We do know some things about sexual predators. According to the Rape, Assault, Incest National Network (RAINN), half of all perpetrators are 30 years of age or older, 57% are white, and 37% have at least one prior felony conviction.
But do those statistics tell us everything we need to know about sexual assailants?
Check out this recording as Dr. Tasha Menaker returns for part 2 of her series, during which she discusses:
- the common typologies of adult rapists and child molesters.
- the risk factors for sexual assault perpetration.
- and risk factors for sexual recidivism.
Justice Clearinghouse Editors (JCH): Your webinar is about understanding the types of sexual assault perpetrators, their risk factors, and recidivism. Without giving away the webinar, what do you mean by “typologies” – especially when, as you’ve discussed before – sexual offenders can’t always be easily categorized?
Dr. Tasha Menaker: It’s true, sexual offenders cannot be easily categorized, and for that reason, I will spend some time talking about the limitations of sex offender typologies in the webinar. I think as humans we naturally want to understand behavior, especially harmful behavior, and often do so by trying to sort people into categories. If we were able to meaningfully put people who commit sexual harm into “types” based on their characteristics and motivations, it would enable us to develop better prevention and response strategies. For example, if we can consistently distinguish perpetrators by their motivations—such as need for control, feelings of inadequacy, or anger—then we can tailor our treatment and management responses to the motivations of that offender type. Unfortunately, despite a history of research attempting to identify sexual offender typologies, we continue to see significant diversity among offenders and have struggled to successfully fit offenders into consistent typologies.
It is critically important to consider risk factors as a whole,
and to remember the overarching impact of our cultural influences,
especially gender socialization
and media representation of gender roles and relationships.
JCH: There are a lot of misconceptions and myths about sexual offenders – even among justice professionals. What do you think the most important thing is for justice professionals to understand when it comes to the risk factors and sex offenders?
Tasha: I think many of the risk factors for perpetration are things that people would intuitively expect on some level. I believe the most important thing to recognize with risk factors is that experiencing something or having a characteristic that is a risk factor for future offending behavior does not guarantee a person will ultimately offend. For example, childhood physical, sexual, and emotional abuse is a risk factor for committing sexual harm in the future. However, the majority of people who have experienced childhood abuse do not go on to offend. So, it is critically important to consider risk factors as a whole, and to remember the overarching impact of our cultural influences, especially gender socialization and media representation of gender roles and relationships.
…Despite a history of research attempting to identify sexual offender typologies,
we continue to see significant diversity among offenders
and have struggled to successfully fit offenders into consistent typologies.
JCH: What drew you to this field of work?
Tasha: I think most people are impacted in one way or another by sexual and domestic violence. On many occasions, I have asked training attendees to stand if they or someone they know has experienced sexual violence. Every time, the majority of the room rises, and I stand with them. Sex and sexuality is a part of all our lives—I believe it should be enjoyable and reciprocal, and people should be able to feel confident and safe in these interactions.