Abstract: Determining the Percentage of Offenders on the Sex Offender Registry During Their Latest Perpetration of Sexual Abuse (Society for Social Work and Research 14th Annual Conference: Social Work Research: A WORLD OF POSSIBILITIES)

64P Determining the Percentage of Offenders on the Sex Offender Registry During Their Latest Perpetration of Sexual Abuse

Friday, January 15, 2010
* noted as presenting author
Sarah W. Craun, PhD , University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Assistant Professsor, Knoxville, TN
Catherine A. Simmons, PhD , University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Assistant Professor, Memphis, TN
PURPOSE: Designed to protect the public from convicted sex offenders, sex offender registries are a relatively new tool to prevent abuse. Although these registries have good intentions and strong public support, relatively little is known about how many sexual assaults could be prevented by their use (Welchans, 2005). Therefore, the current study determines what percentage of clients seen at a sexual assault agency in 2006 had an attacker who was on the registry at the time the attack occurred.

METHODS: A secondary data analysis was conducted using all client files from 2006 for rape exams, counseling, or advocacy from an urban sexual assault agency (N = 1,267). Client files were reviewed to determine the name of the alleged sexual perpetrator, which was then entered into the sex offender registry for the state in which the survivor resided and the two nearest neighboring states. If a match on the first and last name was found, the race and age of the offender listed in the case file were then checked against what was listed on the website. All of the offenders matched with this procedure were listed as residents in the study county or one of the neighboring counties, which adds credibility that the name, age and race listed in the case file is the same person listed on the registry.

RESULTS: Findings indicate only 3.7%, or 21 out of the 566 fully identified offenders, could possibly have been identified as a sex offender at the time of the 2006 attack. Conducting a multivariate analyses was not possible was not possible due to the small number of cases with offenders on the registry. We also noted the number of offenders who were listed on the registry due to a conviction for the offense for which the survivor sought contact at the study agency in 2006. Ten offenders listed on the registry had a conviction whose date corresponded to the offense reported by the survivor in this study.

IMPLICATIONS: Although such findings may be indicative of low reporting and conviction rates, it was found that very few of the cases appear as if they could have been prevented if the survivor or the survivor's guardian had viewed the online registry and known of the offender before the episode of sexual abuse. By determining that 3.7% of alleged offenders in the current case were already on the registry, one might believe there is an element of blame for the survivor or the survivor's guardian for either not checking the registry or not heeding the registry if they were aware the offender was a registered sex offender. The goal of this research is not to place blame on the survivor, as the culpability is always on the attacker. Rather, the purpose of learning this information is to determine if the sex offender registry could be a useful tool in the prevention of sexual violence. As Petrosino and Petrosino (1999) argued, even if utilized as intended, the prevention ability of the registry currently appears limited.