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Assessing the effect of Sex Offender Notification on Emotional, Cognitive, and Behavorial Reactions


Recent increases in sexual victimization rates for children, combined with the highly publicized tragedies of such victimizations, fostered public demands for legislatures to take stronger action against those who commit sexual and violent crimes against children. Legislative response to public demands took the form of sex offender registration and notification statutes. Sex offender notification statutes allow for community dissemination of information about an adjudicated sex offender. The purported goals of sex offender notification legislation are two-fold: (1) to reduce the risk of individual sexual victimization, by prompting protective behaviors; and (2) improve public safety through the surveillance and reporting of “risky” behaviors (e.g. conversing with children) exhibited by sex offenders. Very little is known, however, about how community members respond when they receive sex offender notification. The primary focus of this research is to assess whether the goals of sex offender notification are being achieved. This study also explores the effect of notification on perceived risk of victimization, and fear of victimization.

Survey data are derived from a purposive sample of 88 Hamilton County, Ohio, residents having received sex offender notification, and a comparison group of 148 Hamilton County residents who had not received notification. Analyses indicate that notified respondents were significantly more likely to report the risky/illegal actions of sex offenders subject to notification, and significantly more likely to engage in behavior to protect household members from victimization. Although notification is not a significant predictor of perceived risk of victimization, the direction of the relationship between notification and perceived risk is positive--indicating that notified respondents were more likely to perceive risk of victimization for themselves and household members. The relationship between notification and fear of victimization for household members is also positive. Contrary to prior research, however, the relationship between notification and fear of victimization for self is negative, indicating that respondents who had not received notification were more likely to fear victimization. ..Source.. A dissertation by Victoria Simpson Beck

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