Posted on December 10, 2004

‘No Surprise’ Over Group Rape Findings

Expatica, Dec. 9

AMSTERDAM — Research indicating high involvement by minorities in a sample study of group rape and sex offences committed by teens in the Netherlands was “not surprising” given the findings of studies conducted into other crimes, it was claimed on Thursday.

The Netherlands Institute for the Study of Crime and Law Enforcement said earlier this week that an estimated 200 teens are registered with justice authorities each year for a group sex offence. This is a third of the total number of youth sex cases registered each year.

The Leiden-based institute said the number of group rapes could be much higher. Many crimes go unreported — becoming ‘dark numbers’ — and others frequently end in acquittal.

Researcher Catrien Bijleveld said the “sizeable” number of cases gave reason for further research into the phenomenon. She also told Expatica that this was the first study of its kind.

Bijleveld said she would not express concern about the study’s findings and she also refused to draw conclusions on the fact that two-thirds of the 91 offenders studied — comprising 24 group offences committed between 1993 and 2001 — were from ethnic minority backgrounds. Excluding one male victim, all victims were female, of which 75 percent were native Dutch.

When the report was published last week, many Dutch news organisations highlighted that a high proportion of teens from a minority background were involved in the crimes.

Asked whether the ethnic composition of the group studied was comparative to that of the total number of group sex offenders, Bijleveld said she could not give an accurate estimate. The same applied to the ethnic background of victims because there is limited data available on victims.

She said the research sample was too small to draw conclusions based on ethnicity, pointing out that the cases were spread out over eight years. Also, researchers studied the “heaviest” crimes because culprits underwent a personality test for use in a criminal trial.

Nevertheless, Bijleveld admitted that Antilleans were over-represented in the sample group studied. But she also said if the institute had published a report on solo sex offences, journalists would be asking why there are so many native Dutch committing such crimes.

Moreover, the ethnic composition of group sex offenders is not that much different to the ethnic composition of average juvenile offenders. Bijleveld said the “ethnic sample is not surprising if you have studied other groups of offenders”.

What was remarkable about the typical group sex offender is that he was “less troubled” and very different from the juvenile solo sex offender, who is often neurotic, bullied, isolated or a victim of a previous sex offence.

The report — co-authored by Daphne Looije, Frank Weerman and Jan Hendriks — found that the average age of the teen group offender is 14, compared with the victim, who is on average age 13. Three out of five offenders come from broken homes, more than one-third is neglected, and another third has been abused.

The teens usually act in groups of four and the victim is usually known to at least one of the rapists. Physical violence is not often used and the institute also noted that in general the culprits appear to be not overly worried about possible prosecution.

She said the main conclusion of the study was that these types of sex offences are a “rewarding group activity”. Group rapes have a greater chance of success and peer pressure is at times involved. Bijleveld also added that “we don’t know if ethnicity plays a role” and that she would not draw such conclusions.

The institute is now conducting further research into whether the youth offenders commit crimes in adult life. But Bijleveld also said many offenders who start committing crimes in a group grow out of this in later life. The follow-up research is expected to be completed in about three months time.