Sex Offenders Not As Likely To Relapse As Thought, According To Study Of 23,393 Sex Offender Cases

April 07, 1998

Staying In Treatment Is Big Factor In Likelihood Of Repeating Offense

WASHINGTON - Many believe that once a sex offender, always a sex offender. Not necessarily. According to 61 studies reviewed in the April issue of the American Psychological Association's (APA) Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, less than 20 percent of sex offenders are found to have committed another sexual offense. Deviant sexual preferences, criminal lifestyle and dropping out of treatment were the biggest risk factors for reoffending.

''Out of 23,393 cases of sex offenses, only 13.4 percent were known to have committed another sexual offense after four to five years in the community. This is an underestimate. Many offenses are undetected and the rates can only increase with longer follow up periods. Nevertheless, these findings contradict the popular view that sexual offenders inevitably reoffend,'' said psychologists R. Karl Hanson, Ph.D., and Monique T. Bussiere, Ph.D., of the Corrections Research, Department of the Solicitor General of Canada.

''Those that did reoffend were found to have more prior sexual offenses, deviant sexual interests -- being interested in boys and victimizing strangers - and had not completed their treatment,'' said Dr. Hanson. ''Treatment programs can contribute to community safety. We now have reliable evidence about those who attend and cooperate with treatment programs are less likely to reoffend than those who reject intervention.''

''It is only through the collective effort of past and future research that we can now improve our ability to distinguish between those sexual offenders likely to reoffend and those who have stopped for good,'' said the authors.

American Psychological Association

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