FEMALE SEX OFFENDERS
by Linda Halliday-Sumner
When we think of sexual crimes, society generally perceives victims as female and males as perpetrators. This crime conjures up an image of women and children as being vulnerable and at high risk around males. Women are seen as being caring, loving and fiercely protective of children. The media, courts and general public have the misconception that those cases involving females as perpetrators are "rare incidences" or the female being bullied, abused or coerced into such deviant acts under the domination of an abusive male.
I have noted that when a female is charged with a sex offence, even the media tends to be more sympathetic, often reporting the case as being "seduction" or the offender as "having an affair".
In a book written by Matthew Parynik Mendel, "The Male Survivor", he quotes the following reasons why society continues to see males as abusers and females as victims. He stresses our beliefs about gender roles blinds us to disconfirming and discomforting examples. His study listed the following findings:
I have worked in the field of sexual abuse for the past 18 years and average about 350 interviews per year. I would conservatively estimate that approximately 40% of the offenders I have dealt with and adult offenders I have talked to have disclosed they were offending by the age of ten. Generally there were incidents where they were confronted between that age and age 15, but rarely was anything done about it other than to tell them to stop.
In the early 1980s, when I first began this work, female offenders only accounted for approximately one and a half to three percent of my total case load. During the past three years that percentage has risen to a level of about 35%. In the past six months, I would estimate that at least 40% of my cases have involved juvenile offenders and of that about 50% have been females.
My research also found that generally the female offender is not as predatory as her male counterpart. She does not go out and actively seek her victims nor does she appear to have multiple victims at one time. My studies demonstrate that there also may be a lengthy period of time elapse between the female offender's victims. She tends to take less risks in selecting and abusing a child. Generally she has a relationship with the child such as babysitting, parenting, teacher, nurse, etc.
In interviewing both male and female offenders, it has been my experience that the mind set of each differs greatly. For example, when asking a male offender why they committed such acts, I have commonly heard such things as: "I was only showing my love: It was sex education: She came on to me" . There appears to be a common theme in the male offender of viewing this as a "sexual act".
In the cases of the female offenders I have interviewed, this does not appear to be the case. They will deny absolutely that there was anything sexual. Generally they will explain with such statements as "It was a punishment: It was to show them it's wrong: I wanted them to feel as bad as I did."
One possible explanation for this difference could be due to the fact that it is well documented that this crime is based on "power and control" issues. Many men still view power in the way of their own sexual prowess, while women may gain power through mind manipulation. Keeping those two beliefs in mind, it is understandable why the deviant behavior over vulnerable children differs between the male and female offender.
It has also been my experience that those children, particularly males, that have been sexually victimized by older females, tend to act out in a more bizarre manner than those abused by males. As the victims of female offenders got older, their behavior appeared to be far more violent, particularly towards women and animals.
My studies also indicate that rarely does a female offender "just" sexually abuse a child. Generally there is a combination of psychological humiliation, degradation, physical and verbal abuse in combination with the sexual. It is not uncommon for the female offender to urinate on a child, force the child to urinate on her or other children that may be involved; beat them while masturbating; force them to act out sexually with each other while she beats them and/or masturbates; makes them eat their own vomit; etc. Another common practice has been for the female to utilize such things as used kotex pads or tampons.
My studies also show that those children sexually assaulted by females tend to be more hyperactive, more violent and act out in ways of extreme cruelty and/or mutilation of animals, fire setting, breaking and entering and urinating all over everything, smearing, self mutilation and excessive physical violence towards themselves and others. A high percentage of the victims of female offenders I have encountered demonstrated much of the behavior that is commonly diagnosed as ADD and often have been "labeled" as such.
In looking at the limited information and research available on female offenders, it would appear that based on what information is slowly surfacing on the subject, approximately one third or 33% of sexual offences are committed by females.
It is interesting to note that the latest study in Canada shows that of the 4,545 federal prisoners that are convicted of sexual offences, only 19 are women. I am not aware of any provincial studies that have been done to date and it has been my experience that the majority of sexual offenders, particularly female, tend to get light sentences (mostly probation or provincial jail time).
There continues to be a serious lack of research, treatment and acknowledgment in regards to females as sexual offenders - particularly juveniles.
Some information on studies in regards to female offenders can be found at: