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Incorporating sociocultural and situational factors into explanations of sexual offending

Leigh Harkins


Although each individual ultimately decides whether or not to engage in criminal activity, numerous factors can impact this decision. Indeed, the influence of specific social and situational contexts, including being part of an identifiable cultural or social group, can be powerful enough to overcome individual resistance to crime. For example, literature has tried to make sense of why ordinary members of the population have been willing to engage in war crimes. This talk will provide an overview of a previously prescribed multifactorial model of multiple perpetrator sexual offending (Harkins & Dixon, 2010; 2013) to more fully inform explanations of sexual violence generally. Factors within the sociocultural and situational contexts of the model will be reviewed, as well as the interactions between them and the individual context, to examine their role in explaining a broad range of sexually violent crimes. The adapted multifactorial model can help lay the foundation for fuller causal explanations of sexually violent crime without restricting the focus to a specific crime type, or level of explanation, in addition to bridging interdisciplinary theoretical gaps. 


Leigh Harkins is an Associate Professor at Ontario Tech University in Canada. Her current research interests focus on understanding sexual aggression and aggression in groups including factors influencing perceptions of the acceptability of sexually coercive behavior, sexual violence related to dating app use, and multiple perpetrator sexual offending. Dr. Harkins’ previous work has focused on understanding and improving assessment and treatment of people who have committed sexual offenses. She also has practice experience working in treatment groups for sexual offenders, and completing psychological assessments in prisons and community criminal justice settings in Canada and the UK. Leigh has published numerous manuscripts in peer-reviewed journals and book chapters, and has co-edited a book in the area of forensic psychology.