chapter  13
Offense pathways of extrafamilial child molesters: A UK study
Pages 19

Perpetrators of sexual crimes against children are a diverse group, differing in motivation, victim preference, and offense behavior. As outlined elsewhere in this book (see Chapter 6 of this volume), researchers in the field of sexual offending have proposed typologies of abusers, to better understand, classify, and assess offenders, guide rehabilitative efforts with this heterogeneous group, and help their victims. Theorists have proposed different methods of classification of those who have abused children. For example, Groth and Burgess (1977) described a number of types of perpetrators of sexual crimes against minors, based on offense behavior (those who use enticement and coercion vs those who use intimidation or force) and motivating factors (a general sexual preference for children, a recently developed sexual interest in children, grievance and anger, a desire for mastery and dominance, or sadism). Finkelhor and Araji (1986) also proposed that motivation for offending (specifically an emotional congruence with children and the resultant desire to form emotionally intimate relationships with children, a sexual preference for children, or an inability to meet intimacy needs in socially acceptable ways) and offense behavior (such as enticement, desensitization to sexual behavior, or threats) could differ between offenders. They also considered immediate precursors to child abuse, both internal and external, including self-serving cognitions (that justify their intended behavior or minimize potential harm), intoxication, and stress. However, Beauregard et al. (Chapter 6) argued that such models fail to adequately consider crime characteristics, making no links between those factors believed to precipitate the sexual abuse of children and the modus operandi of the abuser. Beauregard and colleagues set out to address this theoretical gap by studying the offense pathways of those who had offended against children. The concept of an offense pathway (or offense chain) is central to relapse prevention models that have been integrated from the field of addiction into sexual offender treatment (Ward, Louden, Hudson, & Marshall, 1995). Within Her Majesty’s Prison Service in England and Wales, offenders attending accredited

primary interventions for sexual offending construct an offense chain to help determine what drove their offense and to identify those factors that need to be addressed for the individual to lead a more fulfilling life incompatible with offending. As part of a treatment program, offenders construct an offense chain of some seven to 12 links, within which they identify the situations, and accompanying thinking, moods, and behavior that preceded, and subsequently culminated in, an offense or offenses. Factors with an established empirical or theoretical relationship with sexual offending, such as a sexual preference for children and poor emotional control (Mann, Hanson, & Thornton, 2010), can be identified from the offense chain, and become the targets of treatment. However, this process relies heavily on self-reporting, and is therefore dependent on the level of insight and openness of the offenders taking part. Knowledge of the defining features of different offense pathways can benefit practitioners, enabling identification of relevant treatment needs from a range of information-including crime scene information, which is readily available from official records-and supporting treatment planning by influencing decisions about type and dose of intervention required to meet those needs. The study by Beauregard et al. focuses on the offending pathways of child molesters and promises clinical utility for those involved in the rehabilitation of perpetrators of these crimes. Beauregard et al. examined the general and sexual lifestyle, precrime factors, and modus operandi of a sample of extrafamilial child aggressors, and identified three distinct offense pathways. This chapter presents the results of a study that replicates that of Beauregard et al. (Chapter 6), using a UK sample of child molesters from prisons in England and Wales. The study aimed to determine the offense pathways of a group of extrafamilial child molesters who had been through treatment in custody, to establish whether similar pathways emerge in a different sample.