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Juveniles Who Commit Sex Offenses Against Minors

December 2, 2009

Washington, D.C. – The Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs (OJP) today announced the release of a bulletin reporting on youth who commit sexual offenses against minors. The latest in the Crimes Against Children Series from OJP’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, the bulletin draws on data from the FBI’s National Incident-Based Reporting System to describe the characteristics of the juvenile sex offender population coming to the attention of law enforcement. Key findings include: juveniles account for more than one-third (36%) of those known to police to have committed sex offenses against minors; and juveniles who commit sex offenses against other children are more likely than adult sex offenders to offend in groups, at schools, and to have more male and younger victims.

“Juveniles Who Commit Sex Offenses Against Minors”
Researchers: David Finkelhor, Ph.D., Richard Ormrod Ph.D., and Mark Chaffin, Ph.D.
Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention
http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles/ojjdp/227763.pdf

Juvenile sex offenders comprise more than one-quarter (25.8 percent) of all sex offenders and more than one-third (35.6 percent) of sex offenders against juvenile victims (the group that is the focus of this Bulletin). There were approximately 89,000 juvenile sex offenders known to police throughout the United States in 2004.

Juveniles who commit sex offenses against minors are different from adults who commit sex offenses against minors on a number of crucial dimensions captured by NIBRS (table 1, page 5). Juveniles are more likely to offend in groups (24 percent with one or more co-offenders versus 14 percent for adults). They are somewhat more likely to offend against acquaintances (63 percent versus 55 percent). Their most serious offense is less likely to be rape (24 percent versus 31 percent) and more likely to be sodomy (13 percent versus 7 percent) or fondling (49 percent versus 42 percent). They are more likely to have a male victim (25 percent versus 13 percent).

Juvenile sex offenders are also much more likely than adult sex offenders to target young children as their victims. The proportion of victims younger than the age of 12 is 59 percent for juvenile sex offenders, compared with 39 percent for adult sex offenders. Figure 2 (page 6) shows how adult sex offenders concentrate their offenses against victims age 13 and older. Figure 2 also shows that children younger than age 12 have about an equal likelihood of being victimized by juvenile and adult sex offenders, but adult offenders predominate among those who victimize teens. Although most juvenile sex offenders are teenagers, about 16 percent of those who come to police attention are younger than age 12.”

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