Characteristics of sexual offenders

By ATSA The Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers is an international organization that stresses sound research and data-driven information in the prevention of sexual abuse.


Fact 1: There is no specific type of person who commits sexual abuse.

People who sexually abuse cross all socioeconomic, educational, gender, age, and cultural lines. There is no typical profile of someone who is likely to commit sexual abuse. However, the majority of adults who sexually offend are males. Women commit approximately 5% of sexual offenses.

Fact 2: Most abusers know their victims.

Most people who sexually abuse others do so from a position of trust or power within families, among circles of friends, or in professional roles. Stranger-on-stranger sexual abuse is extremely rare.

Fact 3: Motivations for committing sexual abuse vary.

There is no single reason people sexually abuse others. Motivations can include general delinquency and criminal attitudes, anger management and antisocial attitudes, intimacy deficits and loneliness, sexual preferences, sexual arousal to violence, hypersexuality, and/or a desire for power and control. Persons who commit sexual abuse may or may not be attracted to the individuals they assault.

Fact 4: There are known risk factors that increase the likelihood of someone committing sexual assault.

Studies have shown that males are at a higher risk to commit sexual assault if they have been socialized to accept traditional gender stereotyped attitudes toward women in which the man is dominant, show hostility toward women, are aroused by depictions of sexual violence, and are part of a peer group that supports these beliefs.

Fact 5: Once a sexual abuser, rarely again a sexual abuser.

Very few people who commit sexual offenses once do so again. Individuals who sexually offend have the lowest recidivism rate of all crime types. Overall, just 7% of people who sexually offend once commit another sexual offense. Through therapy and treatment, they learn prosocial ways of thinking and behaving, and gain the skills they need to become law-abiding, productive members of society.


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