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«Sex Offender Laws Failed Policies, New Directions ■ Richard G. Wright, PhD NEW YORK Contents Contributors..................... ...»

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Cohen and Miller (1998) described a 1996 National Institute of Justice (NIJ) study that found that rape had the highest annual total victim costs ($127 billion at $87,000 per victimization) of any crime, ultimately creating a public health and safety concern. The cost for each sexual assault was determined to be $110,000. Since many rape victims are subjected to more than one sexual assault, the cost per rape is estimated to be $87,000. The cost per sexual assault is estimated to include $500 for short-term medical care;

$2,400 for mental health services; $2,200 for lost productivity at work; and $104,900 for pain and suffering (Cohen & Miller, 1998).

Cost distinctions are also found in research investigating differences in how sexual assault affects racial and ethnic groups. For example, one study reported that as a consequence of their sexual assault, white women are more likely to engage in problem drinking and illicit drug use. Minority women also engage in illicit drug use and heavy episodic drinking; with African American women in particular, these behaviors are used as coping strategies (Kaukinen & DeMaris, 2005). Additionally, 19.5% of sexual assault victims in 1990 lost work time costing them about $1,261 dollars with acquaintance rape victims losing even more time (DeMaris & Kaukinen, 2005).

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Medical services for sexual assault victims vary widely.

Typically these costs include the initial emergency medical care, pregnancy testing, HIV and sexually transmitted diseases (STD) testing and treatment, and possibly abortions due to unwanted, rape-induced pregnancies. Miller, Cohen & Rossman (1993) found that 43% of sexual assault victims showed evidence of sexually transmitted diseases that required treatment. Though the total costs of these services are unknown, many of them are serious and chronic.

Finally, victim services have sprung up in almost every jurisdiction. There are more than 2,000 of these services operating in the United States today, and millions of dollars are dispensed each year by the federal government for victim services. Through initiatives like the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA), funds are available for use for programs that work with victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse. VOCA was established in 1984 and between the years 1986 and 2003, VOCA distributed $3,062,972,335 in victim assistance funds to the states.iv Sexual Assault Perpetration Who are the sex offenders, and what do we know about offending behavior? There is no single typology that fits all sex offenders, though some have similar characteristics; for instance, the majority of offenders are male. Because sexual assault is so underreported, it places restrictions on developing accurate offender data. Estimates of offending prevalence are attainable through mechanisms such as the Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) and the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS).

For the year 2006, the UCR recorded 92,455 cases of forcible rape; arrests for rape only totaled 24,535. Of this arrest number, the UCR showed a clearance rate (i.e., either arrested or cleared by exceptional means) of only 40.9% (U.S. Department of Justice, 2008). As these numbers imply, the majority of reported rapes are never solved. What the NCVS and UCR data do reveal is that the majority of those arrested for rape are young, typically under 25 years old.

The most recent data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics (U.S,. Department of Justice, 2006) revealed that in America’s prisons and jails, 148,800 inmates were serving time for rape The Problem of Sexual Assault or sexual assault; of these, 147,100 were male and 1,700 were female. Whites represented 80,800 of this number, blacks constituted 41,900, and Hispanics accounted for another 23,300 of the total. At the end of 2006, 5,035,225 adult men and women were being supervised on probation (4,237,023) or parole (798,202). Three percent (n = 127,110) were on probation for a sexual assault. African American males tend to be overrepresented in rape cases processed through the criminal justice system. Belknap (2001) suggested this attribute exists as (1) a consequence of the percentage of white males who know their victim (rape victims are less likely to report these assaults when they know the perpetrator), and (2) black males being more susceptible to prosecution in the criminal justice system. These are not necessarily the prevailing views, but there is much support for both premises.

Perpetrator Characteristics Some have argued that individual perpetrator characteristics and rape-supportive attitudes and beliefs are widely considered to be a product of a general cultural context that objectifies women and condones the use of force by men to obtain goals, including sexual conquest (Berkowitz, 1992; Burt, 1980;

Kanin, 1985, in Loh, Gidycz, Lobo, & Luthra, 2005). Loh et al.

