In a study conducted by Dr. Nicholas Groth ("Men Who Rape: The Psychology of the Offender", Published by New York: Plenum Press), the following myths and facts about sexual offenders were identified:
Myth # 1: The offender is a "dirty old man".
Fact: The majority of the offenders (71% in the study) were under the age of 35.
Myth # 2: The offender is a stranger to the victim.
Fact: The majority of the offenders (71% in the study) were known to their victims.
Myth # 3: The offender is "retarded" or mentally handicapped.
Fact: In the study, the population of offenders had the same intelligence level as the general population.
Myth # 4: The offender is alcoholic or drug addicted.
Fact: Although alcohol or drugs may have been involved at the time of the offense, 66% of the offenders in the study were not dependent on intoxicants.
Myth # 5: The offender is insane.
Fact: Only 7% of the offenders in the study showed clinical evidence of any psychological problem.
Myth # 6: Child abusers progress to increasingly violent acts.
Fact: About 18% of the offenders in the study progressed to more violent acts, whereas only 9% progressed to conduct a violent sexual assault.
It is important to separate myth and stereotype from fact in order to identify risk and take appropriate steps to protect ourselves and our students. These myths and stereotypes can blind us from the real risks we are facing. We devote a considerable amount of resources to "street-proofing" our children against contact with strangers, when, in fact, we may be leaving them unprepared and virtually defenseless against the most likely offender someone they know and trust. Make sure any street-proofing programs dispel the myths and stereotypes and identify the real risks for acquaintances as well as strangers.