Monday, July 18, 2011

Research Paper DRAFT for Criminal Psych: Part III Statement of Problem

Statement of the Problem:
Based on a review of the historical perspective of sexual offenses committed by adolescents regarding the topic of this research it appears that there are several “problems” to be identified and addressed. The largest of these problems, which consumes many of the related issues, is simply the lack of organized research that has been targeted on juvenile sexual offenders as a unique class of offenders. Much of the found history of the development of programs to treat, prevent and manage behaviors of adolescent sexual offenders has been the same types of treatment used in programs that treat adult sexual offenders. Based on research found it appears that many of the current laws affecting individuals who are adolescent sexual offenders offer the same consequences as adult offenders often receive when sentenced.
It is found that the brain of a human continues to develop and grow until the individual reaches the age of 21 to 22. (Rathus, Nevis, Fichner-Rathus, 2011) Due to this finding, it should be considered that the treatment, training and rehabilitation of adolescent sexual offenders should be focused on the psychological aspect of human cognitive development versus the type of crime committed. When an adolescent has committed a crime of a sexual nature, the source of the urges should be validly explored and attempted to be determined in order to seek the appropriate consequences and method of rehabilitation in order to minimize the chances of reoccurrence as much as possible. Various factors, statistics and variables should be considered when evaluating an adolescent involved in an inappropriate sexual behavior.
Society tends to teach female children in early childhood to be aware of the potential risk of victimization and to avoid situations which could result in becoming a victim of a sexual crime. It appears however that the victimization of males is not considered as thoroughly, though male children are more often victims of serious physical injury from abuse than females and make up at least 25% of the victims of sexual abuse. Males of all ages are oftentimes victims of both violent crimes and property crimes than their female peers. (Ryan, Lane, Davis, Isaac, 2010) While considering this information it is also recommended to consider the lack of recognition of the impact of abuse on the male victim available. Research shows there are very few services for male victims that attempt to identify and aid in him coping with the feelings that occur upon being the victim of abuse. These feelings include anger, powerlessness and lack of control, all of which contradicts the influences males receive through various channels of appropriate feelings when growing up. (Children’s Service, 2002) Male children are often brought up with the expectation of learning to protect and defend oneself. If school children are playing on a playground, and a female child is hit by a peer, she is told to report the incident to the teacher, seeking protection. The male child, however, is often taught to “hit him back,” which teaches the male that he must learn to protect himself, and that there will be no one to protect him if he cannot protect himself. Consequently, when a young male is victimized, he finds himself powerless to defend himself, and when he is the victim of sexual abuse, the feeling of vulnerability would most likely go even deeper than one of physical abuse, since sexual abuse is often said to affect one’s emotional security on a deeper level. (Jenkins, 1998) Male children are brought up to believe that he has failed as a male, and perhaps was even at fault for his victimization. With that feeling, and lack of support, it is very unlikely that he will seek help or protection, instead internalizing the security of his own victimization, repressing the feelings of anger and powerlessness. It will likely be found, however, that these feelings are unable to be permanently repressed, and will eventually be released on someone else, creating another victimization, ultimately returning that sense of power and providing an outlet for the repressed anger.
There are numerous theories proposed to explain why some children and teens sexually abuse others, though there is so solid evidence of any “formula” supporting concrete evidence of the reason this occurs. The theory most widely accepted today is known as the “learning theory,” which states that sexually abusive behavior in children can be linked to various factors. These factors include extreme exposure to violence and/or sexuality, victimization experiences in early childhood, exposure to pornography, substance abuse and exposure to aggressive role models involving family violence. (Hickey, 2006) (Children’s Service, 2002)
While the problem states that there is limited research pertaining to juvenile sexual offenders, as a group, research shows what can be expected; that every child is unique. Because of this, adolescents who commit sexual crimes, and all crimes in general, can have various behavior traits and the progression of these traits can greatly vary from one child to another. There are, however, some traits that that tend to be prominent among adolescent sexual offenders. Rich (2003) explains that approximately nine of ten adolescent sexual offenders are male, and that most commit their primary sexual offense before the age of 12-14. It should also be noted that adolescent sexual offenders are found in every class, socioeconomically, and in every racial, ethnic, religious and cultural group. (Knox & Schacht, 2010) Adolescents who sexually abuse tend to be more likely to have a history of being physically, sexually or otherwise abused. Jenkins (2008) estimates that somewhere between 40% to 80% of adolescents who exhibit inappropriate sexual behaviors have an incident of being sexually abused, themselves, and around 20% to 50% have been victims of physical abuse.
Robert Longo, who’s done some of the most variable research and studies on sexual offenders in adolescence believes that some history of victimization is practically universal within the class of juvenile offenders. Longo states, “As I think back to the thousands of sex offenders I have interviewed and the hundreds I have treated, I cannot think of many cases in which a patient didn’t have some history of abuse, neglect, family dysfunction, or some form of maltreatment within his or her history.” (Jones, 2007)
According to Volume VII, Section II of Children’s Service Progress Notes (May 2002) juvenile sexual offenders share some other common traits as well. These include having difficulties with impulse control and judgment and somewhere between 30% to 60% of adolescent offenders are affected by learning disabilities and/or academic dysfunction. It’s also estimated that up to 80% of juvenile sexual offenders have a diagnosable, and often treatable, psychiatric disorder.
It should also be noted that research has shown that a minority of sexually abusive children have deviant sexual arousal and interest patterns. Most patterns of sexual arousal among adolescent offenders tend to be recurrent and intense and usually are directly connected to the nature of the sexual behavioral issue, whether it be arousal to young children, dominating/forceful sexual behaviors or even the emotional need of contact which can lead to frotteurism or voyeurism. (Hickey, 2006) Clinical observation and empirical research indicate that sexual offenders of an adolescent classification fall into two groups: those who sexually abuse children, and those who victimize peers and groups. (Children’s Service, 2002) The individuals within the two groups tend to have clear differences in victims they select, patterns of offense, social/criminal histories, behavioral patterns and treatment required.
While research has been performed to solidify theories that juvenile sexual offenders are different than adult offenders in many ways, including reasons for offending, developmental factors, undiagnosed or untreated psychiatric disorders and exposure to stimulating factors within the home environment the problem still exists within the most prominent weakness in the issue addressed; the means of treatment, consequences, and future directions to minimize reoccurrence in order to help these juveniles overcome obstacles causing them to commit sexual crimes. The legal system, and society as a whole tends to be more focused on assuring the individual is acknowledged and “classed” as a sex offender than they are on seeking answers and effective treatment.

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