(2005) explained that these individual “characteristics include differences in socialization experiences, beliefs and attitudes about sexuality, personality, and alcohol use that have been empirically determined or hypothesized to differentiate men who are sexually aggressive from their counterparts who are sexually nonaggressive” (p. 1326).

The idea that sexual assault is related to a need to satisfy an insatiable sexual drive does comport with the literature.

The stereotype of the rapist who cannot control himself often fuels bad public policy. There is no single need that compels sex offenders to rape; in fact, most offend for multiple reasons. Most of these reasons are nonsexual.





Cohen, Seghorn, and Calmas (1969) identified four types of rapists: the compensatory, the displaced aggressive, the sex-aggression diffusion, and the impulse rapist. Each type represents categories based on the relative amounts of aggression and sex present in the offense. Amir (1971) identified several types of rapists based on aberrations of their personality or as those who commit rape as a “demand

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of the youth culture.” Similarly, Rada (1978) classified rapists by personality disorders, noting five offender types:

sociopathic, masculine identity conflict, situational stress, sadistic, and psychotic.

Groth (1979) used a classification system that was based on concepts of power, control, and sexuality, and identified

four types. Groth concluded that men rape for three reasons:

power, anger, and sadism, noting that the majority of men rape for power, to control and possess their victim. This model categorizes offender behavior and motivations as aspects of power reassurance, power assertive, anger-retaliatory, or anger excitation. Groth’s model has been adapted by the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime (NCAVC) to describe offender behavior, which assists in profiling.

Berlin et al. (1997) examined motivational factors and identified six types of rapists; the opportunistic rapist has two sub-types: (1) has prominent narcissistic personality traits, and (2) has dependent personality traits. These personality types are the angry rapist, who rapes out of anger or frustration. The developmentally impaired rapist suffers from mental retardation or is developmentally impaired. The psychotic rapist has an independently confirmed history of major mental illness. The paraphilic or sexually driven rapist has recurrent cravings for coercive sex, and the sexual assaulter has been associated with voyeurism. Although this is rare, it may turn violent. Essentially the way the rape is classified is by its identified motivation: whether it was sexual or nonsexual, sadistic in nature, or motivated by anger, hate, power, and control; and whether it was planned or impulsive (Robertiello & Terry, 2007).

The most comprehensive typology was developed by Prentky, Knight, and Rosenberg (1988) and consists of a model with three categories identifying eight types (later modified to nine) of offenders. This model contains biological, psychological, and cultural components of human behavior and assesses (1) the aggression of the offense, (2) the meaning of sexuality in the offense, and (3) the impulsivity reflected in the history and lifestyle of the offender.

Sexually Violent Predators Much of our knowledge about sex offenders comes from studies on incarcerated and/or civilly committed offenders.

The Problem of Sexual Assault A common critique of contemporary sex offender policies is that they are over-inclusive (e.g., they do not allow for important distinctions amongst sex offenders). These policies are typically drawn with one type of sex offender in mind, the sexually violent predator (SVP). SVPs are defined as persons who have been convicted of or charged with sexual violence; who suffer from a mental abnormality or personality disorder; and who, as a result of the mental abnormality or personality disorder, are likely to continue to engage in predatory acts of sexual violence. There is reason to be concerned about SVPs, for they are a special group. As one study showed, SVPs “have a greater proportion of paraphilias and personality disorders (including psychopathy), along with fewer serious mental illnesses, than do other committed populations and noncommitted sex offenders” (Jackson & Richards, 2007, p. 315). This study of 190 civilly committed sex offenders in Washington State revealed that this group is at a moderate to high level for reoffending.

This unique group of sex offenders is more “psychiatrically compromised” and is at a higher risk of reoffending than average sex offenders (Jackson & Richards, 2007). However, sexually violent predators constitute a small share of those subject to sex offender laws.

