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Myths and Facts about sex offenders: Implications for practice and public policy


Aim: The purpose of this study was to determine to what extent perceptions about sexual offenders are based on empirical evidence or misconceptions.

Background: Sexual offenders have often been under the spotlight of media attention and public censure. Legislatures in the United States and abroad have passed increasingly restrictive and intrusive laws in order to protect the public from convicted sexual offenders. Sex offender policies are often passed hastily and are not based on scientific evidence but on emotional reactions to high profile, violent, disturbing cases.

Method: Data were collected in Brevard County, Florida from 192 community members and 125 sexual offenders in outpatient treatment, all of whom were surveyed regarding their knowledge about five common themes. Comparisons between groups were analyzed, as were comparisons between participants’ responses and published data.

Results: Results revealed that both sex offenders and the public overestimated the rate by which strangers victimize children, and overestimated the number of sex offenders who were victims of sexual abuse in childhood. Both offenders and the public overestimated the number of sex crimes that come to the attention of authorities. The public more extensively than offenders overestimated the frequency of sexual recidivism rates and underestimated the efficacy of sexual offender treatment in comparison to the literature.

Conclusions: Common misconceptions may interfere with offenders’ treatment and reintegration into society as well as influence legislatures to pass laws that are misguided and inefficient. Implications for policy and practice are discussed. ..more.. by Timothy Fortney, Jill Levenson, Yolanda Brannon & Juanita N. Baker

Fortney, T., Levenson, J.S., Brannon, Y., & Baker, J. (2007). Myths and Facts about sex offenders: Implications for practice and public policy. Sex Offender Treatment 2(1), 1-17.

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