The Underestimation of Violent Sexual Offender Recidivism Essay

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 19 March 2017

The Underestimation of Violent Sexual Offender Recidivism

The sex offender varies in types of crimes.  Some have committed violent sexual assaults on strangers, have had inappropriate sexual contact with family members, molested children, and others have engaged in a wide range of other inappropriate and criminal sexual behaviors.  A homogenous category of “sex offenders,” in terms of distinguishing factors linked to recidivism will be hidden and unreliable results will be obtained from studies of recidivism patterns.  Therefore, how can we predict specific violent sex offender reoffense, with an aim to integrate these results logically within existing databases?

The common sources of data are from NCVS (National Crime Victim Surveys), survey of State Prison Inmates, and FBI files.  These reports list the overall characteristics of victims and offenders such as background, education, psychological profiles etc…and are collected by the Bureau of Justice Statistics.  In addition, the reporting of sexual offenses is very hard on the part of victims due to shame, guilt and trauma, altering the accuracy of the data.

This is particular true in the case of children and teenagers victims.  Prediction of reoffense along with an offender’s profile may help prevent the failure of rehabilitation.  Prediction must be based on an acceptable and standard method of determination in order to be included within these existing databases.  In addition, the integration of the recidivism data into these databases must be based on the consideration of certain factors:

  1. Understanding general crime recidivism as opposed to sex offense reoffense
  2. Historical characteristics as static factors
  3. Characteristics, circumstances, and attitudes that can change throughout one’s life or dynamic factors
  4. The overall recidivism rate of a certain group of sex offenders
  5. Reconciliation of observed data contradictions

For a variety of reasons, sexual assault is a vastly underreported crime. The National Crime Victimization Surveys (Bureau of Justice Statistics) conducted in 1994, 1995, and 1998 indicate that only 32 percent (one out of three) of sexual assaults against persons 12 or older are reported to law enforcement.  (Kilpatrick, Edmunds,, 1992)

A review of studies showed that the recidivism rate for specific types of offenders varied.  Research suggests that many offenders have histories of assaulting across genders and age groups, rather than against only one specific victim population. (Marshall & Barbaree, 1990):

  1. Incest offenders ranged between 4 and 10 percent
  2. Rapists ranged between 7 and 35 percent
  3. Child molesters with female victims ranged between 10 and 29 percent
  4. Child molesters with male victims ranged between 13 and 40 percent

In their summary of the research on the recidivism of rapists, Quinsey, Lalumiere, Rice, and Harris noted that the significant variation in recidivism across studies of rapists is likely due to differences in the types of offenders involved (institutionalized offenders, mentally disordered offenders, or probationers). (Quinsey, Lalumiere, Rice, & Harris, 1995)

Studies on sex offender recidivism vary broadly in the quality and rigor of the research design, the sample of sex offenders and behaviors included in the study, the length of follow-up, and the criteria for success or failure.  Finally, since base rate differences have been identified across types of sex offenses, it makes sense to study recidivism of sex offenders by offense type.

To overcome these consistency problems, meta-analysis reviews of research studies can be very useful in summarizing the scope of certain types of offenses collated with the offenders themselves and their types of victims. (Hanson & Bussiere, 1998) In sum, because meta-analysis findings can be generalized across studies and samples, they offer the most reliable estimation of factors associated with the recidivism of sex offenders.


Hanson, R. K., & Bussiere, M. (1998). Predicting relapse: A meta-analysis of sexual offender recidivism studies. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 66(2), 348-362.

Quinsey, V. L., Lalumiere, M. L., Rice, M. E., & Harris, G. T. (1995). Predicting sexual offenses (J.C. Campbell, Ed.). Thousands Oaks, CA: Sage.

Marshall, W. L., & Barbaree, H. E. (1990). Outcomes of comprehensive cognitive-behavioral treatment programs. New York: Plenum.

Kilpatrick, D. G., Edmunds, C. N., & Seymour, A. (1992). Rape in America: A report to the nation (Victims of Crime and Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center). Washington DC, DC: National Center for Victims of Crime and Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center.

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  • University/College: University of Arkansas System

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  • Date: 19 March 2017

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