The Influence of a Juvenile's Abuse History on Support for Sex Offender Registration
Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, DOI/10.1037/law0000028, 2015
Posted: 16 Jul 2018
Date Written: 2015
We investigated whether and how a juvenile’s history of experiencing sexual abuse affects public perceptions of juvenile sex offenders in a series of 5 studies. When asked about juvenile sex offenders in an abstract manner (Studies 1 and 2), the more participants (community members and undergraduates) believed that a history of being sexually abused as a child causes later sexually abusive behavior, the less likely they were to support sex offender registration for juveniles. Yet when participants considered specific sexual offenses, a juvenile’s history of sexual abuse was not considered to be a mitigating factor. This was true when participants considered a severe sexual offense (forced rape; Study 3 and Study 4) and a case involving less severe sexual offenses (i.e., statutory rape), when a juvenile’s history of sexual abuse backfired and was used as an aggravating factor, increasing support for registering the offender (Study 3 and Study 5). Theoretical and practical implications of these results are discussed.
Keywords: child sexual abuse, juvenile sex offending, legal decision making, attributions, public policy
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