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Religious Affiliations Among Adult Sexual Offenders

NCJ Number
Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment Volume: 18 Issue: 3 Dated: July 2006 Pages: 279-288
Donna Eshuys; Stephen Smallbone
Date Published
July 2006
10 pages
This Australian study examined associations between self-reported religious affiliations and official offense histories for 111 imprisoned adult male sex offenders.
Contrary to findings of previous research regarding the influence of religion on nonsexual criminality, for this sample of sex offenders, religiosity was linked to a higher number of sex offense victims and more convictions for sex offenses. Those sex offenders who reported regular church attendance, a belief in supernatural punishment, and religion as important in their daily lives had more known victims, younger victims, and more convictions for sex offenses than the sex offenders who reported irregular or no church attendance and no or less intense allegiance to religious beliefs and practices. The 45 sex offenders who reported a low level of religious affiliation as a child and adult ("atheists") composed the highest percentage of offenders with a nonsexual offending history; however, regardless of patterns of religious affiliation, all of the sex offenders had histories of nonsexual offense convictions. This finding is consistent with a growing body of evidence that many sex offenders are also involved in general criminal activity. The findings are discussed in terms of social-control and situational theories of crime. All of the sample members had been accepted into a specialized treatment program for sex offenders between 2000 and 2004. The study's independent variable was offenders' self-reported religious affiliations as determined from their responses to questions on their families' religious background and whether and how often their families participated in religious activities. Questions also focused on offenders' personal lifetime religious patterns of participation and beliefs. Dependent variables were victims' ages, number of victims, victim gender, number of previous sexual and nonsexual offenses, and number of current sexual and nonsexual offenses. Official records were used for measures of past criminality. 5 tables and 35 references