Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Social Work (MSW)


Social Work




Sex crimes -- Oregon



Physical Description

1 online resource (4, viii, 149 leaves)


The principal objective of this study was to examine the proposition, advanced by several authorities, that the views, attitudes and beliefs of the public concerning the sex offender and his offense are characterized by fallacy, stereotype and misconception. That the approach to the problem of the sex offense has been and continues to be primarily legislative is a fact that can be demonstrated; and that legislation reflects and is influenced by public attitudes and beliefs is a premise that can be supported. Hence the accuracy or inaccuracy of these public attitudes and beliefs will have a bearing on the legislation enacted. Yet no systematic study could be discovered by the researchers either validating or invalidating the proposition as stated. It was to this end that the project was undertaken. The method of approach was to establish some factual baseline data about sex offenders and to examine the assumptions of the public about this data. Difficulties in defining both populations, the sex offenders and the public, were met by limiting the former to those individuals admitted to the sex offender program at Oregon State Hospital under any of the provisions of Oregon's "Sexually Dangerous” law, ORS 42.6, and the latter to the first-year graduate social work students at Portland State University. The problem of distinguishing fact from fallacy was handled by limiting the data to recorded and verifiable information drawn from case records. These necessary limitations resulted in the reduction of the above-described proposition to the much narrow hypothesis that beginning social work students at Portland State University will make inaccurate assumptions about the characteristics of the sex offender population at Oregon State Hospital. Although this reduction resulted in some loss of primary value, other secondary gains realized from the study as designed include the compilation of data on a population not heretofore studied and the communication of knowledge and stimulation of interest in areas where knowledge is lacking. This latter factor is of particular importance when the nature of the respondent population is taken into account--they are not only members of the legislation-influencing public, they are future professionals who will be in a position to bring other approaches to bear on the problem of the sex offender and his offense. Procedure consisted of the gathering and tabulation of factual data from the case records of 79 offenders and the use of this information as the basis for construction of a questionnaire-type instrument for assessing the accuracy of the assumptions of the respondents concerning the characteristics of the offender, his offense and his victim(s). The instrument also included 12 statements of attitude claimed to be common misconceptions held by the lay public concerning sex offenders. The most significant finding of the study was that the exploratory hypothesis was not supported. The respondents made fewer inaccurate than accurate assumptions about the sex offender population at Oregon State Hospital. Moreover, they disagreed with 10 out of the 12 attitudinal statements. It is not concluded on the basis of this finding, however, that the initial proposition is therefore invalidated. The atypical character of both populations and the gross nature of the methodology employed preclude such a verdict. On the other hand, it is felt that the secondary benefits have been realized; and that, furthermore, the study represents a meaningful addition to the store of knowledge both about the sex offender and his offense and about public attitudes toward them.


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Portland State University. School of Social Work

Persistent Identifier