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News & Views - April, 1994 Issue #27 

The Most Feared and Least Understood Adolescent
Larry Stednitz, Ph.D.
Shodair Hospital
Helena, Montana
800-447-6614 (In Helena 444-7500

As the Director of the Western youth Network, I was seldom involved with the placement of sexual offenders. Two years ago, I had the opportunity to work with the State of Montana. As Clinical Director of the State's Juvenile Corrections Division, I was called on to evaluate the correctional facilities' clinical programs. These programs included the treatment of sexual offenders. I also evaluated the community-based resources in six Montana regions. The primary need in all regions was an improved continuum of care for the sexually offending adolescent. How could I have been so involved in adolescent treatment and not have become familiar with the adolescent sex offender? 

Part of the answer to this question is that traditional mental health professionals are ill-equipped to assess and treat sexual offenders. Few medical schools, clinical psychology or social work programs contain coursework in sexual deviance. Only fifteen years ago, sex offenses by juveniles were dismissed as "adolescent adjustment reactions". Courts have also been reluctant to prosecute, thus contributing to the minimization of this problem. 

A careful look at arrests for sexual offenses reveals that adolescents account for a large proportion of the total arrests in the United States. Data from the Crime in the United States 1990 Report shows that a full 15% of all forcible rape and 16% of all other sexual crimes were committed by adolescents. Statistics also indicate that the incidence of violent sexual offenses increased by 8% and 13% for "other sexual offenses" between 1988 and 1989. Although the increased rates could be due to an increased social awareness of the problem and mandatory reporting laws, the severity of this major problem will not "go away" without significant treatment intervention. 

It is recognized that early intervention does have great merit. Recent studies on adolescent sexual offenders (National Task Force Report, 1988:5) indicate that the average number of victims per offender was less than seven. Another study suggested that figure was close to an average of 75 victims for adult child molesters! Early intervention is imperative to reduce the number of potential victims and resultant negative and far- reaching effects. 

Upon completion of my work with the State, I have accepted a position at Shodair Hospital in Helena, Montana. I will continue my involvement with the Western Youth Network and work with Shodair's programs for sexually abused children and the adolescent sexual offender program. I look forward to hearing from anyone interested in this extremely complex and challenging population. 

Copyright 1994, Woodbury Reports, Inc. (This article may be reproduced without prior approval if the copyright notice and proper publication and author attribution accompanies the copy.)

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