Risk Of Sexual Offending
For the context of this article, risk of sexual offending may be defined as the identification of particular negative impacts on an individual, their environment and influencing factors, that increase the possibility of that individual engaging in a sexual act with another person without consent.
Whilst the ability to predict the risk of future offending is a concept that dates back several centuries to pseudoscientific methods such as phrenology, the improvement in scientific accuracy and the accumulated clinical experience of mental health professionals has significantly increased the ability to accurately assess the likelihood and risk of future offending.
There are various different risk factors that have been identified over recent decades. Static risk factors are factors that cannot be altered by clinical interventions or treatment, such as the offender’s age, gender, previous offenses, childhood trauma such as historical sexual violence, or childhood relationship/attachment issues.
Dynamic risk factors are factors that can be altered by clinical interventions or treatment and involve a multitude of psychological, behavioural, and environmental influences. In particular, lifestyle choices, social networks, social influences, issues with forming intimate relationships, and an increased opportunity to offend.
Acute Dynamic risk factors include isolation, chaotic lifestyle choices, unemployment, substance misuse, increased sexual preoccupation, and deteriorating relationships. Seminal research by Hanson and Morton-Bourgon (2005) detailed a systematic review to identify noticeable characteristic and risk factors in a sample of 29,450 sexual offenders.
Their research identified deviant sexual preferences and anti-social orientation as the leading predictors of sexual offending in both adolescents and adults. Their review also identified a strong prevalence of dynamic risk factors in these individuals, in particular increased sexual preoccupations, a lack of cognitive empathy, psychological distress, and general self-regulation problems.
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