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Section 15
Are Child Molesters Dangerous?

Question 15 | Test | Table of Contents


Child molesters have traditionally been viewed as passive, unassertive individuals who only involve themselves with willing children and only infrequently use force during commission of the crime. Gebhard et at. (1965) report that only 12.2% of heterosexual pedophiles use significant aggression during their contact with children; however, these data rely heavily on interviews with incarcerated offenders or police records that are easily distorted by the offender or not detailed.

Christie, Marshall, and Lanthier (1978) have recently reported a study of 150 incarcerated sex offenders, 27% of which were pedophiles (victims younger than 13 years of age) and 73% heterosexual rapists. This study is unique in that, in addition to the traditional offender's self-report and arrest records, detailed information was obtained from probation officers' presentencing reports, transcripts of courtroom testimony, and reports from medical personnel examining the victims. Table 2 outlines the extent of aggression used by each category of offender.


Sex Offender's Use of Aggression
During the Offense

Type of AggressionChild MolestersRapists
Used no threats29%7%
Used verbal threat only12%20%
Used physical force59%73%
Used excessive physical force 58%71%
Victim sustained noticeable injury42%39%

Contrary to popular opinion, 58% of child molesters used excessive physical force during the crime, compared to 71 % of rapists. Moreover, 42% of the child victims sustained noticeable injury, compared to 39% of the rape victims. Thus, although a smaller percentage of child molesters than rapists use physical aggression while committing the crime, the percentage of victims actually injured is slightly higher for victims of child molestation than victims of rape. This leads Christie et al. (1978) to conclude:

Perhaps the most surprising observation of the present study concerns the degree of violence employed in the offense. It is of course not unreasonable to expect rapists to use violence, and other researchers have confirmed this expectation, but most other studies have reported pedophiles to be physically harmless individuals. For whatever reason, a substantial number of the pedophiles in our group used physical force in excess of that necessary for the commission of the crime, and this appears to be unusual observation sufficient to warrant further examination (p. 29).
- Stuart, Richard B., Violent Behavior: Social Learning Approaches to Prediction, Management, and Treatment, Brunner/Mazel, Inc.: New York, 1981.

Personal Reflection Exercise Explanation
The Goal of this Home Study Course is to create a learning experience that enhances your clinical skills. We encourage you to discuss the Personal Reflection Journaling Activities, found at the end of each Section, with your colleagues. Thus, you are provided with an opportunity for a Group Discussion experience. Case Study examples might include: family background, socio-economic status, education, occupation, social/emotional issues, legal/financial issues, death/dying/health, home management, parenting, etc. as you deem appropriate. A Case Study is to be approximately 250 words in length. However, since the content of these “Personal Reflection” Journaling Exercises is intended for your future reference, they may contain confidential information and are to be applied as a “work in progress.” You will not be required to provide us with these Journaling Activities.

Personal Reflection Exercise #1
The preceding section contained information about the dangerousness of child molesters. Write three case study examples regarding how you might use the content of this section in your practice.

QUESTION 15
Most other studies have reported pedophiles to be physically harmless individuals. However, what did Stuart's study find? To select and enter your answer go to Test.


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