Characteristics of Sex Offenders

  • Published
  • By Ernie Gray
  • 45th Space Wing Sexual Assault Response Coordinator
     Most sex offenders understand that certain acts, such as rape and child molestation, are illegal and harmful to others, but they commit these crimes anyway. They do so mainly because of pro-offending attitudes or cognitive distortions.
      Sex offenders tell themselves and others that this behavior is not really harmful. They may claim that the victim enjoyed and wanted the behavior or initiated the sexual contact, or that women are merely sex objects who deserve mistreatment. This distorted "self-talk" gives offenders "permission" to do something they know is wrong, and prevents them from feeling bad about doing it. 
     Most people use cognitive distortions, to some extent, to avoid feeling guilty about what they are doing. For example, someone may make excuses for driving too fast or for cheating on a diet. However, these types of distortions are much different from those used by sex offenders.
     Self-statements that condone sex offending behaviors increase the chances that someone will commit these crimes and also increases the risk that the person will re-offend.
     Offenders often lack empathy, or the ability to feel what another person may be feeling. Some offenders enjoy dominating and controlling their victims, others seek to harm or terrorize. 
     In research about sex offenders, a lack of healthy coping skills is often cited. Some offenders have difficulty managing their emotions appropriately. Some are highly impulsive and do not think about the consequences before they act. Others plan, scheme, and premeditate before acting. 
     Research suggests that sex offenders often engage in other deviant sexual behaviors and interpersonal crimes, and that sexual deviancy often begins in mid to late adolescence. Many predators may have been sexually abused themselves. 
     There is no such thing as a "typical" sex offender, however most tend to be manipulative, deceptive, narcissistic, sexist, and secretive, with feelings of entitlement. Sex offenders come from all backgrounds, ages, socioeconomic and ethnic groups. The majority of offenses are committed by someone the victim knows.
     Sexual predators are adapting and evolving every day. They are getting better at falling through the cracks and blending in with society. 
     Most offenders will identify the potential victim well before committing a sexual offence. Offenders use sexual fantasies to rehearse possible offending scenarios. The potential victim is selected based on their vulnerability and accessibility, and because the offender sees an opportunity to offend without getting caught. This is why vigilance and being good wingmen are so important.
     For more information contact your local Sexual Assault Response Coordinator.