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What Motivates Female Sex Offenders?

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Michelle Golland: Sexual abuse by females, while not as common and definitely underreported as abuse by males, does occur. Marlee Matlin, while on CNN's "Larry King Live" Monday, spoke about her own experience of sexual abuse at the hands of her female babysitter when she was just 11 years old.

female sex offender sitting alone

It appears, if the allegations are true, that part of the motive in the death of Sandra Cantu was that her killer, Melissa Huckaby, was sexually abusing her and may have killed her in the course of or in an attempt to hide the abuse.

A 2007 report by the Center for Sex Offender Management says that one half of sex offender therapy programs provide services to females. Approximately 3,800 adult women and 2,700 adolescent girl offenders were receiving sex offender therapy services in 2007 -- a number that's nearly twice the number of those served in these programs two years prior.

4 to 8% of reported cases of sex abuse were perpetrated by women. An estimated 1.6 million men and 1.5 million women were sexually abused by women when they were children, and among male offenders convicted and sentenced sexual abuse crimes, 24.6% of them were sexually abused by women.

Characteristics of female sex offenders

  1. Women between the ages of 22-33 years of age.
  2. They have experienced sexual abuse as children or teens and can have victimization histories twice the rate of men who sexually offend.
  3. History of alcohol and/or drug abuse.
  4. The majority are not mentally ill, but may experience depression or personality disorders.
  5. A majority are employed in professional jobs.
  6. They have difficulties in intimate relationships; or an absence of intimate relationships.

Victims of female sex offenders:

  1. A high percentage of victims are in the family or the perpetrator is close to the victim -- friend, teacher, coach, sitter or clergy.
  2. Victims are both boys and girls -- with a slightly higher number of girls.
  3. Younger children, under the age of 12, are more often victims of women over the age of 30 years of age.
  4. Children between the ages of 13-17 are often the victims of women who are between the ages of 18 to 25 years of age.
  5. Women do not tend to show a "victim age preference" in the same manner that male sex offenders do.

Categories of female sex ffenders

  1. Teacher/Lover: At the time of their offending, these women are often struggling with peer relationships. They perceive themselves as having romantic or sexually mentoring "relationships" with underaged adolescent victims of their sexual preference, and therefore, did not consider what they are doing to be wrong or criminal in nature.
  2. Predisposed: Histories of incestuous sexual victimization, psychological difficulties and deviant sexual fantasies were common among these women who generally acted alone in their offending. They tend to victimize their own children or other young children within their families or they are close too.
  3. Male-Coerced: These women tend to be passive and dependent individuals with histories of sexual abuse and relationship difficulties. Fearing abandonment, they were pressured by male partners to commit sex offenses often against their own children.

Bringing us Out of Denial
If what is being reported is true regarding the death and sexual abuse of Sandra Cantu, then one positive thing that can come out of this horrible situation is that more children, both boys and girls, will report sexual abuse at the hands of female perpetrators and we as a society will no longer deny the harsh reality of sexual violence at the hands of women. If we continue this cultural denial, we deny the victims the support they need to report the trauma and seek help in their healing.

Connect with Dr. Michelle Golland in the Community!

next: People I Want to Punch
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