Childhood abuse of male offenders might suggest developmental pathway to offending

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The evidence on the relationship between sexual abuse in childhood of adult sex offenders is mixed, with some studies showing higher rates of childhood sexual abuse in sex offenders and others showing no such relationship exists.

The researchers in this study looked at the sexual and physical abuse histories of a number of adults with learning disabilities: 156 male sex offenders, 126 non-sexual male offenders and 27 female offenders.

They found from this case history review that sexual offenders reported a higher rate of sexual abuse in childhood than non-sexual male offenders (32.6% vs. 17.8%).

In relation to the reporting of non-accidental injury they found 16% of male sexual offenders reported this against 32.5% of non sexual male offenders. The highest rate of sexual abuse in childhood was reported by the female offenders at 59.3%.

The authors conclude from their findings that the specificity of childhood abuse evident in the male groups might suggest developmental pathway to offending. They point out however that the women appeared highly vulnerable to all forms of abuse.

Brief report: The sexual and physical abuse histories of offenders with intellectual disability, Lindsay, W. et al., in Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 56: 326–331


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John Northfield

After qualifying as a social worker, John worked in community learning disability teams before getting involved in a number of long-stay hospital closure programmes, working to develop individual plans for people moving into their own homes. He worked for BILD, helping to develop the Quality Network and was editorial lead for the NHS electronic library learning disabilities specialist collection. This led him to found the Learning Disabilities Elf site with Andre Tomlin as a way of making the evidence accessible to practitioners in health and social care. Most recently he has worked as part of Mencap's national quality team and also been involved in a number of national website developments, including the General Medical Council's learning disabilities site.

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