The answer is a resounding Yes! At Star Guides Wilderness, we witness this happen on a daily basis. We have a strong believe that regardless of past sexual behavior problems, that all youth can learn to achieve healthy sexuality. Unfortunately, many in our society are not aware of this fact and erroneously lump both adult and juvenile sexual offenders into the same category of being life-long pedophiles incapable of change.
Teens that are charged with sexual offenses are different from adult sex offenders. While sexually inappropriate behavior by teens is wrong, the way we treat a teen sexual offender requires a different approach than an adult offender for a variety of reasons.
Unlike adults, adolescents are in a stage of rapid changing, developing and learning. Most are generally receptive to rehabilitation and treatment. Teens are dependent on adults to guide them in understanding the complexities of the world and appropriate sexual and social behaviors. Thus, a treatment approach needs to be take into consideration these factors.
The scientific literature on this issue distinguishes the behavior of juveniles from adults.
o A 2000 study by the Texas Youth Commission of 72 young offenders who were released from state correctional facilities for sexual offenses (their incarceration suggests that judges considered these youth as posing a greater risk) found a re-arrest rate of 4.2% for a sexual offense. (Zimring, Appendix C)
o A 1996 study found similarly low sex offense recidivism rates in Baltimore (3.3-4.2%), San Francisco (5.5%) and Lucas County, Ohio (3.2%). (Zimring, Appendix C)
o A 2000 study of 96 juvenile sexual offenders in Philadelphia showed a 3% sexual re-offense rate. (Zimring, Appendix C)
National Center on Sexual Behavior of Youth (NCSBY), a training and technical assistance center developed by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) and the Center on Child Abuse and Neglect at University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, http://ncsby.org
NCSBY, Center for Sex Offender Management (CSOM) and U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, (2001). Juveniles Who Have Sexually Offended; A Review of the Professional Literature Report; available at http://www.ojjdp.ncjrs.org/.
U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, (2001). Juveniles Who Have Sexually Offended; A Review of The Professional Literature Report; available at http://www.ojjdp.ncjrs.org/.
Matt is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has been working in the field of youth treatment and psychotherapy since 1995. He did his undergraduate work at BYU and earned his M.S.W. at the University of Utah. He has worked in a variety of treatment setting in his career ranging from wilderness therapy and residential treatment to outpatient treatment and state government.