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PATC E-NewsletterJuvenile Sexual Offenders:
Continuous Research Needed
By Thomas G. Tittle

Historically, sexual crimes differ from other incidents that law enforcement encounters in its investigatory efforts.  Most incidents center on revenge, greed, fear, and hate.

With these, although one doesn’t agree with actions, humankind tends to accept or understand the criminal intent somewhat, albeit emotional or planned factors.

For years, the study of sexual crimes primarily examined adult behavior in an attempt to discover the dark reason for their acts.  Little, if any, effort was applied towards juveniles.

Theories ranging from mental disease, extra Y-chromosomes, hard impacts on the head, violent television, poor parental experiences, as well as “folk lore” have been offered as explanations for juveniles becoming the “bad seed.”

Movies and books seem to make sex offenders the headliners and best sellers.  However, within the last several years, exploration and emphasis has been placed on the background, environment and conditioning of our children.  This concern has targeted the juvenile sexual offender and “what makes him tick.”

The first (recognized) juvenile sexual serial offender/killer was Jesse Pomeroy of the Boston area in the late 1800’s.  The first adult labeled under the same classification was Herman Mudgett, who took up residency in Chicago, almost in the same time period.

Were they around before this period?  Certainly.  However, either a label or name was not available for them or their offenses weren’t recognized as sex offenses.

A journalist gave the term multi-murder to Mudgett.  Terms used to identify “styles” of killing including spree, mass and serial.

What appears to have been left out is the one who uses his/her “power” to compel others to do his/her bidding (Jim Jones, Charles Manson and Adolph Hitler).  I have applied the label of “ordained murderer,” because of the belief/drive that motivates them (religious, military or “purging” selected groups to make their perceived society better).

Studies have targeted behaviors common to sexual offenders, including, but not limited to:

  • A fascination with fire;
  • Abuse(s);
  • An injurious attitude toward animals and other living creatures;
  • Dysfunctional family atmosphere;
  • Head trauma;
  • Desire for violent video games; and
  • Bedwetting

Intervention may not be possible just because law enforcement observes certain behaviors or “signs” of a subject.  Like other arenas of the human mind and behavior, this is not an exact science.

At the beginning of the 20th century, people who were thought to act strange, what we would believe today because mental illness, were alienated in society.  Those who treated these “aliens” were called “alienists” (psychiatrists).

Although not a qualified mental health professional, the law enforcement officer deals with these behaviors when criminal behavior occurs.  By the very nature of the job itself, the officer is becoming familiar with the repetitive actions by this certain typology of behaviors.  Some typings are based on theories, arrest statistics or patterns they observe.

The point being, awareness is the best friend of the law enforcement officer.  Awareness may come in the form of “gut feeling,” heavy suspicion, or “something isn’t right” combined with their assessment of the situation at hand.

These insights come from investigative experience and personally dealing with worst-=case scenarios during the peak of an explosive situation.

More disturbing is the thought that a juvenile sexual offender reaches adulthood and is never caught or his sexual deviance put in check, what victim numbers they could generate.

Statistically, with a continuous targeting of juveniles, the estimates vary, but some believe it to be more than 100 contacts before an offender is caught (not necessarily arrested) and more than 300 during their lifetime. Recognition of select behaviors enables law enforcement to be more in tune with the investigation of a sexual offense.  The following is a review of 29 juvenile (accused, arrested and adjudicated as) sex offenders who have been surveyed on specific areas.

They go to “group” regularly and acknowledge their guilt.  From their responses, several conclusions can be made.  Some aspects of their behavior remain a mystery.  The names, geographical locations of incidents or other identifiers are withheld for obvious reasons.

Where answers do not total 29, the responses were not given on the survey.  In some cases, the cumulative answer may go beyond 29.  In this event, the respondent had multiple answers/victims.

A survey of 29 juvenile boys arrested and convicted/adjudicated, ranging from age 10 to 17 when they committed their crimes, is reviewed.  The boys racial background is revealed as 6 black, 17 white, two bi-racial and two Hispanic.

The questions totaled 34 and were short answer.  Information was solicited about the offenders as well as their victim(s).  Upon reviewing the findings, listed below are some answers accompanied with insight or analysis.

Regarding the offender’s age, most incidents occurred at age 15 with a 14 as a close second.  In 25 of the incidents, the victim was younger than the offender.  In two of the cases they were the same age, and two had older victims.

In cases where the offender was older, the average difference in age between the offender and their victim was 6.24 years.  The largest in difference was 12 years.

Females were the primary targets with 22 and male contacts at nine.  *Some perpetrators targeted both male and female.

The above is not revelation.  Many studies sustain that the perpetrator is almost always older than the victim is and that there are more female than male victims.

