Female sex offenders may be implicated in up to one fifth of all sex crimes committed in the United States. Despite previous research findings that suggest unique patterns of offending among female sex offenders, limited empirical research has investigated the motivations and processes involved. The present study qualitatively examined female sex offenders’ offense-related experiences and characterized the internal and external factors that contributed to offending. Semi-structured interviews with 24 female sex offenders were analyzed by a team of coders with limited exposure to the existing literature using grounded theory analysis. A conceptual framework emerged representing distinctive processes for solo- and co-offending, contextualized within ecological layers of social and environmental influence. This model extends previous work by offering an example of nested vulnerabilities proximal to female sexual offending. Implications for future research, prevention, and treatment are discussed.
Author: Jane Seeni
Although recent typologies of female sexual offenders have recognized the importance of having a co-offender, the clinical characteristics of solo and co-female sexual offenders remain poorly understood. The aim of this study was to compare solo (n = 20) and co- (n = 20) female sexual offenders on a variety of clinical characteristics. It was found that although solo and co-offenders reported similar developmental experiences and psychological dispositions, differences were found in environmental niche, offense preceding, and positive factors. Specifically, solo offenders demonstrated a greater presence of personal vulnerabilities including mental health and substance abuse difficulties. Co-offenders reported a greater presence of environmentally based factors, including a current partner who was a known sex offender and involvement with antisocial peers. It is suggested that these results have implications for understanding assessment and intervention needs for these groups of sexual offenders.
This study explored the prevalence of early trauma in a sample of U.S. female sexual offenders (N = 47) using the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) scale. Compared with females in the general population, sex offenders had more than three times the odds of child sexual abuse, four times the odds of verbal abuse, and more than three times the odds of emotional neglect and having an incarcerated family member. Half of the female sex offenders had been sexually abused as a child. Only 20% endorsed zero adverse childhood experiences (compared with 35% of the general female population) and 41% endorsed four or more (compared with 15% of the general female population). Higher ACE scores were associated with having younger victims. Multiple maltreatments often co-occurred in households with other types of dysfunction, suggesting that many female sex offenders were raised within a disordered social environment by adults with problems of their own who were ill-equipped to protect their daughters from harm. By enhancing our understanding of the frequency and correlates of early adverse experiences, we can better devise trauma-informed interventions that respond to the clinical needs of female sex offender clients.
Identifying the ways in which male and female sex offenders differ is an important but understudied topic. Studies that do exist have been challenged by a reliance on small and select samples. Improving on these limitations, we use the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) to compare male and female sex offenders among all 802,150 incidents of sexual assault reported to police across 37 states between 1991 and 2011. Findings indicated some broad similarities between groups, including the most prominent offense location (home), most common victim–offender relationship (acquaintance), and the rarity of injuries or drug abuse during crimes. However, the data also showed several important differences between male and female sexual offenders. Most notably, females offended with male accomplices in more than 30% of their sexual crimes—far more often than occurred among male sexual offenders (2%). Likewise, females offended against a victim of the same sex in nearly half of their crimes, yet this was only true in approximately 10% of male sexual offenses. Implications for future research are discussed.