n 1994, 7-year-old Megan Kanka was lured into her neighbor’s home in Hamilton Township, New Jersey, by the promise of a puppy. There she was raped, strangled, and suffocated by a two-time convicted sexual offender. Shortly thereafter, the governor of New Jersey, Christie Todd Whitman, signed the toughest sex offender registration act in the country, known as "Megan’s Law." In 1996 Megan’s Law became federal law and mandated that every community have access to information about the presence of convicted sex offenders in their neighborhoods. In 1994, a federal statute known as the Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children and Sexually Violent Offender Registration Program was passed, which also requires all states to create registration programs for convicted sex offenders (Trivits & Reppucci, 2002).
Today, all 50 states require that convicted sex offenders register on their release from prison into the community and require the listing (with the offenders’ names, addresses, photographs, crimes, and sometimes physical descriptions) to be made available to the public. Although all require sex offenders to register, the statutes vary in what information is made available and for how long (Trivits & Reppucci, 2002). In some states, sexual offenders must register for the rest of their lives.
Many convicted sex offenders have protested the law, claiming that it violates their constitutional rights; however, the government has decided that the safety of children is a higher priority than the privacy of convicted sex offenders. Critics also argue that these listings encourage violent behavior directed at the offenders, although studies have found that the actual incidence of such events is low (Klaas, 2003; J. Miller, 1998). In addition, some argue that having such lists creates instant mailing lists for those who wish to connect with other offenders (Sommerfeld, 1999).
Some states continue to add regulations to their sex offender registry laws. For example, in 2005, certain towns in New York, Florida, and New Jersey banned convicted child molesters from being within 2,500 feet of any school, daycare center, playground, or park (Koch, 2005). Other
All 50 states require convicted sex offenders to register upon their release to the community. Sexual offender registry profiles often contain personal information including name, address, date of birth, offense, and physical description.
states use electronic monitoring in addition to their online registries. For example, Florida, Alabama, New Jersey, Missouri, Ohio, and Oklahoma all passed laws requiring electronic monitoring (ankle bands that monitor the offender’s whereabouts).
Unfortunately, the registries may have given many parents and caregivers a false sense of security. Of the 551,000 sex offenders that were registered in 2005, 100,000 were missing or had failed to supply a current address (Koch,
2005) . In addition, sex offender registries contain only those offenders who have been convicted of sexual offenses and not all who commit such crimes. Nonetheless, many of these new laws and tracking devices may help to discourage sexual offenders from engaging in these behaviors.
dophiles were asked why they engaged in sex with children. The most common response was that the children didn’t fight it, followed by a lack of sexual outlets with adults, intoxication, and victim-initiation of sexual behavior (Pollack & Hashmall, 1991).
Over the years, research has found that being a victim of sexual abuse in childhood is one of the most frequently reported risk factors for becoming a pedophile (Glasser et al., 2001; Langstrom et al., 2000). It is estimated that 35% of pedophiles were sexually abused as children (Keegan, 2001). Studies have also found that the choice of gender and age of victims often reflect the pattern of past sexual abuse in the pedophile’s life (Pollock & Hashmall, 1991). Although past sexual abuse is a risk factor, it’s important
to point out that the majority of male victims of child sexual abuse do not become pedophiles (Salter et al., 2003). Pedophiles have high recidivism (re-SID-iv-iz-um) rates, and for some unknown reason these rates are higher in homosexual men (Murray, 2000). The recidivism rate is the main impetus for legislation such as Megan’s Law (M. A. Alexander, 1999).
One more thing before we move on to discuss other paraphilias. The Internet has been a two-edged sword when it comes to pedophilia. On the one hand it has helped pedophiles find each other and talk about their behaviors. This can validate their behaviors because they are no longer feeling isolated, as though they are the only person who engages in child sex behaviors. Pedophiles are also able to gather information and can actually share images with each other. Internet chat rooms are a popular place for pedophiles to hang out today (O’Grady, 2001). There, pedophiles can befriend others in the chat room and act like one of the nonoffender participants. On the other hand, the Internet has also become a powerful tool to combat pedophilia, both in the online reporting of sex offenders and the ability of law officials to go undercover and seek out pedophiles online (Trivits & Reppucci, 2002; see the Sexbyte on page 558).