Without exception, all knew their victims.  Seventeen admit their victim was a friend, neighbor or someone they were babysitting.  Eleven stated they were related to their victim. 

Make no mistake that a stranger contact can occur, but in the majority of cases, victims know their assailant.  Keeping it a secret is the key to success for the offender.  The victim may not recognize the incident as wrong, or could be intimidated and fail to acknowledge the incident.

Overwhelmingly, the victim or perpetrator’s residence was the primary location of the crime.  Twenty one responses confirmed this.  Other areas mentioned were:  school bus, hallway, walking home and school (3).

Select questions were asked about animals and living creatures and if the offender had ever hurt one.  Sixteen responded they had, with three stating they had burned a living creature.

Six responders stated they had an attraction to fire.  Responses ranged from one actually starting only one fire to another stating he had set 53.

Seven acknowledged they had experienced bedwetting incidents beyond the normal age.  Averaging out their responses, the age they appear to have in common is 9.85 years.  The ages ranged from age 7 to 13.  However, not one states they currently have this problem.

[To ask someone if they stole, hurt or assaulted another is easier for them to acknowledge than, “I wet my pants when I get excited.”  For someone to admit this behavior may be worse than the offense itself (peer pressure, ridicule).]

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” is a common question everyone is asked at one time or another.  This, too, was inserted in the survey.  Many responses included a high-risk behavior, such as: pilot (2), cop (3), astronaut, Marine, pro basketball, pro baseball (3) and the one with the most responses, pro football (4).

High-risk behaviors have been believed to have a link to sexually risky (unlawful) behaviors.  The actions offenders take to commit a criminal sexual act are very stimulating to some in different ways – It’s a crime, the planning, committing the incident, the thrill, feeling superior to others.

Other responses ranged from musician, grocery-truck driver, artist, lawyer, marine biologist, mechanic, dentist, businessman, cement truck driver, video game designer and computer programmer.

Many adult criminals have stated they wanted to be cops, counselors or in the ministry.  Each seems to possess the ability to control people verbally.  When one possesses wealth, they can control others financially.

The topic of previous abuse often is raised as a factor in sexual offenses.  When examining the offenders’ responses on this topic, mental abuse prevailed (10 acknowledgements), physical abuse (7 acknowledgements), with sexual abuse last (4 acknowledgements).

These responses run contrary to public perception.  There seems to be widespread belief that sexual offenders were all victims of sexual abuse, with mental and physical abuse being relegated to a lower scale.
Studies have targeted this specific area (mental, physical or sexual abuse) of the offender’s background attempting to link this as a causal factor for future violent behavior.

Using the belief that “it feels good to hurt someone like you have been hurt” is not new.  Placing the appropriate term, “Reversal of Indelible Pain (RIP),” seems fitting.  Unable to “ash” the past pain away, it is transferred to another for a “moment” of restoration of the offender.  What forms of inflicted pain this may take, is in the fantasy or imagination of the offender.

It has been speculated that movies or television motivates or inspires sexual offenders.  On that line of thought, the question was posed, “What horror or scary movie do you think about or like most?”  Rated highest were Scary Movie (5), Halloween (3), and Scream (3), followed by others.

Certainly most people have seen a sampling of these movies and have no further thought on them.  But focusing on the original question (what they think about or like the most), may indicate an influence of some nature.  By majority, the ones that were mentioned tend to have more gore and “slashing” where the antagonist controls in a sadistic manner.

For any survey to have value, the data examined must be accurate.  Even though the responses evaluated here reflect what was noted by the actual sexual offender, we have no way to confirm the veracity of those statements.  Thus, this evaluation is after-the-fact and not empirical.

The age factor still holds validity where the perpetrator is almost always older than the victim.  Females continue to outnumber the males as the main victim.

Relationships of some nature existed universally, with stranger contact non-existent in this case study.
Causing injury to a living creature is always a red flag.  Also brought in were the issues of the appeal for fire setting and enuresis.

The offenders’ description of what had occurred to them in life or the behaviors they displayed sexually as a result of the incident(s) indicates a continuous pattern of risky behaviors (or an attempt to maintain high excitement levels).  This is taken from the questions on careers, abuse, movie stimulation and their description of incident locations.

Finally, the ability to identify a specific juvenile whose behavior may indicate a predilection to committing a sexual offense is a long shot at best.

Continuous interaction and experience with juvenile sexual offenders is the best teacher for the law enforcement officer.  The law enforcement officer becomes the hunter of facts through select questions and reactions.

He or she can then reach a more reasonable and statistical based conclusion of an investigation concerning the circumstances they are up against.





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