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Preventing Child Sexual Exploitation: Evidence-Based Insights on Reoffending

Understanding and predicting the risk of reoffending among individuals convicted of child sexual abuse material (CSAM) offences is crucial for shaping effective prevention and intervention strategies. A recent research review co-authored by Forensic Research Director Michael C. Seto sheds light on this critical issue, providing a detailed analysis of reliable risk assessment tools.

Research reviews like Seto's are essential for understanding current evidence-based measures and tools available to inform prevention and intervention efforts. Seto's review, which focuses on men convicted of child sexual exploitation material (CSEM) offences in Western, Educated, Industrialised, Rich, and Democratic (WEIRD) countries, highlights three particularly effective assessment tools. These tools are designed to identify key factors associated with reoffending, which can then be used to shape measures that protect communities and support the rehabilitation of offenders.

Some of those key factors include:

  • Age: The age of the offender at the time of the offence can be a useful indicator of recidivism.
  • Criminal History and/or Sexual Criminal History: A history of criminal or sexual offences can indicate a higher risk of reoffending.
  • Failure on Conditional Release: Offenders who fail to comply with conditional release are more likely to reoffend.
  • Contact Sexual Offending: Engaging in direct sexual offences increases the likelihood of reoffending.
  • Admission or Diagnosis of Sexual Interest in Children: Offenders who admit to or are diagnosed with a sexual interest in children are at higher risk.
  • Consumption of CSAM of Predominantly Male Victims: Men who offend against boys are often pedophilic and have more opportunities to be alone with boys, increasing their risk.
  • Living with a Partner for Two Years: Men who haven't lived with a partner for at least two years may lack relationship skills or primarily prefer relationships with children.
  • Relationship to Victim: Offenders who know their victims or are family members show different risks compared to those who target strangers.

Implications for Legislation & Prevention Efforts

This research serves as a crucial foundation for shaping policies and legislation concerning sexual offences against children. By uncovering common traits among repeat offenders, it offers valuable insights that can inform legal frameworks, potentially influencing specific penalty conditions such as probation length, residency, and work restrictions.

“I think legislation ought to be informed by risk assessment results since we want the strongest responses for those who pose the greatest risk. And these results are informed by specific traits and behaviors.”Michael C. Seto, Forensic Research Director.

Linking specific traits to legal penalties should always be treated with caution however. Especially, if it appears to discriminate based on victim characteristics like gender. Where risk assessment results could prove particularly useful though, is in informing and developing specialised treatment plans for offenders, with the goal of reducing the risk of reoffending.

"There is growing evidence that treatment can reduce the likelihood of sexual recidivism in men who have been charged or convicted of sexual offences. My colleague Elizabeth Letourneau and I have received a large grant from the Oak Foundation to identify and evaluate the most promising child sexual abuse perpetration efforts, and we are currently rolling out the evaluation plans."Michael C. Seto, Forensic Research Director.

To protect young people and create a safer society, it is essential to base our prevention efforts on solid research. By understanding the factors that contribute to reoffending and implementing targeted interventions, we can reduce the risk of future offences. Policymakers, educators, and communities must collaborate to develop and support effective evidence-based prevention and treatment programs.

For more information on the findings of this research or to discover additional evidence-based resources in this field, please get in touch with Michael C. Seto.

Preventing Child Sexual Exploitation: Evidence-Based Insights on Reoffending

By understanding the factors that contribute to reoffending and implementing targeted interventions, we can reduce the risk of future offences.