Studying sex offense is difficult because of the data on crimes reported versus convictions, but it’s an important concern for anyone moving or traveling. It’s easy to locate sex offenders who have registered, but facts about sexual abuse can be misleading or misreported. Especially on social media, where shock value sells viral content with only degrees of truth to it.
It’s important to first look at what we know to be true about sex offenders, and then try to break down how that plays out state-by-state or city-by-city. While these facts are a great place to start, defense begins with understanding more about your neighborhood.
Some Basic Facts
The Department of Justice estimates only about 30 percent of sex abuse crimes are reported. This figure is disheartening, but it does provide some important data points to work with:
- A minority of these cases are reported to be children
- A majority of the victims knew the perpetrator
- 5% of victims were college-aged females
- The internet is usually the first point of contact, especially in child sex abuse
We have also learned some of the signs a victim uses to signal abuse is occurring or has occurred, and we understand more about how to talk to these victims and get them to open up. These important steps have paved the way for a national discussion about sexual abuse.
Myths and Misconceptions
It’s both accurate and a misconception that cities are worse than rural areas. The reason this pseudo-myth persists is a failure to weigh the total number of offenders against population density. Parents for Megan’s Law report larger population states, like California or New York (both home to major cities), with higher numbers of total offenders. However, measuring the population of a state like South Dakota means there are more sex offenders per 1,000 people.
There are also variables such as how frequently states update their databases, or how often they convict offenders. Shockingly, some states claim statistics change too frequently to provide accurate and real-time data. Sex offenders also move, for a variety of reasons, and they may not always report their new address.
The sex offender registry, which allows for local-level searching (especially through a third party that can offer more detailed information about the crime), is often the best way to protect yourself.
Analyzing sex abuse presents many variables, so the best way to protect yourself is by understanding more about your local area. It can be shocking to see high numbers of offenders in your neighborhood, but there are ways to get more information. Run a background check on known offenders that live near your home and child’s school; the information you see online may be outdated or incomplete.
Often, knowing the full story is the first and best step you can take to protecting yourself.