Fast Facts About Individuals with intellectual disabilities and special needs who sexually offend
Fact 1: Individuals with intellectual disabilities and special needs may sometimes sexually abuse others.
While persons with intellectual disabilities and special needs are among the groups most vulnerable to being subjected to sexual abuse, sometimes they also can be sexual abusers themselves.
Fact 2: Specific factors contribute to sexual offending by persons with intellectual disabilities and special needs.
Factors that can contribute to individuals with intellectual disabilities and special needs offending against others include an inability to understand nuanced social communications, loneliness, compulsive behaviors, a lack of impulse control, lack of emotional development, and lack of problem-solving skills. More serious factors can include anger management issues and criminal thinking.
Fact 3: Sexually offending behaviors by persons with intellectual disabilities and special needs may not be intentional.
Individuals with intellectual disabilities and special needs may not understand appropriate physical boundaries or know how to interpret other people’s reactions. For this reason, they may display problematic sexual behaviors that are not intended to be abusive. Acts may be impulsive rather than planned. Problematic behaviors may include making sexualized comments, seeking to touch other people inappropriately, and masturbation. It is important, when evaluating the actions of a person with intellectual disabilities or special needs to determine their developmental and emotional state.
Fact 4: Individuals with intellectual disabilities and special needs who display problematic sexual behaviors are more vulnerable to victimization.
Individuals with intellectual disabilities and special needs who display sexual behavior problems, related problems in social development due to aggressive and impulsive behaviors, poor boundaries, and indiscriminate friendliness are more vulnerable to victimization. These behaviors also create stress for the caregivers of these individuals and can lead to difficult interactions. Working with treatment providers to understand the underlying issues, address the behaviors, and develop appropriate responses is essential to help these individuals develop appropriate, positive, and prosocial behaviors as far as they are able.
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ATSA blog posts
The following citations reflect research, publications, and presentations by current ATSA members.
- Interventions for adolescents with developmental disabilities: Rothman & Smith (2017)
- Interventions for youth with Autism Spectrum Disorders who have engaged in abusive sexual behaviors: Rothman & MacKenzie (2017)
- People with special needs and sexual behaviour problems: Balancing community and client interests while ensuring effective risk management: Wilson, Prescott, & Burns (2015)
- The validity of the Static 99-R in sexual offenders with low intellectual abilities: Newman, Stephens, Seto, & Cantor (2014)
- Understanding and responding to persons with special needs who have sexually offended: Wilson & Prescott (2014)
- Assessing the generalization of relapse-prevention behaviors of sexual offenders diagnosed with an intellectual disability: Rea, Dixon, & Zettle (2013)
- Applicability of MEGA to sexually abusive youth with low intellectual functioning: Miccio-Fonseca & Rasmussen (2012)
- Intellectual disability and problems in sexual behavior: Assessment, treatment, and promotion of healthy sexuality: Wilson & Burns (2011)
- Risk assessment in offenders with intellectual disability: A comparison across three levels of security: Lindsay, Hogue, Taylor, Steptoe, Mooney, O’Brien, Johnston, & Smith (2008)
- A structured method of assessing dynamic risk factors among sexual abusers with intellectual disabilities: McGrath, Livingston, & Falk (2007)
- Community management of sex offenders with intellectual disabilities: Characteristics, services, and outcome of a statewide program: McGrath, Livingston, & Falk (2007)
- A comparison of offenders with intellectual disability across three levels of security: Hogue, Steptoe, Taylor, Lindsay, Mooney, Pinkney, Johnston, Smith, & O’Brien (2006)
- On intelligence and crime: A comparison of incarcerated sex offenders and serious non-sexual violent criminals: Guay, Ouimet, & Prouix (2005)