To identify self-reported characteristics of past sexual assaults perpetrated by incarcerated juveniles and to determine potential precursors of this behavior.
Participants and Methods
Participants completed an anonymous written questionnaire regarding their experiences of sexual abuse and/or assault as both a victim and a perpetrator. The questionnaire was incorporated into an existing annual survey of gang-related behaviors.
A total of 805 adolescents (707 boys, 91 girls, and 7 gender-not-designated) participated. Of these teens, 79 males (11% of the males), 9 females (10% of the females), and 5 (71%) gender-not-designated said they had forced sex on someone (165 did not answer the question). Twenty-eight males (30% of the male perpetrators) and 4 females (44% of the female perpetrators) were both victims and perpetrators. Drugs and/or alcohol were frequently used by both the assailant (58% of the males and 55% of the females) and the victim (56% for the males and 66% for the females). The attributes of adolescent boys at highest risk of becoming perpetrators were all related to violence, including exposure to parents who were violent in the home (adjusted odds ratio, 2.68), being a victim of physical or sexual assault (adjusted odds ratio, 2.83), having parents who encouraged gang membership (adjusted odds ratio, 3.58), and knowing a perpetrator of sexual violence (adjusted odds ratio, 3.83).
Adolescent boys and girls were both victims and perpetrators of sexual assault. Programs that identify and target violence in young children's lives, particularly intrafamilial violence, may reduce the risk of teenagers becoming perpetrators of sexual violence. Anticipatory guidance during teen years, regarding risk and avoidance of sexual exploitation, may be helpful in reducing the chances of sexual assaults.