Skip to Main ContentCenter for Sex Offender Management, Educating the Community about Sexual Assault and the Management of Sex Offenders in the Community:  A Training Curriculum
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I. What Community Members Need to Know
II. Conducting a Community Notification
III. Managing Sex Offenders
IV. The Role of the Community
Other CSOM Curricula
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Section 1: Lecture Content and Teaching Notes
What Community Members Need to Know about Sexual Assault and Sex Offenders

55 minutes

It is essential that participants understand the difference between commonly held myths about sex offenders and the realities of their behavior. Without this understanding, members of the general public will continue to operate under false assumptions, a false sense of security, and misconceptions that may jeopardize their own as well as their neighbor's safety.

Refer to Handout Symbol Refer to handout: The trainer should refer participants to the True or False Quiz.

Have participants spend 5 minutes completing the True or False Quiz.

(30 minutes, including learning activity)

(5 minutes)

Society is full of misinformation about sex offenders: both who they are and who their victims are. In order to make informed decisions for your own safety, and for the community or society at large to take the necessary steps to prevent sexual assault, it is essential that you are aware of the most current, research-based facts about sexual assault and sex offenders.

(20 minutes)

Let us see how much we know-and see how much of what we think has been based on the myths we have all heard about sexual assault and sex offenders. Take 5 minutes to complete the True or False Quiz in your participant materials.

Use Slide # SymbolUse Slides #5-13: Facts About Sex Offending Behavior
[Click to Enlarge]

Follow completion of quiz with a discussion using slides to review the facts.

This is a good opportunity for audience participation. Be sensitive to those who volunteer with an incorrect answer. Do not allow them to feel embarrassed for having been misinformed.

Answers to Quiz:

  1. Most men who commit sexual offenses do not know their victim.

    False. 90% of child victims know their offender, with almost half of the offenders being a family member (Greenfeld, 1997). Of sexual assaults against people age 12 and up, approximately 80% of the victims know the offender (National Victim Center, 1992).

  2. Most sexual assaults are committed by someone of the same race as the victim.

    True. Most sexual assaults are committed by someone of the same race as the victim (Greenfeld, 1997). An exception to this is that people who commit sexual assault against Native Americans are usually not Native American (American Indians and Crime, 1999).

  3. Most child sexual abusers use physical force or threat to gain compliance from their victims.

    False. In the majority of cases, abusers gain access to their victims through deception and enticement, seldom using force. Abuse typically occurs within a long-term, on-going relationship between the offender and victim and escalates over time.

  4. Most child sexual abusers find their victims by frequenting such places as schoolyards and playgrounds.

    False. Most child sexual abusers offend against children whom they know and with whom they have established a relationship. Many sexual assaults of adult women are considered "confidence rapes," in that the offender knows the victim and has used that familiarity to gain access to her.

  5. Only men commit sexual assault.

    False. While most sex offenders are male, research indicates that 20% of sex offenses against children may be committed by female offenders (Finkelhor and Russell, 1984).

  6. Child sexual abusers are only attracted to children and are not capable of appropriate sexual relationships.

    False. While there is a small subset of child sexual abusers who are exclusively attracted to children, the majority of the individuals who sexually abuse children are (or have previously been) attracted to adults.

  7. Children rarely make up stories of abuse.

    True. Children rarely make up stories of abuse. While children who do lie can end up the subject of news reports and significant publicity, the fact is that such occurrences are unusual. Children are much more likely to withhold true information about being the victim of an assault or attempted assault than they are to make up a story of abuse.

  8. Victims of sexual assault are harmed only when offenders use force.

    False. More than any physical injuries the victim sustains, the violation of trust that accompanies most sexual assaults has been shown to dramatically increase the level of trauma the victim suffers. Emotional and psychological injuries cause harm that can last much longer than physical wounds.

  9. If a child does not tell anyone about the abuse, it is because he or she must have consented to it.

    False. Children often do not tell for a variety of reasons including the offender's threats to hurt or kill someone the victim loves, as well as shame, embarrassment, wanting to protect the offender, feelings for the offender, fear of being held responsible or being punished, and fear of losing the offender who may be very important to the child or the child's family.

  10. It is common for both child and adult victims of sexual assault to wait some time before telling someone about the abuse.

    True. It is common for victims of sexual assault to wait some time before telling someone. When the person was assaulted as a child they may wait years or decades. The reasons for this are numerous: victims may want to deny the fact that someone they trusted could do this to them; they may want to just put it behind them; they may believe the myth that they caused the assault by their behavior; or they may fear how other people will react to the truth.

  11. If someone sexually assaults an adult, he will not target children as victims; and if someone sexually assaults a child, he will not target adults.

    False. Research and anecdotal evidence indicate that while some sex offenders choose only one type of victim (e.g., prepubescent girls, post-pubescent boys, adult women, etc.), others prey on different types of victims. Therefore, no assumptions should be made about an offender's victim preference and precautions should be taken regardless of his crime of conviction.

