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The dark figure of sexual offending: new evidence from federal sex offenders

Matt DeLisi (United States Probation, Southern District of Iowa, Des Moines, Iowa, USA)
Daniel E. Caropreso (United States Probation, Southern District of Iowa, Des Moines, Iowa, USA)
Alan J. Drury (United States Probation, Southern District of Iowa, Des Moines, Iowa, USA)
Michael J. Elbert (United States Probation, Southern District of Iowa, Des Moines, Iowa, USA)
Jerry L. Evans (United States Probation, Southern District of Iowa, Des Moines, Iowa, USA)
Timothy Heinrichs (United States Probation, Southern District of Iowa, Des Moines, Iowa, USA)
Katherine M. Tahja (United States Probation, Southern District of Iowa, Des Moines, Iowa, USA)

Journal of Criminal Psychology

ISSN: 2009-3829

Article publication date: 1 February 2016

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to examine the dark figure of crime among federal sex offenders from the USA to quantify crime victims and sex crime events among those with no official criminal record.

Design/methodology/approach

Using data on 119 offenders selected from a five-year census of sex offenders selected from a federal probation jurisdiction in the Midwestern United States, descriptive, partial correlations, and ROC-AUC models were conducted.

Findings

In total, 69 percent of offenders self-reported a contact sexual offense during polygraph examination. In total, 34 offenders had zero official record of sexual abuse but non-zero self-reported history of sexual abuse. These 34 clients offended against 148 victims that potentially denoted a minimum number of 148 sex crime events, a median number of 1,480 sex crime events, a mean number of 32,101 sex crime events, and a maximum number of 827,552 sex crime events. Total paraphilias were not predictive of self-reported sexual offending but were strongly associated with prolific self-reported sexual offending.

Originality/value

The dark figure of sexual offending is enormous and the revelation of this information is facilitated by polygraph examination of federal sex offenders. Ostensibly non-contact sex offenders such as those convicted of possession of child pornography are very likely to have a history of contact sexual offending. Consistent with the containment model, polygraph examinations of the sexual history of offenders convicted of sexual offenses should be required to facilitate public safety.

Keywords

Citation

DeLisi, M., Caropreso, D.E., Drury, A.J., Elbert, M.J., Evans, J.L., Heinrichs, T. and Tahja, K.M. (2016), "The dark figure of sexual offending: new evidence from federal sex offenders", Journal of Criminal Psychology, Vol. 6 No. 1, pp. 3-15. https://doi.org/10.1108/JCP-12-2015-0030

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited