The classification of cases in the criminal justice and law enforcement industry is more complicated than what most people usually think. Cases, for example, may be based on the extent of the crime committed (e.g. felony), on the type of offense committed as in a criminal or civil charges, and on the age of the violator as in Juvenile and Adult cases, just to give a few. Despite the fact that there are a lot of ways how we could classify a case or an offense, this paper will focus on Juvenile cases, particularly on the aspect of Juvenile Sex Offenses. This paper aims to identify various dynamic risk factors that contribute to an individual’s tendency to develop aggressive sexual behaviors towards other individuals who are from the same age group; and to discuss how valid or reliable it is to depend on these dynamic risk factors as objective determinants in assessing a juvenile sex offense case.
Juvenile vs. Adult Sex Offenders
Each country, or in the case of the United States, each state, has their own set of prescribed rules and policies regarding charges related to sexual harassment. To establish a fair and uniform basis of analysis and comparison, if any, we will focus on the sexual offense protocols being practice in the U.S. Before embarking on the dynamic risk factors influencing Juvenile Sexual Offenders, it would be important for any reader to be able to know that Juvenile and Adult Sex offenders are handled differently. In general, juvenile offenders, regardless of the type of crime they committed, receive meeker punishments than that of their adult counterparts. Also, they usually are not sent to prisons and correction facilities but instead on government departments or agencies related to social service. On the contrary, Adult Sex offenders suffer from the consequences of their actions, under the full extent of the law. They generally receive stricter and more life-changing punishments and sentences than their juvenile counterparts. However, according to studies, specifically by Marcus (2002), in his paper about sexual offenses, “it is a general finding of surveys of sex offender populations that variables such as level of intelligence, age, ethnicity, education and psychiatric status do not differ significantly from the rates in the general populations from which the samples are drawn.” From this direct quotation on his text, we can infer that techniques and methods of characterizing and identifying risk factors for adult sex offenders may well be applied to juvenile sex offenders.
Identification of Dynamic Risk Factors
This section is where we are going to identify and discuss various dynamic risk factors for the development of sexually aggressive tendencies among the population. In general, the risk factors identified were age, psychiatric status, drug abuse, and education and intelligence.
- Age and Gender
There is a concrete medical explanation as to why age could be identified as one of the significant dynamic risk factors for developing sexual tendencies among the juvenile population. According to Yu (2005), males go through a series of major hormonal imbalances during adolescence. Testosterone and libido levels in males also tend to exhibit sharp increases and decreases during the same stage of development. The higher the libido levels, the more likely that a juvenile individual would give in to his sexual desires, even if that would mean violating human rights and other laws related to violence and sexual harassment. However, it would be important to know that even though age could be a risk factor for such tendencies, it cannot be used as the only basis in ruling out legal possibilities. In terms of the gender, there have been myths about sexual abuse that suggest that females are the only victims of sexual offenses. This myth has actually been debunked by the Office of the Attorney General in the state of California (2013). The publication stated that while majority of sex offenders are male, there have also been reported cases of sexual harassments committed by female offenders. But nonetheless, being a male definitely is a risk factor because statistically, the number of sexual offenses committed by male greatly outnumber than that of the female.
- Psychiatric Status
A person’s psychiatric status is one of the most dynamic and directly-associated risk factors for developing sexually offensive tendencies for juvenile subjects. Furthermore, a person’s psychiatric status may easily change, according to the current events happening in a person’s life, and a wide array of factors such as the external environment and even the type of social relationship one has with other people. A poor psychiatric status would always be a risk factor for developing sexually offensive tendencies because such people basically do not have the capability to fully control their thoughts, and think rationally, at least compared to people with a stable psychiatric status. However, the problem with this risk factor is the fact that when a person has been declared by the court as insane after committing sexually offensive acts, he would be sent not to a prison but to a mental institution. In other words, he will not be punished by the full force of the law because the court has basically declared him incapable of plotting and committing sexual offenses.
- Drug Use or Abuse
This risk factor can somewhat be associated with a person’s psychiatric status because there are literally hundreds, if not thousands of drugs that could significantly alter a patient’s mental status, significant enough to cause hallucinations and make an individual do things that he would not normally do, such as sexual offenses. A person dependent or addicted to hallucination-inducing medications, both legally and illegally, are definitely at high risks of committing sexual offenses. In fact, at least 20 percent of the total sexual abuse cases recorded in the U.S. in 2010 was related to drug and other substance abuse. Perpetrators of sexual offenses also use drug or substance intoxication as an alibi to their actions just like how altered psychiatric conditions are being used.
- Education and Intelligence
A person who is less educated, especially about the laws and policies about sexual harassment in the state where he lives in would be at higher risks of developing sexually offensive tendencies than a person who is fully aware of the possible consequences of committing such acts. The more aware a person is of the laws against sexual offenders, the less likely it is that he would try to commit the act. However, cases wherein an individual, despite being fully aware of the heavy consequences of sexual offenses, still committed sexual offenses (e.g. rape) are not uncommon.
Now that we have mentioned various dynamic risk factors associated with juvenile sex offenders, the next question would be “how are we supposed to measure such risk factors accurately and how dynamic could they really be?” The Department of Justice and other government agencies that are directly related to the criminal justice and law enforcement are allowed, and are actually recommended to work with other departments and fields in order to arrive at plausible and rational decisions in basically everything that concerns the victims and the perpetrators. The risk factors Psychiatric Status, and Drug Use and Abuse for example could be accurately and objectively measured by a medical professional, specifically a psychiatrist, and by requesting for drug testing procedures performed by a third party or in-house drug testing facilities. This way, it would be easier for the authorities to determine whether a person has a normal psychiatric status or is a non-drug abuser and classify individuals who are at high risks of developing sexually offensive tendencies. Age and education can be easily checked on an individual’s demographic data and based on that, classify whether he is at high risks or otherwise.
How dynamic these risk factors are is another story. Basically, the more dynamic or fast-changing a risk factor is, the harder it would usually be to rationally predict who is at high risk and who is not. Psychiatric status for example, is one of the most dynamic risk factors identified in a wide range of studies conducted about juvenile sexual offenders. And based on this result, it would be safe to say that an individual’s level of risk would also be dynamic. As mentioned before, there are a lot of things that could alter an individual’s mental status—current events, failures, frustrations, and basically any other negative feelings or emotions, which could predispose him into a scenario wherein he develops violent and sexually abusive thoughts and tendencies.
Barker, M., & Adshead, G. (2011). Community-based Treatment for Sex Offenders and Evaluation of Seven Treatment Programmes. London Home Office Publications Unit.
Marcus, E. (2002). Characteristics of Adult Sex Offenders. NSPCC.
Yu, Y. (2005). Age-related Sexual Abuses. Journal of Law Enforcement.