Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center

Striving for Justice: A Toolkit for Judicial Resolution Officers

Webster’s Dictionary defines recidivism as, “The tendency to relapse into a previous undesirable type of behavior, especially a crime.” One factor that is crucial to consider when making sanctioning decisions is the likelihood that the person will repeat the violation.  This section is designed to inform panelists about recidivism and how to assess recidivism likelihood.  In addition, this section addresses requirements within Title IX legislation.

Statistics

The strongest predictor of future sexual violence is past sexual violence. (Scott, 2004).

Most sex offenders are recidivists and commit other forms of interpersonal violence.  A recent study of undetected rapists, i.e. those rapists who escaped notice by the criminal justice system, found that a majority of such rapists were recidivists and committed other acts of interpersonal violence, including battery, child sexual abuse, child physical abuse, and sexual assault short of rape or attempted rape (Michigan Judicial Institute, 2002).                                                     

Two sexual assault experts reported on 120 of 1,882 men whose self-reported sexual acts met legal definitions of rape or attempted rape but whose actions went undetected by the criminal justice system and found the following:                     

  • 76 or 63.3% were recidivists, and reported committing additional rapes, either against multiple victims or the same victim, averaging 5.8 rapes per person. (Lisak and Miller, 2002)
  • 70 or 58.3% admitted to other acts of interpersonal violence, including battery, sexual assault short of rape or attempted rape, child physical abuse, and child sexual abuse. (Lisak and Miller, 2002)
  • 97 or 80.8% admitted to committing rapes against women who were intoxicated because of alcohol or drugs. (Lisak and Miller, 2002)
  • 21 or 17.5% admitted to using threats of overt force in attempted rapes. (Lisak and Miller, 2002)

Assessing Likelihood to Recidivate:

Some important factors that contribute to recidivism: (Hanson and Morton-Bourgon, 2004).

  • Conflicts with intimate partner (must talk to partner to get accurate information about this)
  • Tolerant attitudes of sex crimes
  • Tolerance of rape myths
  • Lack of victim empathy
  • Negative social influences/negative peer group
  • Hostility, anger, and aggression
  • Separation from parents
  • Personality disorder
  • Sexual preoccupations
  • Any deviant sexual preferences
  • Any prior criminal history (*However, this is not always the case – think about the student and military population.  Most likely these populations will have clean records because that would be a requirement in order to be accepted into a university or the military)
  • Childhood criminality
  • Any non-contact sexual offenses (voyeurs, exhibitionists)

Factors not strongly related to recidivism – these factors are not related to whether a person will or will not re-commit a sex offense (Hanson and Morton-Bourgon, 2004):

  • Denial of the crime
  • Low self-esteem
  • Lack of motivation for treatment
  • General psychological problems such as depression
  • Sexually abused as a child

One assessment instrument that has been shown to be useful in measuring the likelihood of recidivism is the Violence Risk Appraisal Guide (VRAG).  Read more about the VRAG in the Recommended Sanctions section.

Title IX

Overview (Brake and Williams, 1997):

Title IX is the federal law barring sex bias in education.  In June of 1997, the Department of Education took an important step toward increased gender equity: it issued a detailed guidance preventing or eliminating sexual harassment of students at educational institutions.  This guidance describes how students must be able to learn in an environment free from all forms of sex discrimination, including sexual harassment.  Colleges cannot allow behavior that creates a hostile environment and prevents a student from learning or participating in campus activities.  This conclusion is consistent with the workplace standards that protect employees on the job.

Title IX says that in regards to sexual assault and harassment, universities must:

  • Stop the misconduct
  • Prevent reoccurrence of the misconduct
  • Restore the victim to her/his original status

Knowing what we know about the likelihood of sexual assault perpetrators to recidivate, or re-commit this offense, and knowing that under Title IX, universities have a duty to prevent this reoccurrence, this provides a unique challenge for college personnel working to create and maintain a safe campus environment.

Summary of important points from this section:

  • Most sex offenders are recidivists and commit other forms of interpersonal violence.
  • The strongest predictor of future violence is past violence.
  • Two sexual assault experts reported on 120 of 1,882 men whose self-reported sexual acts met legal definitions of rape or attempted rape but whose actions went undetected by the criminal justice system and found that 76 or 63.3% were recidivists.
  • Some important factors to consider when attempting to predict recidivism are conflicts with intimate partner, tolerant attitudes of sex crimes, tolerance or rape myths, lack of victim empathy, negative peer group, hostility and aggression, separation from parents, personality disorder, sexual preoccupations, any deviant sexual preferences, any prior criminal history, childhood criminality, any non-contact sex offenses, and/or psychopathy.
  • The Violence Risk Appraisal Guide (VRAG) is one assessment tool that has been shown to be useful in predicting the likelihood of recidivism.
  • Title IX is the federal law barring sex bias in education.
  • Title IX says that in regards to sexual assault and harassment, universities must stop the misconduct, prevent reoccurrence of the misconduct, and restore the victim to her/his original status.