Researchers have suggested that child sex offenders hold distorted views on social interactions with children. Misinterpreting childrens behavior and intentions could lead to sexually abusive behavior toward children. It is further suggested that the interpretation process is influenced by offenders offense-supportive cognitions and levels of empathy. To examine the relationships between these three concepts, 47 contact offenders completed self-reports on offense-supportive cognitions and empathy. Vignettes were developed to assess the extent to which offenders attributed responsibility, benefit, and complicity to children in hypothetical child molestation incidents. This study showed that cognitions that justify sexual offending against children seem to diminish the threshold for sexual assault by assigning more cooperation and willingness of the victim in a child molestation incident.

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Journal of Child Sexual Abuse
Department of Psychiatry

Hempel, I., Buck, N., Van Vugt, E. S., & van Marle, H. (2015). Interpreting child sexual abuse: Empathy and offense-supportive cognitions among child sex offenders. Journal of Child Sexual Abuse, 24(4), 354–368. doi:10.1080/10538712.2015.1014614