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Why Sexual Offenders May Prefer Children or the Elderly

By: Detective Don Howell

The Orange County Register (California) last week reported that a 19 year old man had been arrested for the sexual assault of a woman, who was living in a senior-assisted living apartment. The offender pretended to be a masseur to gain access to the woman and to establish a level of trust with her. He later sexually assaulted her, in her room.

Why is this important to someone wanting to protect their children?

First, many sexual assaults involve a victim of opportunity. In my book, Beyond Stranger Danger (BSD), this is discussed several times. The offender in this case, is your run-of-the-mill power rapist, who was looking for a vulnerable victim of opportunity. He ran across a senior citizen and set his fantasy into motion. He is also the type of offender who is not likely to use a lot of force to gain compliance from the victim. He's more of a con-man, using a trick or ruse to get what he wants. If he had run into a child instead of the senior citizen, the outcome would have been the same. Ask yourself this question, is asking a women in her 70-80's if she wants a massage, really any different than approaching a child in the park and asking for help in finding a lost puppy?

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Secondly, there is a sub-set of sex offenders that have performance anxiety issues. They would prefer to have a sexual relationship with someone their own age, but the thought of dating a woman with prior sexual experience is scary to them. So the solution is simple, find someone who can not compare their sexual abilities to someone else. To the offender the perfect fit is, #1 children, #2 seniors, #3 nuns or any other woman who he views as non-sexual.

It is this non-sexual or asexual population that is attractive to the offender. To him, kids, seniors etc, are all the same. Due to this, I'm sure the investigators in Orange County will be looking at a wide variety of unsolved cases, that this 19 year old may be responsible for.

If you have ever read the dialogue between an on-line predator and a child, it goes something like this:

“Hi, have you ever seen one of these before?” Followed with a picture of his genitals.

“No. What does it do?”

This is the perfect victim, someone with no prior sexual experience. If the offender was talking to a 40 year old, this would still be the ideal mate for him.

Now, consider this exchange:

“Have you ever seen one of these before?”

“Yes, lots of them!”

This type of offender will end the chat immediately.


This article was originally published on the Beyond Stranger Danger Blog and has been reposted with permission.


Don Howell, lecturer and author of Sex Crime Interviews Simplified, can be reached at dhowell [at] He is a retired detective with over 30 years’ experience in the Huntington Beach Police Department (California). He has taught at the University of Southern California’s School of Sociology for 12 years and written several books on sex crimes. He is also an editorial advisor for the Department of Culture, Law and Policy at Cancer InCytes Magazine.

Don Howell was awarded the Advocate Spotlight Award from Cancer InCytes Magazine in June 2015:

See other articles by Detective Don Howell:

Sexual Abuse: Two Sides of the Same Coin

Not Just DNA: The Five Trademarks of Sex Offenders

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