Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment, Vol. 16, No. 4, October 2004 (
Sex Offenders With an Intellectual Disability
and William Glaser
It is only in recent years that the myth of the incorrigible and untreatable sex
offender with an intellectual disability has been seriously questioned. Current
assessment and treatment approaches in this area assume that such offenders are
accountable for their actions and treatable with appropriately modiﬁed techniques.
Even though they may be initially hard to engage in the assessment and treatment
process, the use of simpliﬁed approaches that support the day-to-day reinforcement
of treatment concepts is proving to be effective with this population.
KEY WORDS: sex offenders; intellectual disability; assessment; treatment.
Long-standing myths and stereotypes still inﬂuence the study of sexual of-
fending by individuals with an intellectual disability. The fears of the “menace
of the feeble-minded” are still prevalent: Lennie, the tragic hero of Steinbeck’s
“Of Mice and Men” is the classic representation of the murderous and uncontrol-
lable disabled man for whom there is no cure because he cannot comprehend the
sexual and other motives for his behavior (Fernald, 1912; Gould, 1997, Chaps.
5, 6; Steinbeck, 1992). Such prejudices are indeed ironic in the light of the fact
that the disabled themselves, more than nearly any other group in society, are
more likely to be victims, rather than perpetrators, of sexual assaults (Thompson,
Following a brief review of some relevant issues regarding sexuality and
people with an intellectual disability and the prevalence and characteristics of those
with an intellectual disability who commit sex offences, in this paper we provide
an overview of assessment and management techniques. The guiding principles
Statewide Forensic Service, Disability Services, Victorian Department of Human Services, Victoria,
The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia.
To whom correspondence should be addressed at Statewide Forensic Service, Yarra Bend Road, PO
Box 137, Fairﬁeld, Victoria 3078, Australia; e-mail: Frank.Lambrick@dhs.vic.gov.au.
2004 Plenum Publishing Corporation