Section 2: Overview
2 Hours


Part I: Scope of the Problem

To give you a quick sense for the scope of the problem of juvenile sex offending, we’ll take a look at some arrest data for sex crimes. These particular statistics are drawn from the Uniform Crime Report (UCR), which is comprised of a range of crime-related data collected annually by the Federal Bureau of Investigation from law enforcement agencies across the country.1 Among other things, the UCR summarizes arrest data at local, state, and national levels and gives us the opportunity to look at specific types of crimes overall with respect to age, gender, race, and other demographics.

Use SlideUse Slide #3: Arrest Data
Use SlideUse Slide #4: Arrests by Gender

So, based on recent UCR data for youth specifically, it was estimated that over the course of one year there were 4,240 juvenile arrests for forcible rape and 18,300 arrests for other sex offenses.2 Considering that these numbers are for youth only, they are pretty striking, aren’t they?

And of the juvenile arrests for forcible rape, 98% were males; for other sex offenses, 91% of the arrests were males. Based on these data, it seems pretty clear that juvenile males are responsible for the vast majority of these types of cases.

Because of that, the focus of this curriculum is on juvenile males who commit sex offenses. So unless I indicate otherwise, the discussions we have and any data that are shown from this point on refer to adolescent males. This is not at all intended to suggest that the sex offenses committed by adolescent females are not significant. Quite the contrary. We simply have much more information about youthful male sex offenders, and they are much more likely to come to the attention of juvenile justice professionals.

You may be wondering how these youth fit into the overall problem of sex offending. We can get a sense for that by looking at the proportion of juveniles versus adults who are arrested for sex offenses.

Use SlideUse Slide #5: Arrests: Adults vs. Juveniles

This data indicates that juveniles account for roughly about one–fifth of all arrests for these types of sex crimes.3

What is important to keep in mind is that this data only reflects arrests. Many adults and juveniles come to the attention of the authorities but are never actually arrested. And in some circumstances, when individuals are apprehended, other crimes may have been involved—but the arrest counts only reflect the most serious crime for which the person was arrested, which may not be a sex offense. In addition, as you know, sexual victimization tends to go underreported, for many reasons, so many individuals are never apprehended or arrested in the first place.4

Taken together, this means that it is very difficult to know the true extent of the problem of juvenile-perpetrated sex crimes. So when you look at or hear about this kind of data, always try to identify what it is that the data describes—arrest data, victim reports, self–reports, or something else—and know that it is likely to be an underestimate.

Now let’s focus in a little bit more on how these cases fit into the juvenile justice system overall. But first, I’d like to ask you a question.

Out of all juvenile arrests or delinquency cases that come to the attention of the juvenile authorities, what percentage do you think are sex offenses?


Great—those are all good guesses! Sometimes, people believe that sex offenses represent a fairly high percentage of the cases that come to the attention of the juvenile authorities. But the actual numbers may surprise you.

Use SlideUse Slide #6: Sex Crimes vs. Other Delinquency

As you can see, arrests for sex offenses represent an extremely small percentage—only about 1 percent—of all juvenile arrests.5 Similarly, juvenile sex offense cases account for only about 1 percent of the cases processed by the juvenile courts each year.6

But we cannot interpret these small percentages as meaning that juvenile-perpetrated sex crimes are not an important concern. Remember, sexual victimization is often underreported. In addition, even though these percentages are low, the absolute numbers of juvenile sex offenders and their victims are very significant. It is certainly a problem that needs our attention—we want to do all that we can to prevent additional sex offenses and victims.

Unfortunately, there has not always been sufficient attention paid to sex offenses committed by juveniles. And that issue is a perfect introduction to our next section.

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