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Applying Situational Principles to Sexual Offenses Against Children (From Situational Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse, P 7-35, 2006, Richard Wortley and Stephen Smallbone, eds. -- See NCJ-215297)

NCJ Number
Richard Wortley; Stephen Smallbone
Date Published
29 pages
This chapter argues that the primary prevention of the sexual abuse of children should include systematic identification and alteration of problematic environmental conditions.
The chapter first reviews research whose findings suggest that a control model rather than a sexual deviance model might be more appropriate for many sexual offenders. According to control theory, the propensity to commit crime is widely distributed in a community, and the reason some act on this propensity while others do not is the presence or absence of personal control over one's behavior. Research further suggests that the importance of situational factors that either restrain or facilitate certain behaviors does not decrease according to the criminal disposition of the offender or the type of offense; however, measures for changing environments to increase controls will vary according to the habitual and persistent characteristics of offender types. In offering suggestions for how to structure environments so sexual offenders will be prevented from committing offenses in those environments, the authors note that no studies have tested situational interventions with sexual offenders according to pretest/posttest designs; consequently, they acknowledge that their suggested strategies are untested. The strategies have four aims: increasing offender effort, increasing risk for the offender, controlling likely "triggers" for sex offenses, and reducing permissibility. Increasing an offender's effort to commit a crime involves controlling access to facilities that house children. Controlling the customary "triggers" for abusive sexual behavior means prohibiting child pornography and other cues that may excite sexual attraction to children. Increasing risks involves making it more likely that the offender's behavior will be observed or detected. Reducing permissibility means guiding a specific sexual offender to understand that his/her behavior is not acceptable to either the victim or to the community under normative values and laws. 6 notes and 59 references