviancy than for other rapists. Although, during the study of interfamilial sexual offenders to assess if brain damage or abnormalities were present, it was revealed that there was no difference in factors such as the use of any drugs or alcohol, violence, educational background, and abuse in comparison to other sexual and nonsexual offenders (Terry, 2013). A study such as this one can question the validity of the child sex offenders research findings.
In the case of female sexual offenders, the research is limited and it is possible that the findings are not truly reflective of a female offender. The typologies of female offenders were formed from studies on their mental issues, characteristics, victims, and method of sexual assaulting their victims (Wijkman, Bijleveld, & Hendriks, 2010). Due to the findings, the female typologies appear significantly different than male sexual offenders. The research findings have also concluded that women sexual offenders are more likely to suffer from psychological problems and have a negative family history (Wijkman, Bijleveld, & Hendriks, 2010).
Importance of Differentiating Between Sex Offenders
Sex offenders have individual traits that differentiate themselves from other sexual offenders. By categorizing the different types of sexual crimes and offenders that commit those crimes, researchers can better understand how to prevent, identify, and treat those offenders. While some offenders may have similar victims, styles, or childhood trauma, the typologies can vary. Using a broad term for sexual offenders, for example, sexual murders can result in the inability to compare and contrast the crimes to gain a better understanding about each crime (Higgs, Carter, Tully, & Browne, 2017).
Policies within the criminal justice system have undergone changes throughout the years as the research on sexual offending and deviance has shifted in terms of offenders either having mental health issues or if their offending stems from other problems (Harris, Fisher, Veysey, Ragusa, & Lurigio, 2010). The research on the typologies of sexual offenders can help policymakers implement the correct policies or programs to help treat and minimize sexual offending. The sexual offender typologies that suggest mental illness as the main factor in their sexual offending can benefit from being categorized differently than other sexual offenders. For example, identifying a sexual offender as having persistent and serious mental illness, who are generally arrested for nonviolent sexual crimes (Harris, Fisher, Veysey, Ragusa, & Lurigio, 2010), can change how the policymaker chooses to treat them. Instead of confining them to a life-long prison sentence, they can receive treatment and be reintegrated into society (Harris, Fisher, Veysey, Ragusa, & Lurigio, 2010).
The manner in which a sexual offender chooses their victim(s) can speak volumes to their typology and can help researchers further study their behaviors. The influencing factors that effects the sexual offenders hunting method can be influenced by their personal characteristics, the victim’s actions or activities, victim’s features, and the environment (Rebocho & Gonçalves, 2012). Separating offenders into distinct typologies can help assess the potential hunting styles based on the characteristics of their offending. By assessing these hunting styles and theorizing how a certain offender would choose their next victim can help minimize the number of potential victims that offender would have.
Differentiating between the different typologies of child sexual abusers can also be beneficial and it is important to understand that although rape, in general, is driven by sexual urges, sexual abuse of a minor can have different motivating factors (Miller, 2013). It seems as though the public generalizes pedophilia and sexual offenses against a minor. While any sexual crime against a minor should not be tolerated, there are different levels of child sexual abuse that can range from a child pornography collector to a sadist child molester. Each type of child sex offender should be handled differently and specific to their typology to guarantee that the proper treatment or justice system process is given and ultimately to protect children from becoming a potential victim (Miller, 2013).
The Trauma Myth
Understanding how a child reacts to and deals with their victimization early on is hard to imagine. Susan Clancy theorized that children who undergo a traumatic sexual experience with an adult do not, in fact, become traumatized during and around the time of their experience (Green, 2010). This idea sparked controversy and outrage, the general consensus was the notion of children not being traumatized by a traumatic experience cannot be plausible. In her research, she does believe that their trauma would surface later on in their life when they can fully understand their sexual abuse experience (Clancy, 2009).
Children do not disclose their victimization because they are unaware of the significance of their sexual abuse, if the experience was wrong, or if they should tell someone, instead of not disclosing because of the trauma they are feeling (Clancy, 2009). When thinking about trauma and the sexual abuse of children, it is easy to believe that their silence must mean that they are traumatized. Many professionals criticized her work believing that she sided with pedophiles and claiming that she was blaming victims, implying that sexual offenders should abuse children because the children like it, or even that the experience will never be traumatic to these children (Zuger, 2010).
The experience that an adult will have following sexual abuse is different than how a child will react. The rape trauma syndrome is considered the stress symptoms that an individual will experience after sexual activity that is forced and non-consensual (Terry, 2013). Once an individual experiences a traumatic sexual assault, there are numerous symptoms that they will experience. Victims of a rape can suffer from PTSD-type symptoms that last a long period of time, some of the symptoms include hyperalertness, problems sleeping, and constant flashbacks of the traumatic experience (Terry, 2013). The rape trauma syndrome can be a contrasting view to the theory about trauma that Susan Clancy has.
While Susan does believe that PTSD and other trauma symptoms can happen to those that are more mentally mature than children, the rape trauma syndrome does not apply to children who have been sexually abused. Rape trauma syndrome considers shock or some sort emotional response to the first phase, followed by a reorganization phase in which the victim learns coping techniques and ways to accept their new life after their victimization (Terry, 2013). According to Susan Clancy (2009), children do not suffer from shock or trauma immediately following the sexual assault, therefore they do not fit into the rape trauma syndrome theory.
Understanding and differentiating between the various typologies of sexual offenders can be extremely beneficial in gaining more information about each type of sexual crime and offender. The major type of sexual offenders can be further categorized into other typologies that research can be conducted to explain more details and characteristics of the offenders. Having many types of offenders affords the opportunity to combine different typologies to better explain the behaviors of an offender. A reduced number of typologies would limit the options to study from and information available.
The Trauma Myth outraged many and caused controversy within the mental health community. Susan Clancy did not believe that children deserved or were welcoming to the idea of being victimized but that they were not mentally mature to be traumatized by the experience. Susan believes that it is unreasonable to think that the trauma concept of sexual abuse cannot be opposed because of deep roots in the mental health community and the policies in place that surround the concept (Clancy, 2009). Her ideas on trauma were never going to truly be accepted by everyone even though she made valid points in her argument.