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Sexual Abuse: A Journal
of Research and
Treatment
http://sax.sagepub.com/

The Recidivism Rates of Female Sexual Offenders Are Low: A
Meta-Analysis
Franca Cortoni, R. Karl Hanson and Marie-Ève Coache
Sex Abuse 2010 22: 387
DOI: 10.1177/1079063210372142
The online version of this article can be found at:
http://sax.sagepub.com/content/22/4/387

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Article

The Recidivism Rates
of Female Sexual
Offenders Are Low:
A Meta-Analysis

Sexual Abuse: A Journal of
Research and Treatment
22(4) 387­ 401

© 2010 Association for the Treatment
of Sexual Abusers
Reprints and permission: http://www.
sagepub.com/journalsPermissions.nav
DOI: 10.1177/1079063210372142
http://sajrt.sagepub.com

Franca Cortoni1, R. Karl Hanson2,
and Marie-Ève Coache1

Abstract
This study examined the recidivism rates of female sexual offenders. A meta-analysis of 10 studies (2,490 offenders; average follow-up 6.5 years) showed that female sexual offenders have extremely low rates of sexual recidivism (less than 3%). The recidivism rates for violent (including sexual) offences and for any type of crime were predictably higher than the recidivism rates for sexual offences but still lower than the recidivism rates of male sexual offenders. These findings indicate the need for distinct policies and procedures for assessing and managing the risk of male and female sexual offenders. Risk assessment tools developed specifically for male sexual offenders would be expected to substantially overestimate the recidivism risk of female sexual offenders.

Keywords
female sexual offenders, recidivism, meta-analysis
Although tremendous advances have been made in the understanding of the recidivism rates of adult male sexual offenders, similar knowledge is still extremely limited for female sexual offenders. Like men, women convicted of sexual offenses are subject to social control policies (e.g., Canadian Dangerous Offender Provisions, U.S. Sexually Violent Predator laws). Without an empirical basis for risk assessment, the

1

Université de Montréal, Montréal, Quebec, Canada
Public Safety Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

2

Corresponding Author:
Franca Cortoni, Université de Montréal, PO Box 6128, Downtown Branch, Montréal, Quebec, Canada H3C 3J7
Email: franca.cortoni@umontreal.ca

Downloaded from sax.sagepub.com by guest on June 17, 2011

388

Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment 22(4)

assessment of these women remains as problematic as the assessment of male sexual offenders was 20 years ago. Reliable estimates of the recidivism base rates of female sexual offenders would be a valuable aid to applied decision makers. Providing these estimates is the primary goal of this study.

Prevalence of Sexual Offending by Women
The prevalence rate of female sexual offending is difficult to ascertain. Some authors believe that sexual offending by females is relatively common but that its extent is unknown because of the lack of reporting or because these women tend to be diverted from the criminal justice system (Vandiver & Walker, 2002). Others suggest that sexual offending by women is likely to be underidentified because of societal and cultural stereotypes of female sexual behavior, including professional biases (Denov, 2003, 2004; Giguere & Bumby, 2007).

In efforts to provide more systematic information about the prevalence of female sexual offenders, in...
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