Sex offender myths in print media: Separating fact from fiction in U.S. newspapers

Marcus A. Galeste, Henry F. Fradella, Brenda Vogel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


The media sometimes present certain myths related to sex offenders that run contrary to the data supported by empirical research, such as identifying sex offenders as being compulsive, homogenous, specialists, and incapable of benefiting from treatment. These myths affect the public's overall perception of sex offenders and their crimes, which, in turn, can influence public policy. The literature suggests that television news presents several myths about sex crimes and sex offenders; however, research on whether the print media perpetuate these myths is limited. This exploratory study seeks to begin filling this gap in the literature by examining the presentation of sex offender myths in newspaper articles. Employing content analysis, this study evaluated a sample of 334 articles published in 2009 in newspapers across the United States for the presence of sex offender myths. Sex offender myths were not significantly related to the type of article, region of publication, victim age or gender, or the type of offense. Myths were, however, significantly associated with articles reporting on various types of sex offender policies, often in a manner which runs contrary to empirical research. The legal and policy implications of these findings are explored.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4-24
Number of pages21
JournalWestern Criminology Review
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 1 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Crime and media
  • Criminal justice policy
  • Sex crimes
  • Sex offenders

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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