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Child Victimizers: Violent Offenders and Their Victims

ADVANCE FOR RELEASE AT 5 P.M. EST                      BJS
SUNDAY, MARCH 3, 1996                                202/307-0784

                          HAD VICTIMIZED A CHILD

                   COMMIT MOST CHILD MURDERS

     WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Children younger than 18 were the
victims in almost 20 percent of the violent crimes committed by
state prisoners, according to a new Justice Department report
released today.  More than half of the child victims were 12 or

     Thirteen percent of the violent prisoners raped or sexually
molested children.  Of all prisoners convicted of rape or sexual
assault, two-thirds victimized children.  Three out of four child
victims were female.  

     The study of a nationally representative sample of state
prisoners serving time for violent crime in 1991 showed that
offenders typically preyed on children they knew--not strangers. 
Eighty-eight percent had a prior relationship with their victims. 
In fact, almost one-third of the victims were the children or
step-children of the assailant.  

     The findings are based on inmate interviews in 277 prisons
in 45 states conducted during 1991.  The Survey of State Prison
Inmates, the largest ever undertaken, involved about 14,000
inmates who had been sent to prison during 1991 or earlier.  

     Among the estimated 61,000 offenders serving time in 1991
for violent crimes against victims younger than 18:
     --Almost 10 percent had been convicted of the murder or
manslaughter of a child.
     --Fifteen percent had been convicted of forcible rape and 57
percent had been convicted of other types of sexual assault
including statutory rape, lewd acts or forcible sodomy. 
     --Approximately 10 percent had beaten or threatened their
young victims.  
     --About 30 percent reported they had attacked more than one
child during the incident for which they were imprisoned. 

     Prisoners convicted of attacking children were mostly male
(97 percent) and were more likely to be white (almost 70 percent)
and married or divorced (64 percent) than prisoners who had 
victimized those over 18.  Child victimizers were, on average,  
five years older than those who had victimized adults.  About 22
percent reported having been sexually abused themselves while
growing up, compared to 6 percent of the violent offenders who
preyed on adults.

     Victimizers of adults were about four times as likely as
victimizers of children to report having carried a firearm during
the crime.  Three out of four prisoners who victimized a child
reported the crime took place in their own home or in the
victim's home. 

     Prisoners who had victimized children had less extensive
criminal histories than those inmates convicted of violent
offenses against adults.  Almost one-third of child victimizers
were serving time following their first arrest, whereas less than
19 percent of those who victimized adults were first-time
offenders.  About one-fourth of the prisoners who victimized
children had prior convictions for violent crimes, compared to
about one-third of those who had victimized adults.

Child Murders

     The study also examined individual Federal Bureau of 
Investigation records from 405,000 murders in the United States 
between 1976 and 1994, in 37,000 of which the victims were
younger than 18 years old.  In 1994 children accounted for 11
percent of the nation's 23,000 murder victims.

     The number of annual child murders nearly doubled between
1984 and 1993, from 1,463 to 2,841.  There was a small decrease
to 2,660 in 1994, but this was still higher than any other prior
year.  The increase in child murders occurred mostly among youths
from 15 to 17 years old and was found among both white and
African-American children.  

     The murder rate among youth ages 15 to 17 has been growing
rapidly.  In 1984 there were 3.4 murders per 100,000 white
children and 15.5 per 100,000 black children.  By 1994 this had
risen to 6.3 and 49.3 respectively.

     Most child murders in 1994 were at the hands of an
acquaintance (38 percent), with family members accounting for 22 
percent, strangers 7 percent and unknown offenders 30 percent. 

     During 1994 almost one-half of all the murders of those 
under age 18 involved handguns.  Ten years earlier, handguns were
involved in one-quarter of such offenses.  In 1994 about 70
percent of the murder victims aged 15 to 17 years old were killed
with a handgun. 

     Since the early 1980s, the average age of offenders using a
handgun to kill a child has dropped from about 26 to 20, and the
age of those who murdered victims from 15 to 17 years old dropped
from 24 to 20.  

     In those cases where the perpetrator of the murder was known
to law enforcement, almost one-third of child murderers were
under the age of 18.  

     Among the almost 37,000 children murdered between 1976 and
1994, 66 percent of the children less than 1 year old and 58
percent of those from 1 to 4 years old were killed by beating
with fists or blunt objects or by kicking.  

     The data are contained in a report to the Congress prepared 
jointly by the Department's Office of Juvenile Justice and 
Delinquency Prevention and Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) to 
respond to a requirement of the National Child Protection Act of

     Single copies of the report, "Child Victimizers: Violent
Offenders and their Victims" (NCJ-153258), which was written by
BJS staff statistician Lawrence A. Greenfeld, may be obtained
from the BJS Clearinghouse, Box 179, Annapolis Junction, Maryland
20701-0179.  The telephone number is 1-800/732-3277.  Fax orders
to 1-410/792-4358.  To get a free fax copy of the report dial

     BJS's home page address on the Internet is: 

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After hours contact:  Stu Smith at 301/983-9354

Date Published: March 3, 1996