Understanding Trauma & Violence


If somebody perpetrates sexual assault as a young teenager, what are the odds they will they do it again?


Thank you for asking this question. There is a lot of complexity around trying to understand re-offending rates for those who have caused sexual harm, particularly if they are a juvenile. In general, research suggests that individuals who have committed sexual offenses during adolescence tend to have lower rates of sexual recidivism compared to adult offenders. 

It is worth noting, however, that how researchers define recidivism can vary from study to study. In some studies, recidivism is defined as an arrest during the follow-up period. In others, recidivism may be defined as a conviction for a criminal offense or a return to prison for a new crime. Researchers widely agree that observed recidivism rates are underestimates of the true reoffense rates of sex offenders, but it is often the best data researchers have that they can use to understand this phenomena. Research has clearly demonstrated that many sex offenses are never reported to authorities and hence go undocumented in the crimminal legal system.

A recent meta-analysis found that the mean sexual recidivism rate of juvenile offenders across studies was around 7%, with the rate of general recidivism for other crimes estimated at around 43%. To learn more about studies on recitivism rates for juvenile offenders, you can follow this link.

There are a couple factors that are worth noting that can impact a juvenile's risk of re-offending. To start, early intervention and appropriate treatment programs can play a crucial role in reducing the likelihood of reoffending. For example, engaging in therapy, counseling, or other rehabilitative interventions can help address underlying issues, provide necessary support, and promote positive behavioral change.

Additionally, other things outside of the individual, such as their social environment and support can influence their risk of re-offending. The context surrounding the offense, the individual's age at the time, and their subsequent growth and development all contribute to their potential for reoffending. Factors such as remorse, accountability, support system, and access to positive opportunities for personal growth can influence an individual's path. This is why maintaining appropriate supervision and monitoring is crucial as well as providing community support, accountability measures, and access to resources.

It is important to note that every case is unique. While there may be path towards rehabilitation for the young perpetrator, the initial focus should be on providing support to survivors, ensuring accountability, and promoting effective prevention measures to mitigate future harm. Many individuals who perpetrate sexual harm have experienced sexual harm themselves. While this is not an excuse for the person's behavior, getting at the root of the problem and providing healing resources could be a good first step to combatting future sexually violent behaviors. More research is needed in this area, however, particularly for those who are not yet legal adults. 

Safety Exit