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date: 28 October 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Sex crimes and sex offenders generate considerable public fear and worry, yet many public perceptions about sex offenders are inaccurate. Links between fear of sex crimes, especially rape, and fear of other types of crime are considered. The essay reviews research on public perceptions of sex offender laws and policies, including registration laws, notification laws, residence restrictions, punishment and treatment of sex offenders, and civil commitment. Discussion focuses on the perceptions of criminal justice officials, lawmakers, sexual abuse professionals, and survivors of sexual assaults. Inaccuracies in public perceptions of sex crimes and sex offenders are explored, with a special focus on rape myths. Despite the inaccuracy of many public perceptions of sex crimes and sex offenders, what cannot be overlooked is the harm that sex offenders actually cause.

Keywords: fear, law, perception, public, sex crime, sex offender, sexual assault

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