ONE-FOURTH OF EXHIBITIONISTS COMMIT ADDITIONAL SEX OFFENSES
psychiatryonline.org/American Psychiatric Association
Exhibitionists should not be considered simply a bother by the criminal-justice system,because they have a fairly high recidivism rate. Also, some eventually engage in more serioussexual offenses than exposing themselves. A new Canadian study has revealed thatexhibitionists are often viewed as nuisances who get a thrill out of exposing themselves andshocking onlookers. However, many are not as innocuous as some people may think. Thestudy included 208 male exhibitionists who were assessed at the Royal Ottawa Hospital SexualBehaviors Clinic between 1983 and 1996. They were determined to be exhibitionists in one ofthree ways: they had been diagnosed so by a psychiatrist according to DSM-IV criteria, they hadbeen convicted of exhibitionism by the courts, or they had sought psychiatric help after engagingin exhibitionism. The subjects were assessed for alcohol abuse, dimensions of sexualfunctioning, psychopathy, and sexual preferences as measured by phallometry. Such preferencesincluded, for example, desire to have consenting sex with an adult, rape an adult, commit incest,or have sex with a minor. They were then followed for 13 years on average to see how manywould reoffend, and if so, what form it would take. Finally, using assessment results andother information, the scientists looked to see whether those who reoffended differed from thosewho did not. Forty-nine (24%) of the study sample went on to commit another sexual offense,including 19 (9%) who graduated to contact offenses such as sexual touching or sexualassault. Thirty-one percent reoffended either sexually or with nonsexual violentbehavior. And 39 percent reoffended in some manner, be it sexually, violently, or in someother fashion. Those exhibitionists who reoffended (by committing a sexual offense or byengaging in violent nonsexual behaviors or in another criminal manner) were apt to have lesseducation and to score higher on alcohol abuse, psychopathy, and pedophilic tendencies comparedwith exhibitionists who did not reoffend.