Sexual Delinquency Overview
It’s not a pleasant topic to discuss, but teen sexual delinquency is a very real problem that can lead to devastating results for perpetrators, victims, family members and other loved ones.
According to the sex abuse awareness organization Stop It Now, adolescent and teen sex offenders are responsible for up to 50% of all sexual abuse of children. Experts have estimated that as many as 300,000 cases of child sexual abuse occur every year, and that there may be more than 50 million survivors of sexual abuse in the United States alone.
Most discussions involving teens and sexual abuse involve teens as victims of adult sexual perpetrators. But the unfortunate truth is that many teens have engaged in sexually abusive behaviors themselves. Instances of teen sexual delinquency (also referred to as sexually abusive youth) may include rape, molestation, and other forms of illicit and illegal sexual behaviors.
As is also the case with sexually abusive adults, sexually abusive youth may target victims of all ages. Some sexually abusive youth may victimize children, while others prey on peers or older adults. Many sexually delinquent teens have histories of being abused themselves, though no one common element links all cases of teen sexual delinquency.
The category of teen sexual delinquency can include teens who have been arrested and charged with sexual assault, as well as adolescents and teenagers whose improper sexual behaviors have not yet resulted in their adjudication.
Causes of Sexual Delinquency
As indicated elsewhere within the teen sexual delinquency section of this site, there is no one common element that links all cases of teen sexual delinquency or can be attributed as a definite cause of teen sexual abuse.
Many adolescents and teenagers who commit sexual assaults have histories of being sexually assaulted or abused in other ways, though not every teen sexual offender has a history of being abused or neglected.
The majority of teen sexual delinquents have some form of a mental illness — though there is no one psychiatric condition that is common among all teen sex offenders. About half of teens who commit sexual abuse have a learning disability or other disorder that has led to academic failure and frustration.
Also, many teen sexual delinquents have significant problems with impulse control and the ability to make sound judgments regarding their behavior and the consequences that might befall themselves and others as a result of those behaviors.
According to the Center for Sex Offender Management, about 90% of teen sex offenders are male — but with more than 11,000 teens arrested each year for sexual assault, clearly a number of female teenagers also commit acts of sexual delinquency.
Most juvenile sex offenders are between the ages of 13 and 18.
Symptoms of Sexual Delinquency
The nature of teen sexual delinquency and sexual predators in general involves a near obsession with secrecy. Sexual delinquents are often skilled at hiding or covering up their behaviors, which is one of the reasons why so many teen sex offenders and adult sex offenders are able to get away with their offenses for long periods of time.
However, even in the absence of catching a teen sexual delinquent in the act of molesting or otherwise sexually abusing someone, there are several signs that could indicate that a young person is a potential teen sexual delinquent.
The following behaviors and attitudes are common among teen sexual delinquents:
- Refuses to take responsibility for actions
- Associates sex with violence in both actions and attitudes (for example, employs sexual terminology when arguing or insulting someone)
- Has a tendency to sexually harass others (including peers and adults)
- Expresses deviant attitude toward sex
- Demonstrates an inability to control sexual behaviors
- Views sexual images (especially sexualized images of children) online or via other media
- Blames others for personal setbacks or failures
- Exudes a sense of selfishness and entitlement
- Has poor self-image and low self-esteem
- Appears incapable of empathizing with others
- Has difficulty forming and maintaining healthy relationships with peers and adults
- Prefers company of younger children
- Provides younger children with alcohol and other illicit substances
- Needs to be in positions of power or control in all situations
- Was abused as a child or experience other childhood traumas
As is the case with all types of mental health disorders and compulsive behaviors, no one sign or symptom is clear evidence that a person is a teen sexual delinquent (except, of course, actually observing the offender engaging in sexual abuse).
However, teens who display a number of the symptoms above are at increased risk for engaging in sexually abusive behaviors.
Treatment For Sexual Delinquency
The treatment of teen sex abusers is a complex undertaking that depends upon a number of internal and external factors.
Few if any teen sex offenders are struggling “only” with a compulsion to commit acts of sexual delinquency — and the presence of a potentially wide range of additional mental health and behavioral challenges can significantly increase the complexity of determining the optimal course of treatment for a teen sexual delinquent.
Regardless of whether or not they are court-ordered to receive treatment, juvenile sex offenders and teen sexual delinquents often benefit most from a comprehensive course of intensive treatment in a residential treatment facility.
Components of a treatment program for teen sex offenders may include some or all of the following elements:
- Highly structured schedule and strict supervision
- Individual therapy
- Group therapy
- Family therapy
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
- Experiential therapy
- Play therapy
- Reality therapy
- Behavior modification
- Equine therapy
- Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
- Anger management
- Empathy training
- 12-Step education and support
- Relapse prevention education
The good news about teen sexual delinquency is that adolescents and teenagers who receive treatment after committing sexual offenses are much less likely to re-offend than are adults to commit similar sexual assaults. The CSOM puts that recidivism rate of juvenile sex offenders at about 10 percent. (For purposes of comparison, experts put the recidivism for adult child molesters at about 20 percent, while about 23 percent of adult rapists are re-convicted for sex offenses.