Sex offenders are of grave concern to the public due to the nature of sexual offending. The public tends to believe that the recidivism rates of sexual offenders, particularly pedophiles, are quite high. This information sheet is intended to provide a quick overview of the research on this topic.
Recidivism is defined as being charged with the commission of a new offence. In the case of sex offenders, the public is most concerned with sexual recidivism - the commission of a new sexual offence. Recidivism rates vary by the time frame being looked at and by the type of sexual offending.
One research project looked at 61 previous studies of sexual recidivism using a 4-5 year follow up period. This research on sex offenders found that 13.4% recidivated with a sexual offence, 12.2% recidivated with a non-sexual, violent offence and 36.6% recidivated with any other offence.1
A long term follow-up study of child molesters in Canada found that 42% were reconvicted of sexual or violent crime during the 15-30 year follow-up period.2
In addition, the long-term follow-up study (15-30 years) of child molesters showed that the average recidivism rate for this group of offenders is actually lower than the average recidivism rate for non-sexual offenders (61% versus 83.2% respectively for any new conviction).
Likelihood of Recidivism
The long term follow-up study referred to above included a control group of non-sexual criminals. The highest rate of recidivism (77%) was for those with previous sexual offences, who selected boy victims outside the family and who were never married.3
In general, rapists reoffend more often than child molesters.4
Among child molesters, those with male victims have been found to have the highest recidivism rates, followed by those with unrelated female victims.5
Incest offenders show the lowest recidivism rates of all sexual offenders.6