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Progression towards sexual re-offence: detailing the offence cycle and contributing factors in high-risk sexual offenders

Resource type
Thesis type
(Dissertation) Ph.D.
Date created
Although not the majority, there are sexual offenders who recidivate at high rates and who continue to re-offend despite periods of incarceration and the system’s best treatment efforts, who together comprise a group of particular empirical interest and public concern. The area of sexual violence risk prediction is recognizing the contributions of dynamic risk factors proximal to the re-offence process in identifying increases in risk state. These factors, however, are rarely examined in concert, and their differential presentation across offenders varying in their victim preference and motivational orientation towards offending is not often specified. Certain risk factors may also be associated with a pattern of escalating violence severity across offences. This dissertation project investigated the relevance of a range of dynamic offence process factors to frequency and severity of offending across various types of sexual offenders. Offence-related information was extracted through an extensive review of 191 files (rapists, child molesters, and mixed offenders) drawn from an innovative law enforcement database containing the highest-risk sexual offenders in British Columbia, Canada. Results demonstrated that a number of risk factors were differentially present between different types of offenders. Further analyses revealed that certain risk factors stood out as statistical predictors of frequent offending across offender type. The presence of cognitive-related factors, as well as certain sexualized behaviours, demonstrated significance in this respect. Conversely, particular non-sexual behaviours were found to indicate a lower level of frequency in sexual offending. Although child molesters had the most prolific offence histories, rapists displayed the greatest severity escalation across their offences. Further, offenders who demonstrated more distorted cognitions and experienced interpersonal conflicts prior to offending were more likely to display escalating severity across their sexual offence histories. Overall, a number of dynamic factors indicated post-dictive utility for identifying frequent and increasingly severe sexual offending. The present line of research delineated specific dynamic factors precipitating re-offence that may assist in refining formulations of risk. The findings may inform criminal justice professionals charged with implementing community-management strategies to monitor risk level, as well as those charged with altering offence-supportive cognitive and behavioural patterns to reduce recidivism.
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Scholarly level
Supervisor or Senior Supervisor
Thesis advisor: Read, J. Donald
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