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Juveniles Who Commit Sex Offenses Against Minors

December 2009:

The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) is committed to improving the justice system’s response to crimes against children. OJJDP recognizes that children are at increased risk for crime victimization. Not only are children the vic-tims of many of the same crimes that victimize adults, they are subject to other crimes, like child abuse and neglect, that are specific to childhood. The impact of these crimes on young victims can be devastating, and the violent or sexual victimization of chil-dren can often lead to an intergenerational cycle of violence and abuse. The purpose of OJJDP’s Crimes Against Children Series is to improve and expand the Nation’s efforts to better serve child victims by presenting the latest information about child victimization, including analyses of crime victimization statistics, studies of child victims and their spe-cial needs, and descriptions of programs and approaches that address these needs.

Although those who commit sex offenses against minors are often described as "pedophiles" or "predators" and thought of as adults, it is important to understand that a substantial portion of these offenses are committed by other minors who do not fit the image of such terms. Interest in youth who commit sexual offenses has grown in recent years, along with specialized treatment and management programs, but relatively little population-based epidemiological information about the characteristics of this group of offenders1 and their offenses has been available. The National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) offers perspective on the characteristics of the juvenile sex offender population coming to the attention of law enforcement.

Key findings from this Bulletin include the following:

--Juveniles account for more than onethird (35.6 percent) of those known to police to have committed sex offenses against minors.

--Juveniles who commit sex offenses against other children are more likely than adult sex offenders to offend in groups and at schools and to have more male victims and younger victims.

--The number of youth coming to the attention of police for sex offenses increases sharply at age 12 and plateaus after age 14. Early adolescence is the peak age for offenses against younger children. Offenses against teenagers surge during mid to late adolescence, while offenses against victims under age 12 decline.

--A small number of juvenile offenders. 1 out of 8 are younger than age 12.

--Females constitute 7 percent of juveniles who commit sex offenses.

--Females are found more frequently among younger youth than older youth who commit sex offenses. This group's offenses involve more multiple-victim and multiple-perpetrator episodes, and they are more likely to have victims who are family members or males.

--Jurisdictions vary enormously in their concentration of reported juvenile sex offenders, far more so than they vary in their concentration of adult sex offenders.

For the remainder of this study: by David Finkelhor, Richard Ormrod, and Mark Chaffin

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