Sunday, July 17, 2011

Research Paper DRAFT for Criminal Psych: Part II (History)

Historical Perspective: (8 of 15 Pages Complete)

The study of juvenile sexual offenses has not been widely pursued as a subject of interest in the field of criminal psychology in a historical perspective. Per Jones, (2007) one of the most documented studies of adolescent sexual offenses occurred in the early 1980s, when a therapist named Robert Longo began treating adolescent boys who had committed sexual offenses. Offenses of the boys ranged from fondling peers a few years younger than they were to the outright raping of young children. Treatment included in Longo’s research included the boys keeping journals with details of sexual fantasies, as well as documentation of logs that tracked the frequency of these fantasies and their extent of severity, such as whether the fantasy was “a passing thought,” or severe enough that the individual had to “act” on the thoughts to which self-gratification was deemed necessary. Longo based treatment on the idea that sex offending is an addiction and that teenagers should be monitored for any triggers that may initiate a “cycle” of re-offending. With this approach in mind, Longo developed treatment in the form of “relapse-prevention plans,” which would track probable stimuli in risk of re-offending as well as an “action plan” should targeted stimuli come in contact with the individual. (Jones, 2007).
Historically, the perspective of juvenile sexual offenders was considered “new” in the 1980s. Much of the treatment, including that of Longo, was based on the same techniques used in the treatment model of adult sexual offenders. Adult offenders, however, do not account for development within an adolescent as well as the impact of family and environment affect the behavior of the adolescent. It appears that juveniles who commit offenses of a sexual nature tend to differ from adult sexual offenders. (Aggrawal, 2009) It is estimated that juveniles account for almost 25% of documented sexual offenses in the United States. Statistics show that rape, which can be construed as the most serious of sexual offenses in juveniles has declined in the last decade, court cases involving other sexual offenses in adolescents have risen. (Children’s Service, 2002) During the period of the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, following Longo’s experimental research, it appeared that sex offenses in general weren’t taken seriously by the justice system, and cases involving juvenile offenders were especially noted as not being thoroughly addressed. At the same time, however, it appears the public was taking an active interest and the victims’ rights movement in society began. (Jones, 2007) Attention to sexual abuse was being demanded and at this time the development of centers and hot-lines for rape crisis were being developed and the government began allotting states money within the budget for victim services.
In the early 1990’s the topic of crimes committed of a sexual nature became one of the leading sensations of the media. News stories began targeting the stories of young girls who were raped and sometimes murdered, even though the majority of offenses against juveniles (80%-90%) are committed by someone the victim knows. (Ryan, Lane, Davis, Isaac, 2010) Author, Philip Jenkins (1998), states that with the increased awareness of sexual crimes, society’s next step was to focus on the offenders, including adolescent offenders, which was one of the biggest fears in society due to the media implementing a state of constant paranoia. Per Jenkins, “first it’s adult predators, and then it’s ‘what about children?’ To draw attention, you have to up the ante. The issue moves up a notch and you can’t move it back so easily.”
With the increased awareness that resulted from the media’s huge grasp on sexually related crimes as well as the government’s interest sparking in the field, the recognition and regulation of sexual crimes and offenders appeared to flourish in the early 1990’s. One of the best known examples is Megan’s Law, which was implemented in 1996. (Rathus, Nevid, Fichner-Rathus, 2011) Since 1994 federal law has required many offenders of sexual crimes to register with the police in order to provide possible aid in investigations regarding sex-crimes. Megan’s Law, taking this a step further, mandates that local law enforcement agencies provide public notification to the community about convicted offenders within the community. In the current times of increased technological awareness; this law, which also goes by Community-Notification Law, often uses websites to provide access to this information. There is no distinction between juvenile and adult offenders on these websites, however, meaning on many state websites for sexual offenders, one can find the names, addresses, date of birth, as well as oftentimes photographs of juveniles who have committed any sexual offense. (Jones, 2007) According to Jones (2007), the increase in federal awareness has heightened the targeting of juvenile sexual offenders through the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act. This act authorized the creation of a federal internet based registry that allows law enforcement officials to tract sex offenders, ages 14 and older, who have engaged in genital, anal or oral-genital contact with children younger than 12.
Throughout the past three decades, awareness of sexual crimes, including those committed by adolescents, has drastically risen. With the implementation of Megan’s Law and the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act the community is eased from some of their paranoia through the access of knowledge via notification by law enforcement. It appears, however, that the classification of adolescent has been somewhat contradicted when sexual crimes are the focus of study. For the most part, the records of youths’ are protected from being publicly discussed and remain confidential. This appears to be contributed to a theory that children are less responsible for their actions in part to cognitive development, meaning that they are less worthy of blame and possibly more amenable to rehabilitation. With the two aforementioned acts, however, this issue of confidentiality is ignored since the photographs, addresses and ages of sexual offenders are published for anyone to view, alongside those of adult offenders. Based on the limited information found regarding research and studies of juvenile sexual offenders that has occurred, as well as the broad federal laws affecting sexual offenders as a group, versus distinguished into age categories, it appears that juvenile sexual offenders are not classified the same as adolescents within the juvenile justice system who commit other, non-sexual, acts. It appears the justice system considers adolescent sexual offenders to be more fixed in traits, incurable and more dangerous. One could construe from this that the justice system classifies juveniles who have committed sex crimes to be more similar to adults that have committed sexual crimes than they are to juveniles who have committed other, non-sexual crimes.

No comments:

Post a Comment