Predictors of Sexual Assault Perpetration Studies of nonincarcerated sex offenders typically examine predictors or risk factors for different types of sexual assault perpetration. Abbey, Parkhill, Clinton-Sherrod, and Zawacki’s (2007) study of 163 men linked several variables as predictors of sexual assault perpetration. These variables include empathy, adult attachment, attitudes about casual sex, sexual dominance, alcohol consumption in sexual situations, and peer approval of forced sex. They found that there are differences in these predictors in perpetrators and nonperpetrators. For example, the authors reported that “as compared to non-assaulters, rapists were lower in empathy and adult attachment. Rapists had expectations for sex at an earlier stage in a relationship and more casual attitudes about sex. Rapists also were more motivated to have sex as a means of achieving power over women, more frequently consumed alcohol in sexual situations, and reported greater peer approval of forcing sex on women” (p. 1575).

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Prior research has already characterized rapists as a heterogeneous group with a wide range of past experiences, personality characteristics, and offense styles (Prentky & Knight, 1991). Other predictor research has provided evidence to show that sexual assault perpetrators have consensual sex at an earlier age and have more dating and consensual sex partners than do nonperpetrators (Abbey et al., 1998; Koss & Dinero, 1989; Malamuth, Sockloskie, Koss, & Tanaka, 1991; Malamuth, Linz, Heavey, Barnes, & Acker, 1995; Senn, Desmarais, Verberg, & Wood, 2000). Although attitudes, personality, and life experiences influence sexual assault perpetration, men who have committed sexual assault do not do so on every possible occasion; instead, situational factors also play a role (Abbey et al., 1998).

Abbey and her colleagues conducted a number of studies with college students, examining the role of alcohol, misperception, and sexual assault (Abbey, Ross, McDuffie, & McAuslan, 1996); alcohol, sexual intent, and sexual beliefs and experiences (Abbey et al., 1998); alcohol expectancies regarding sex, aggression, and sexual vulnerability (Abbey, McAuslan, Ross, & Zawacki, 1999; Abbey, McAuslan, Zawacki, Clinton, & Buck, 2001; Abbey & McAuslan, 2004; Abbey et al., 2007); and the use of sexually coercive behavior (Abbey et al., 1998; Koss et al., 1987). In general, the major findings in these studies provide evidence that certain behaviors contribute to sexual assault by college men. Abbey and her colleagues (1998) provided support for an earlier theoretical modelv that sought to identity the pathways that link alcohol and sexual assault. In this sample (n = 814), 26% of the men reported perpetrating sexual assault. The authors supported their hypothesis that the mutual effect of beliefs and experiences with dating, sexuality, and alcohol increases the likelihood that men will misperceive the females’ intentions.

Another sample of college males found that 33% (n =

113) reported that they had perpetrated some form of sexual assault, with 78% of those acknowledging committing more than one. Overall, 35% of the sexual assaults involved alcohol consumption, with both the man and woman drinking (Abbey et al., 2001). In all, the authors found that the represented attitudinal, experiential, and situational variables discriminated perpetrators from nonperpetrators (Ibid).

Abbey et al.’s (2007) study extended the same variables to a community sample (n = 163) and found that they were The Problem of Sexual Assault significant predictors of sexual assault for this population as well. Additionally, perpetrators of sexual assault have been found to exhibit less understanding of the rules of social order, less acceptance of personal responsibility, less internalization of prosocial beliefs, more immaturity, and more irresponsibility, as compared to nonperpetrators (Kosson, Kelly, & White, 1997; Rapaport & Burkhart, 1984, as cited in Loh et al., 2005).

Other risk factors for sexual offending identified by Malamuth et al. (1991, 1995) are promiscuity and hostility.

Abbey et al. (1998, 2001) found that adherence to rape myths, alcohol use, and misperception of sexual cues were risk factors. A longitudinal study conducted by Malamuth et al. (1995) indicated that sexually aggressive behavior at baseline predicted conflict with women at follow-up, which included sexual and nonsexual aggression and relationship distress (Loh et al., 2005).

There are some transient factors associated with sex offenses. These include offender motivation, the victim– offender relationship, and the situational dynamics of the crime (i.e., time and place; types of weapons used; victim resistance; financial, marital and other stressor; nonpsychosexual mental disorders; and alcohol and drug use) (Laufersweiler-Dwyer & Dwyer, in Reddington & Kriesel, 2005).



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