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Juvenile Sexual Offenders: Continuous Research Needed

By Thomas G. Tittle / PATC

Historically, sexual crimes differ from other incidents that law enforcement encounters in its investigatory efforts. Most incidents center on revenge, greed, fear, and hate.

With these, although one doesn’t agree with actions, humankind tends to accept or understand the criminal intent somewhat, albeit emotional or planned factors.

For years, the study of sexual crimes primarily examined adult behavior in an attempt to discover the dark reason for their acts. Little, if any, effort was applied towards juveniles.

Theories ranging from mental disease, extra Y-chromosomes, hard impacts on the head, violent television, poor parental experiences, as well as “folk lore” have been offered as explanations for juveniles becoming the “bad seed.”

Movies and books seem to make sex offenders the headliners and best sellers. However, within the last several years, exploration and emphasis has been placed on the background, environment and conditioning of our children. This concern has targeted the juvenile sexual offender and “what makes him tick.”

The first (recognized) juvenile sexual serial offender/killer was Jesse Pomeroy of the Boston area in the late 1800’s. The first adult labeled under the same classification was Herman Mudgett, who took up residency in Chicago, almost in the same time period.

Were they around before this period? Certainly. However, either a label or name was not available for them or their offenses weren’t recognized as sex offenses.

A journalist gave the term multi-murder to Mudgett. Terms used to identify “styles” of killing including spree, mass and serial.

What appears to have been left out is the one who uses his/her “power” to compel others to do his/her bidding (Jim Jones, Charles Manson and Adolph Hitler). I have applied the label of “ordained murderer,” because of the belief/drive that motivates them (religious, military or “purging” selected groups to make their perceived society better).

Studies have targeted behaviors common to sexual offenders, including, but not limited to:

  • A fascination with fire;
  • Abuse(s);
  • An injurious attitude toward animals and other living creatures;
  • Dysfunctional family atmosphere;
  • Head trauma;
  • Desire for violent video games; and
  • Bedwetting

Intervention may not be possible just because law enforcement observes certain behaviors or “signs” of a subject. Like other arenas of the human mind and behavior, this is not an exact science.

At the beginning of the 20th century, people who were thought to act strange, what we would believe today because mental illness, were alienated in society. Those who treated these “aliens” were called “alienists” (psychiatrists).

Although not a qualified mental health professional, the law enforcement officer deals with these behaviors when criminal behavior occurs. By the very nature of the job itself, the officer is becoming familiar with the repetitive actions by this certain typology of behaviors. Some typings are based on theories, arrest statistics or patterns they observe.


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