|There are many
misconceptions about sexual offenses, sexual offense victims, and sex
offenders in our society. Much has been learned about these behaviors and
populations in the past decade and this information is being used to
develop more effective criminal justice interventions throughout the
country. the following information addresses the facts that underlie
common assumptions both true and false in this rapidly evolving field.
MYTH: "Most sexual assaults are
committed by strangers."
FACT: Most sexual assaults are
committed by someone known to the victim or the victim's family,
regardless of whether the victim is a child or an adult.
Adult Victims: Statistics indicate that
the majority of women who have been raped know their assailant. Also, a
Bureau of Justice Statistics study found that nearly 9 out of 10 rape or
sexual assault victimizations involved a single offender with whom the
victim had a prior relationship as a family member, intimate, or
Child Victims: Approximately 60% of boys
and 80% of girls who are sexually victimized are abused by someone known
to the child or the child's family. Relatives, friends, baby-sitters,
persons in positions of authority over the child, or persons who
supervise children are more likely than strangers to commit a sexual
MYTH: "The majority of sexual offenders
are caught, convicted, and in prison."
FACT: Only a fraction of those who
commit sexual assault are apprehended and convicted for their crimes.
Most convicted sex offenders eventually are released to the community
under probation or parole supervision.
Many women who are sexually assaulted by
intimate, friends, or acquaintances do not report these crimes to
police. Instead, victims are most likely to report being sexually
assaulted when the assailant is a stranger, the victim is physically
injured uring the assault, or a weapon is involved in the commission of
While sex offenders constitute a large
and increasing population of prison inmates, most are eventually
released to the community. Short of incarceration, supervision allows
the criminal justice system the best means to maintain control over
offenders, monitor their residence, and require them to work and
participate in treatment. As a result, there is a growing interest in
providing community supervision for this population as an effective
means of reducing the threat of future victimizations.
MYTH: "Sex offenders commit sexual
crimes because they are under the influence of alcohol."
FACT: It is unlikely that an individual
who otherwise would not commit a sexual assault would do so as a direct
result of excessive drinking.
Annual crime victim reports indicate that
approximately 30% of all reported rapes and sexual assaults involve
alcohol use by the offender. Alcohol use therefore may increase the
likelihood that someone already predisposed to commit a sexual assault
will act upon those impulses. However, excessive alcohol use is not a
primary precipitant to sexual assaults.
MYTH: "Children who are sexually
assaulted will sexually assault others when they grow up."
FACT: Most sex offenders were not
sexually assaulted and do not sexually assault others."
Early childhood sexual victimization does
not automatically lead to sexually aggressive behavior. While sex
offenders have higher rates of sexual abuse in their histories than
expected in the general population, the majority were not abused. Among
adult sex offenders, approximately 30% have been sexually abused. Some
types of offenders, such as those who sexually offend against young
boys, have still higher rates of child sexual abuse in their histories.
MYTH: "All sex offenders are male."
FACT: The vast majority of ex offenders
are male. However, females also commit sexual crimes. Studies indicate
that females commit approximately 20% of sex offenses against children.
Males commit the majority of sex offenses but females commit some,
particularly against children.