The Cycle of Abuse for Individuals With Intellectual Disabilities who Engage in Sexually Offending Behaviour
Individuals with an intellectual disability (ID) have higher rates of childhood sexual abuse than other clinical groups, and the general population. Over the past 15 years, research has lent support to the theory of a cycle of abuse, which postulates a relationship or pattern between prior experience of sexual abuse and later sexual offending. However, there is limited research examining this pattern in samples of sex offenders with ID. To contribute to and expand on previous research, two studies were carried out to examine the cycle of abuse. Study 1 was an exploratory retrospective clinical file review study, which examined the co-occurrence of previous sexual abuse and later sexual offending in a clinical sample of individuals with ID who had received treatment. Results of study 1 indicated that having a history of sexual abuse was as common in my sample than in previously studied samples of offenders. Study 2 systematically reviewed the literature examining the cycle of abuse across populations and samples in an attempt to replicate and extend previous meta-analytic findings. Study 2 provided further evidence to support the theory of a cycle of abuse and revealed potentially mediating factors including gender and presence of intellectual disability. Future research is needed to examine the specific factors that may predict or prevent the onset of offending behaviour in individuals with ID who have experienced sexual abuse.