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TDMHSAS Best Practice Guidelines: Adolescents Who Have Engaged In Sexually Abusive Behavior

NCJ Number
Date Published
February 2013
22 pages
These guidelines assist in the evaluation and treatment of adolescents who have engaged in sexually abusive behavior, with attention to the legal and policy context of Tennessee.
For purposes of these guidelines, adolescents are defined as youth ages 13 through 17 years. The guidelines use a clinical definition of sexually abusive behavior that specifies age difference of at least 4 to 5 years between the offender and victim; the use of verbal or physical force or a weapon; power differences between the offender and victim; developmental differences between victim and offender, differences in emotional stability between offender and victim; and engaging in such behaviors as exposing, voyeurism, and obscene phone calls to unsuspecting persons. The guidelines are intended primarily for males, since research is insufficient on females who have engaged in sexually abusive behavior. The guidelines advise that for adolescents who have engaged in sexually abusive behavior, evaluation and treatment may be involuntary, so any discussion of possible benefits, risks, and adverse effects of evaluation or treatment should include the potential legal consequences of consenting or not consenting to evaluation or treatment. Under the guidelines, the evaluation is based in the risk, need, responsivity principles, taking into account the youth's social, family, and environmental context while incorporating relevant risk assessment findings in formulating an individualized plan for the youth. Regarding interventions and treatment, it is most likely to be effective if it is skills-based and cognitive behavioral in focusing on dynamic risk factors delivered in an appropriate therapeutic style and involves systems impacting the youth outside of the treatment situation. The guidelines take into account treatment-related research, the importance of the therapeutic relationship, treatment of the "whole youth," and treatment as part of a broader socio-ecological approach. 27 references