Presentation Excellence - Sexual Violence Among Youth



Sexual Violence Perpetration among Youth: The Role of Family in Etiology and Service Delivery

Presenter:  Dr. Jamie Yoder. Assistant Professor of Social Work – The Ohio State Univeristy

By Moriah Lieberman, CJRC Undergraduate Intern

Dr. Jamie YoderDr. Jamie Yoder, Assistant Professor of Social Work at The Ohio State University, argued for a new, holistic way to approach the problem of youth who have committed se​xual offenses in her presentation, “Sexual Violence Perpetration among Youth: The Role of Family in Etiology and Service Delivery.”  Dr. Yoder came to her current research through an interesting path.  In college, she knew that she wanted to work with children in the juvenile justice system.  She began her career in a residential facility for youth who were sexual offenders and became curious as to what created vulnerability for offending.    She then went to work as a case manager at foster care where she worked with both victims and offenders of sexual offenses.  Yoder found that there was little research in the examining of juveniles with problematic sexual behaviors, which prompting her to pursue this topic in her research career.

There is nouniversal definition of juvenile sexual offending, and different states have different definitions.  Various factors are taken into account when considering sexual offenses, including, relation, impact, age, age difference, coercion, whether consent was received, and level of force.  Yoder shared studies which found that for crimes with youth who have offended sexually, 91% of the offenders were male, 66% of offenders were white and 75% of the victims were females.  In the majority of the offenses, the offender and victim have some type of relationship.  Out of all forcible rapes in the United States, 14% were committed by youth, and 18% of sexual crimes were committed by youth. The vast majority of sexual violence remains undetected by law enforcement because victims fear the repercussions for reporting the crime.

The current laws, which address sexual offenses, are not effective according to Yoder.  They are based on fear and not on research and tend to be punitive and not holistic. Yoder argued that the problem of youth who have sexually offended should be considered a public health problem.  Moreover, there needs to be a holistic and comprehensive treatment plan which takes the problems of the youth who offended sexually into consideration. 

Sex offending is a unique crime.  Studies which compared youth who have offended sexually to youth delinquents who committed violent acts found the former were more likely to have a sexual abuse history, higher prevalence of physical victimization, emotional abuse, or neglect, earlier and higher rates of exposure to sexualized materials, atypical sexual interest, social isolation, and psychological problems such as anxiety.  The problems of youth who have offended sexually further illustrated by study which found that out of youth who commit sex crimes, 90% experienced physical neglect, 99% experienced emotional neglect, 68% experience emotional abuse, and 65% met criteria for PTSD.  An important element, which Yoder emphasized, is that children with a lack of attachments are more likely to commit sexual offenses.  Forming attachment and relationships is an important mitigating factor, makings children less likely to offend in the first place or to reoffend. 

The aim of treatments is to lower the number of youth who have sexually offended from reoffending. Out of the youth who are incarcerated for sexual offenses, the recidivism rate for another sexual crime is 7.08% and for a non-sexual crime is 43.4%. There needs to be a risk assessment to determine who is likely to reoffend.  Etiological models of risks and typologies are being studied to help determine who is likely to offend in the first place and then to reoffend.  This knowledge can help create different prevention programs as well as treatment programs.

There is a trend toward providing a more holistic and comprehensive treatment for youth who have offended sexually because the methods and tools are not working.  The traditional approach is to send youth who have sexually offended to residential treatment centers, however, these individuals have a difficult time reintegrating into their communities, causing them to be more likely to reoffend.   Community care should be attempted first where youth who have offended sexually learn to behave differently in their homes.  The treatment must create a supportive environment, where the family is engaged and where the youth form attachments to others.  Additionally, the tramautic causes that offenders have experienced needs to be addressed.

Dr. Yoder is turning her research into practice by working on three projects which are using different methods to address and help youth who have sexually offended.