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psychology of sexual assault

psychology of sexual assault - Week 6 Psychology of Sexual...

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Week 6: Psychology of Sexual Assault Lecture Notes and Questions to Consider for Discussion Part 1: Introduction and Definitions Sex offending is a topic that is quite controversial and emotion-inducing; however, when considering what we know and don’t know about sex offenders and their crimes, it is important to remain emotionally detached and open-minded – otherwise, your preconceptions and emotions will interfere with your ability to learn about this crime. Currently, sex offender research is still in its infancy, but what we do know is that sex offenders comprise an extremely heterogeneous group of offenders. There are several different types of sex offenders – e.g., rapists, pedophiles, exhibitionists, fetishists, voyeurs, etc., and each type of offender can be further broken down into subtypes. Sex offending has been studied from three major perspectives: (1) the sociological or social work perspective, which perceives a sex offender as someone who has crossed socially-proscribed moral boundaries for acceptable sexual thoughts and behaviors; (2) the legal perspective, which perceives a sex offender as someone who has been convicted of a sex offense – an illegal sexual behavior under one or more of the many sex-related laws that vary widely by jurisdiction; and (3) the mental health/mental illness perspective, which perceives a sex offender as someone who has sexual thoughts, fantasies, urges, and behaviors that are viewed as deviant, abnormal, or atypical, as defined by the diagnosis of paraphilia . According to the DSM IV, paraphilias are “recurrent sexually arousing fantasies, sexual urges, or behaviors generally involving (1) nonhuman objects, (2) the suffering or humiliation of oneself or one’s partner, or (3) children or other nonconsenting persons, that occur over a period of at least 6 months.” (American Psychiatric Association, 1994, p. 522). The list of sexual thoughts and behaviors that constitute paraphilias is quite lengthy and includes rape, child molesting (pedophilia), object fetishes, cross-dressing (transvestic fetishism), sado-masochism, voyeurism, frotteurism (rubbing), and exhibitionism, among others. Not all deviant sexual thoughts, urges, or behaviors are necessarily severe enough to be considered a paraphilia. To qualify as a mental disorder, there must be significant distress or impairment in functioning in social, occupational, or academic domains. Moreover, there is controversy over whether or not to consider rape as a type of paraphilia, as some psychologists believe it is a violent behavior, not a sexual behavior. Although (as we will see later on), there are definitely some rapists who need the violence of rape in order to get sexually excited. Part II. Pedophiles The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children estimates that 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 10 boys are sexually assaulted in some way before they reach adulthood. Sexual assault, as it is used here, is a broad term that encompasses unwanted touching, fondling, and the more serious sexual offenses of penetration. Penetration forms of pedophilia are much more rare than
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