When people claim misunderstanding as the cause of sexual offenses many times it is presented as acceptable for someone to proceed sexually without ensuring willing participation and to proceed even when any agreement or compliance is not freely given. This teaching about acceptable perpetration happens every time someone blames a victim for not being clearer in their non-consent.
A new study looks at the contrast between the stereotypes of young sex offenders and the reality.
WASHINGTON – Adolescent sex offenders are often stereotyped and treated as socially inept, but new research negates this image, finding that they are more likely to be characterized by atypical sexual interests -- such as desire for prepubescent children, coercive sex with peers and adults, and exposing their genitals to strangers. Adolescent sex offenders are also more likely to have a history of sexual abuse themselves, been exposed to sexual violence in their families, and experienced early exposure to sex or pornography.When studies find that sex offenders have a higher rate of sexual abuse victimization than non-offenders many times people believe that a continuing of the cycle of sexual violence is caused by something internal to the survivor, but I believe that the rationalizations given by those who victim blame and deny sexual violence actively reinforces dangerous norms. When victimization is nullified then so too is perpetration.
"If you walked into a typical group treatment for adolescent sex offenders, you might notice a lot of focus on social skills, like how to approach a girl, how to deal with conflict and understanding non-verbal communication," said Michael C. Seto, PhD, lead author of the study. "Our research suggests that social skills training is not what young sex offenders need most in order to be rehabilitated. Discussing sexuality -- early exposure to sex or pornography, sexual fantasies, and sexual arousal -- would likely get us closer to understanding why the offenses were committed and prevent similar ones from being committed again."
Seto, of the Royal Ottawa Health Care Group, and Martin Lalumiere, PhD, of the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada, conducted a meta-analysis of 59 independent studies comparing a total of 3,855 male adolescent sex offenders with 13,393 male adolescent non-sex offenders between ages 12 and 18. Their research is published in the July issue of Psychological Bulletin, published by the American Psychological Association.
There is too fine of a line between, "You asked for," and, "It's okay to do to others what someone did to you as long as people would tell them they asked for it." Same goes for "It doesn't count because you never said the word no," and "It won't count as a crime as long as your victims never say no." These fine lines don't widen just because many victim blamers give disclaimers stating that they are against all sexual violence.
We do a disservice to all socially awkward children and adolescents when we allow this stereotype to continue. We also do a disservice to all survivors sexual abuse when we link the abuse itself to the choice to abuse sexually.