    Refer to Handout Symbol Refer to handout: Helping Survivors of Sexual Assault

  12. It helps the victim to talk about the abuse.

    True. The victim's recovery will be enhanced if she or he feels believed, supported, protected, and receives counseling following the disclosure that s/he was assaulted. However, sexual assault victims should always have the choice about when, with whom, and under what conditions they wish to discuss their experiences. We have a handout with further information about how to help survivors of sexual assault in other ways.

  13. Sexual gratification is often not a primary motivation for a rape offender.

    True. While some offenders do seek sexual gratification from the act, sexual gratification is often not a primary motivation for a rape offender. Power, control, and anger are more likely to be the primary motivators. We will be discussing this in more detail in the next section of the training.

  14. Offenders could stop their sexually violent behavior on their own if they wanted to.

    False. Wanting to change is usually not enough to be able to change the patterns that lead to sexual offenses. To create the motivation to change, some offenders need a variety of treatment and corrective interventions, and for others learning how to make the change in their own behavioral cycle of abuse is more effective.

  15. Men who rape do so because they cannot find a consenting sexual partner.

    False. Studies suggest that most rape offenders are married or in consenting relationships.

  16. Drugs and alcohol cause sexual offenses to occur.

    False. While drugs and alcohol are often involved in sexual assaults, drugs and alcohol do not cause sexual offenses to occur. Rather, drug and alcohol use may be a disinhibitor for the offender, while being under the influence may increase a potential victim's vulnerability.

    Victim-blaming. Be alert for attitudes that attempt to blame victims for being raped. Out of fear, people may try to distance themselves from victims.

    Personalizing the issue may be the only way to engender compassion for victims. If blame is expressed, probe the audience with such questions as: "Haven't we all, or someone we loved, at one time or another, been in a risky situation?"

  17. Victims of sexual assault often share some blame for the assault.

    False. Adult and child victims of sexual abuse are never to blame for the assault, regardless of their behavior. Because of the age difference, children are unable to truly consent to sexual acts. They are often made to feel like willing participants, which further contributes to their shame and guilt.

  18. If a victim does not say "no" or does not "fight back," it is not sexual assault.

    False. Sexual assault victims may not say no or not fight back for a variety of reasons including fear and confusion. Rape victims often report being 'frozen' by fear during the assault, making them unable to fight back; other victims may not actively resist for fear of angering the assailant and causing him to use more force in the assault. Pressure to be liked and not be talked about negatively by a peer will sometimes cause adolescents or children to avoid fighting back or actively resisting.

Use Slide # SymbolUse Slide #14: The Studies
[Click to Enlarge]

Refer to Handout Symbol Refer to handout: Facts About Sexual Assault

The statistics contained in this handout counter many of the misconceptions people hold about sexual assault. However, unless members of the audience have questions about specific issues, it should be sufficient to highlight a couple of facts (emphasized by Slides 14 and 15) and provide the handout for them to study on their own.

(5 minutes)

What we currently know about sexual assault—that we integrated into the True or False Quiz—comes from good research. I am now passing out some additional information about the sexual assault of children and adults that has been culled from recent national studies, and that includes references to those studies if you are interested.

The statistics contained in this handout illustrate important points about the nature and prevalence of sexual assault. We will not spend time discussing each item on this list. I want to emphasize, however, the themes that emerge about sexual assault from the activity we just finished and the facts listed here:

Use Slide # SymbolUse Slides #15-16: Characteristics of Sexual Assault
[Click to Enlarge]

  • Sexual assault is widespread.
  • Most victims of sexual assault know their perpetrators—the myth that the most pressing danger is from a stranger assault is just that, a myth. 78% of adult women who have been sexually assaulted and 90% of children under the age of 12 who have been sexually assaulted knew their perpetrators (Greenfeld, 1997).
  • Few sexual assaults are reported. A 1992 study estimated that only 12% of rapes were reported (Kilpatrick, Edmunds, and Seymour, 1992). The National Crime Victimization Surveys conducted in 1994, 1995, 1998 and 1999 indicate that only 28-32% of sexual assaults against persons 12 or older were reported to law enforcement. (No current studies indicate the rate of reporting for child sexual assault, although it generally is assumed that these assaults are equally under-reported.)
  • The majority of reported sexual assaults do not end in arrests or convictions. Of those sexual assault cases that are reported, only 2% end in conviction (Senate Judiciary Committee, 1993).
  • The trauma caused by sexual assault is profound and can include a wide range of emotional and physical after effects. Victims of sexual abuse are more likely to be victimized again over the course of their lives, are more likely to experience depression and other mental health problems, and are at an increased risk for social problems such as substance abuse, teen pregnancy, and homelessness (Kilpatrick and Saunders, 1997).

Refer to Handout Symbol Refer to handout: Local Statistics. (Distribute any information that you have been able to assemble about your community or jurisdiction.)
Locally, we have the following data describing incidents of sexual assault in this area. In reviewing these numbers, remember what we know about the underreporting of sexual assault.

Before we conclude the introductory section of our program today, does anyone have any additional questions about sexual assault?