Medical and Psychological Methods for Preventing Sexual Offences Against Children

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The primary goal in treating individuals at risk of committing sexual offences against children is to prevent more children from becoming victims. Few crimes are considered to be as repugnant as sexual offences against children, and society highly values every offence that can be prevented. However, relatively little interest has been directed at research intended to identify which medical and psychological interventions that actually prevent individuals at risk and known perpetrators from committing sexual offences.

The Swedish government assigned SBU to assess the effects of methods used to treat people who have committed, or are at risk of committing, sexual offences against children. Concurrently, the Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare was assigned to survey the use of such treatments in Sweden.

This systematic literature review scrutinises the scientific evidence for preventive medical and psychological interventions directed at offenders. We identified major weaknesses in the scientific evidence, e.g. regarding the largest category of offenders; adult males. In the absence of findings from reliable research, a reasonable treatment and follow-up strategy might be to reduce sex crime-specific risk factors, e.g. sexual preoccupation, in offenders having the highest risk of recidivism.

How to cite this report: SBU. Medical and psychological methods for preventing sexual offences against children. Stockholm: Swedish Council on Health Technology Assessment (SBU); 2011. SBU report no 207E.

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SBU Assessment presents a comprehensive, systematic assessment of available scientific evidence. The certainty of the evidence for each finding is systematically reviewed and graded. Full assessments include economic, social, and ethical impact analyses.

SBU assessments are performed by a team of leading professional practitioners and academics, patient/user representatives and SBU staff. Prior to approval and publication, assessments are reviewed by independent experts, SBU’s Scientific Advisory Committees and Board of Directors.

Published: 1/11/2011