n Acta Criminologica: Southern African Journal of Criminology - Victim empathy advancement of youth sex offenders in youth correctional centres

Volume 30 Number 4
  • ISSN : 1012-8093


The purpose of this article is to focus on victim empathy advancement components in correctional programmes offered in Youth Correctional Centres. It is postulated that youth sex offenders display empathy deficits, but only a limited number of international studies have investigated these deficits. This is problematic, as intervention programmes frequently include victim empathy advancement components without sufficient empirical support to necessitate such inclusion. In a recent study conducted by Coetzee (2015), an existing measuring instrument, namely Beckett and Fisher’s Victim Empathy Distortion Scale was used to measure and compare 96 youth sex offenders’ empathy levels for sexual abuse victims in general as portrayed in a case study, as well as empathy for the offenders’ own specific victims (thus measuring the difference in each offender’s empathy levels for sexual abuse victims in general, and for their own victim). The quantitative research results indicate that the most prominent empathy deficits are displayed towards the youth sex offenders’ own victims. This finding was supported by the responses gained from the interviews with participants during the qualitative phase of the study. The findings in the quantitative and qualitative section of the research elucidates the importance of focussing on own victim empathy in correctional programmes offered to these youths in order to assist them to understand the impact of their offending behaviour, to take responsibility for their offending behaviour, and to reduce the possibility that they will recidivate.

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