The Nature of Sexual Offenders' Affective Empathy: A Grounded Theory Analysis

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Colleges, School and Institutes


The aim of this research was to investigate the nature of sexual offenders' affective empathy. Thirty-one men participating in a residential treatment program for child abusers constructed “victim apology letters” as a way of measuring/examining empathy deficits. The task was videotaped, transcribed, and subject to grounded theory techniques. It was discovered that intrafamilial offenders were more likely to minimize their behavior while exhibiting illicit power and control, whereas extrafamilial offenders were more likely to directly blame their victims and exhibit overtly explicit offense detail. From these open-coded categories, the axial categories of self as nonoffender, external blaming, and secondary victimization were derived. These results may have implications for the delivery of victim empathy components of sexual offender treatment programs.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)249-261
JournalSexual abuse : a journal of research and treatment
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2000