Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Child Sex Offenders

Motives

The National Center for Victims of Crime offers statistics that show that incidences of sexual assaults against children have risen when compared with previous decades, and that children were increasingly kidnapped by family acquaintances (27%) and strangers (24%) instead of close relatives. Yet more than 90% of sex offenders are never sentenced, in part because their victims are people within their circles — usually family members — and these children are pressured with threat or shame not to press charges. The perpetrators are then free to re-offend, and it's most likely that they will.

Dr. Sharon K. Araji
Dr. Sharon K. Araji

There is no distinct profile of a child abuser. Some are violent, others passive, some charming, others lacking in social skills. Dr. Sharon K. Araji, a professor of sociology who researched the demographic data up until 2000, states that around 90% of child sexual abusers are male and have been married. However, since little research has been done on female child abusers, that statistic may under-represent them. Among the males, the average age is 32-34 (although many initially became abusers during adolescence), and they are represented in all socioeconomic, racial, and ethnic groups. Most have multiple victims, looking for children who know them or who appear to be needy, passive, trusting or lacking in supervision.

"Once the abusive relationship is established," Araji says, "the offender uses many techniques to maintain it," such as gifts, bribery, and threat. Some kill them to eliminate a witness or because it's part of the pleasure.

Their motives vary. For some offenders, it's about control; for others, an opportunity was simply present; while quite a few develop a sexual deviance that compels them to seek a specific type of victim. Sex offenders with adult victims generally have one of three motives — anger, power and sadism — but child sex offenders present four basic types:

  • Regressed — usually a one-time offender who feels inadequate
  • Naïve — an offender who does view their act in terms of right and wrong
  • Fixated — offenders stuck in adolescence who claim to "love" children
  • Mysopeds — offenders who seek to hurt someone

Michelle & Melissa Urbin
Michelle & Melissa Urbin

We're most concerned with the latter two, because they account for most of the offenders who repeat their acts and who case the most harm. When their sentences are short, they simply continue where they left off. In Michigan, for example, Leslie Allen Williams served just seven years of a 25-year sentence, according to the Michigan Daily. In 1991, after he was free, he kidnapped Michelle and Melissa Urbin, 14 and 16, from their neighborhood, and raped and killed them. Later that fall, he raped and murdered two more girls and abducted another. He was finally stopped with five life sentences. Had the legal system required him to serve his original sentence, Williams' victims would still be alive.

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