Basis for the SARA
Many of the risk factors in the SARA are included in actuarial risk assessment instruments that have been validated for recidivism among sex offenders. The validity and reliability of these factors has not been demonstrated for people with pedophilia who have not offended.
There is some risk that any living, sexual human being could sexually interact with a child. Some factors are static, while others are changeable. The purpose of this instrument is to help clients focus on the factors they have control over to minimize and manage their risk. The score cannot predict whether or not a particular individual will actually abuse a child.
#1. The child molestation prevention study concluded that "approximately one out of 20 men, and approximately one out of 3,300 women are sexual abusers of children" (Abel & Harlow, 2001). Other studies have varied statistics, but researchers agree that males are much more likely to sexually abuse children than are females.
#2. “Thirty to fifty percent of those who sexually abuse a child are children or adolescents themselves” (Tabachnick & Klein, 2011, p. 15). "Advanced age is as likely to similarly diminish the frequency of sexual behavior involving children as it does other paraphilically motivated and normophilic sexual behavior" (APA, 2013, p. 699). The risk based on age is highest some time after puberty and decreases thereafter with age.
#3. Being gay does not appear to increase the risk of sexually interacting with a child. "In most cases, sexual interest in children runs on a different track than sexual interest in adults" (Abel & Harlow, 2001, p. 126). Men who are attracted to adult women may also be attracted to prepubescent boys and not identify as gay.
#4. “One review estimated that about 40 to 50 percent of adult sex offenders with child victims had pedophilic sexual interests” (Butcher, Mineka, & Hooley, 2012, p. 485). "Any factor that increases the probablility of pedophilia also increases the risk of pedophilic disorder" (APA, 2013, p. 699). A greater intensity of sexual attraction to children indicates a greater risk of sexual interaction with a child.
#5. More girls are sexually abused but men who are sexually attracted to boys are likely to act on it three times more often than those who are attracted to girls (Abel & Harlow, 2001).
#6. The major difference between pre-pubescent and pubescent minors is the definition of abuse in various jurisdictions.
#7. "Family level risk factors include difficulty establishing and/or maintaining appropriate intimate relationships and a chaotic, unstable, or violent home environment” (Tabachnick & Klein, 2011, p. 16).
#8. "Fathers who suspect the paternity of a child, are unattractive to potential female partners, and are dissatisfied with their current marital or common-law relationship would also be at greater risk" (Seto, 2008, p. 161).
#9. The VRAG includes "never married or common-law" (Seto, 2008, p. 147), while the Static-99 includes "ever lived common-law for 2 or more years" (Seto, 2008, pp. 148-149).
#10. “There is support for the sexually abused-sexual abuser hypothesis, in that sex offenders are more likely to have been sexually abused than non-sex offenders, but not more likely to have been physically abused” (Jespersen, Lalumiere, & Seto, 2009, p. 179). “Sexual abuse history is neither a sufficient nor a necessary condition for adult sexual offending” (Jespersen et al., 2009, p. 190). "Childhood sexual abuse may be a risk factor for the onset of sexual offending, but it is not a necessary or sufficient factor" (Seto, 2008, p. 160). “Because sexual abuse history does not appear to be a risk factor for sexual recidivism, prevention and treatment efforts might have an impact of the onset, but not persistence, of sexual offending” (Jespersen et al., 2009, p. 191). "Adult males with pedophilia often report that they were sexually abused as children. It is unclear, however, whether this correlation reflects a causal influence of childhood sexual abuse on adult pedophilia" (APA, 2013, p. 699). "Ten percent of males who had been victimized [by childhood sexual abuse] after the age of 12 were later convicted of sexual abuse" (Ogloff, Cutajar, Mann, & Mullen, 2012).
#11. “The prevalent societal messages related to child sexual abuse emphasize hopelessness. The myth that ‘abusers can never change’ sends a message to parents of teens and children with sexual behavior problems and individuals who sexually abuse that nothing can help them” (Tabachnick & Klein, 2011, p. 12). Engendering hope is one of the most effective methods of risk reduction.
#12. “Risk factors for re–offense tend to fall into the categories of abuse related sexual interests, pro-offending attitudes (e.g., believing children enjoy sexual interactions with adults), poor interpersonal functioning, and impulsive or antisocial lifestyles” (Tabachnick & Klein, 2011, p. 17). Cognitive restructuring can help modify pro-offending attitudes.
#13. People with pedophilia must exercise caution in coming out, but having a caring person who knows that you are sexually attracted to children will help prevent you from sexually acting out with a child (Abel & Harlow, 2001).
#14. Faulty thinking that a child can consent to sex with an adult, increases the risk of sexual abuse.
#15. People with pedophilia can work with children without abusing any of them, but it does increase the opportunity for sexual interaction.
#16. "Males who are sociolegally rather than genetically related to a child are at greater risk to commit incest, as are males who did not consistently live with a female child (daughter or sister) during the first few years of her life" (Seto, 2008, p. 161). The Westermarck effect suggests that "people who live in close domestic proximity during the first few years of life become desensitized to sexual attraction" (Retrieved on January 12, 2015 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Westermarck_effect).
#17. People with pedophilia can spend time in groups that include children without abusing anyone. Many pedophiles find that it actually reduces the risk that they might sexually interact with a child, because they are more likely to view children as real people.
#18. Spending time alone with a child that you are sexually attracted to does increase the opportunity to sexually interact with that child.
#19. Libido can be decreased with medication, reducing the likelihood of sexually interacting with a child.
#20. "The reality is that many sex offenders against children do not sexually reoffend" (Seto, 2008, p. 142). The VRAG includes "extent of nonviolent offense history" (Seto, 2008, p. 147).
#21. Most offenders have multiple victims, the majority of which have not been detected by the authorities.
#22. "Actuarial risk scales exclusively or almost exclusively consist of static risk factors, defined here as historical factors that cannot change (e.g., prior criminal history and history of alcohol abuse)" (Seto, 2008, p. 150). "The disinhibiting effects of intoxication may also increase the likelihood that a person who is primarily attracted to the mature physique will sexually approach a child" (APA, 2013, p. 700). "Dynamic risk factors are defined here as changeable (e.g., antisocial attitudes and beliefs about sex with children) or temporally fluctuating (e.g., level of alcohol intoxication) factors that could, in principle, be targets of intervention" (Seto, 2008, p. 150).
#23. "Child pornography offenders with no other forms of criminal involvement were the least likely to commit any future offenses" (Seto, 2008, p. 160). Although viewing child pornography is illegal, there is no empirical evidence that it increases the risk of sexually interacting with a real child.
#24. Society may be opposed to masturbatory fantasies involving children, but there is no empirical evidence that it increases the risk of sexually interacting with a real child.
#25. Sex specific therapy has proven to be effective in reducing recidivism among sex offenders.
Abel, G. & Harlow, N. (2001). The stop child molestation book. USA: Xlibris.
American Psychiatric Association (APA, 2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Association.
Butcher, J. N., Mineka, S., & Hooley, J. M. (2012). Abnormal psychology (14th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.
Jespersen, A. F., Lalumiere, M. L, & Seto, M. C. (2009). Sexual abuse history among adult sex offenders and non-sex offenders: A meta-analysis. Child Abuse & Neglect, 33 (2009) 179-192.
Seto, M. (2008). Pedophilia and sexual offending against children: Theory, assessment, and intervention. Washington, DC, US: American Psychological Association.
Tabachnick, J. & Klein, A. (2011). A reasoned approach: Reshaping sex offender policy to prevent child sexual abuse. Retrieved on July 8, 2011 from http://www.atsa.com/pdfs/ppReasonedApproach.pdf.