Sexual abuse is a pervasive yet preventable worldwide problem that impacts everyone - individuals, communities, institutions, and society as a whole. Education is essential in the prevention of sexual abuse, but educational efforts are often impaired by the numerous myths and misconceptions that abound about sexual abuse and those who perpetrate sexual abuse. The resources below are shared to increase public awareness and understanding of this complicated issue.

Fact 1: Males who sexually offend are a diverse group.

There is no typical profile of someone who commits sexual abuse. People who commit sexual abuse come from all walks of life. They cross all socioeconomic, educational, gender, age, and cultural lines. Approximately 95% of people who sexually abuse others are male.

Fact 2: There are many motivations for someone to engage in sexually abusive behavior.

There is no single reason someone sexually abuses others. Motivations can include general criminal and antisocial attitudes, anger management issues, antisocial attitudes, lack of impulse control, intimacy deficits and loneliness, sexual preferences, sexual arousal to violence, hypersexuality, and/or a desire for power and control. Individuals who sexually abuse others may or may not be attracted to the victim.

Fact 3: 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 show hostility toward women, are aroused by depictions of sexual violence, have been socialized to accept gender attitudes toward women in which the man is dominant, and are part of a peer group that supports these beliefs.

Fact 4: Most sexual abuse is perpetrated by someone who knows the victim.

Most people who sexually abuse others know their victims and commit abuse from a position of trust or power within families or organizations, among circles of friends, or while working with the victim. Individuals who abuse children are likely to be family members, trusted family friends, babysitters, coaches, teachers, ministers, and others who work with children. Organizations that dissuade individuals from questioning leadership can create a culture that empowers sexual abusers. Stranger-on-stranger sexual abuse is the least frequent type of sexual assault.

Fact 5: Most males who sexually offend do not commit another sexual offense.

Studies have found that the average sexual recidivism rate for male sex offenders declines with each passing year. While some individuals do commit new sexual crimes, the recidivism rate for most sex offenders drops to below 5% after 15 years in the community.

Fact 6: Treatment can help prevent individuals from reoffending.

Individuals who have sexually offended can benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy and other approaches that focus on addressing inappropriate beliefs and attitudes, cognitive and emotional deficits, and a lack of self-regulation skills. As is true of any therapy, treatment is most effective when it is designed around risk-needs-responsivity principles. This requires providers to structure treatment around the individual’s risk to reoffend; address skill-building needs such as prosocial thinking, interpersonal skills, and anger management; and tailor interventions to match the individual’s learning style (responsivity).


Related Topics

  • Treatment of individuals who have offended or are at risk of offending
  • Registries
  • Management of individuals who have offended