Australian Institute of Criminology

Skip to content

Sex offenders have versatile criminal careers

Media Release

19 March 2001

There is no question that public awareness and concern about child sexual abuse has increased in Australia in recent years. There is no clear evidence however that the incidence of child sexual abuse itself is increasing; rather, that there are increased reporting rates.

In a paper released today by the Australian Institute of Criminology it was found that sexual offenders are more versatile in their criminal 'career' than is generally accepted. Two thirds of offenders studied in this report had previous convictions, and these convictions were twice as likely to be for non-sexual offences as for sexual offences. In fact 82.2% of offenders with previous convictions were first convicted of a non-sexual offence.

These findings suggest that developmental and early intervention programs that are known to reduce rates of general crime may be equally effective in the reduction of sexual crime because many child sexual offences may be explained as extensions of more general antisocial patterns of behaviour.

The paper, Child Sexual Abuse: Offender Characteristics and Modus Operandi, by Dr Stephen Smallbone and Dr Richard Wortley, also reinforces the finding that in most cases of child sexual abuse the perpetrators are related or known to the victim, and that the parents knew that their child was spending time alone with the perpetrator.