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Female Offenders

By skriggins1120 Nov 24, 2008 745 Words
Recently there has been much more discussion of women as possible perpetrators of child sexual abuse than in earlier years. Some researchers suggest it is not as rare as previously assumed. However, there is still considerable disagreement and confusion about just how frequently women sexually abuse children, what type of women do this, and under what circumstances. Finkelhor, Williams, and Burns (1988), in a national study of 270 day care cases, report that 40% of the perpetrators were women. These women tended to be intelligent, educated, highly regarded in their communities, and not likely to have a history of known deviant behavior. Many of these apparently normal women were alleged to have engaged in extremely deviant behavior including oral-genital penetration (

There are beginning to be studies which address the characteristics of female sexual abuse perpetrators. Many of these are based on small samples and case studies. As with any case study or small sample, the information may not accurately generalize the characteristics of many female perpetrators. However, this information provides a necessary starting point ( Mathews, Matthews, and Speltz (1987) and Patton (1987), report on a study of 16 female sexual offenders who were in the Genesis II treatment project in Minnesota. All but one of the women studied were victims of childhood sexual abuse and many were also victims of physical abuse. There were strong and consistent patterns of childhood social isolation, alienation, and lack of development of interpersonal skills in the women studied. Three categories of female sex offenders were described; the “Teacher/Lover,” “Predisposed” and “Male-Coerced” ( The “Teacher/Lover” is generally involved with adolescent males that she may relate to as a peer. Her alleged motive is to teach her young victims about sexuality. The “Predisposed” offender is usually a victim of severe sexual abuse that was initiated at a very young age and remained the victim over a long period of time. She initiated the sexual abuse herself and the victims could be her own children. Her motives are nonthreatening emotional intimacy. The “Male-Coerced” offender acts initially in conjunction with a male who has previously abused children. This may lead her to eventually initiate sexual abuse herself. Her victims could be children both within and outside of the family. ( In a study by Faller in 1987, reports on a clinical sample of 40 women who were judged to have sexually abused at least 63 children. These women represented 14% of the total of 289 perpetrators of sexual abuse. Many of the women had significant difficulties in psychological and social functioning. About half had mental problems, both retardation and psychotic illness. More than half had chemical dependency problems, and close to three-fourths had harmed their victims in other ways in addition to the sexual abuse ( Another study by McCarty in 1986 describes the characteristics of 26 mother-child incest offenders. These women were identified by the Dallas Incest Treatment Program over a three-year period and made up 4% of the total offender population. Nine of the mothers were assisting their male partner while 12 were independent offenders. All but two of the women described their childhood as difficult and abusive. When the mother was a co-offender, her dependency on her spouse was the major contributing factor. Half of these women were of borderline intelligence (Elliot, Michele 1994). The women who were independent offenders in particular thought of themselves to be loners with no sense of attachment or belonging. They were likely to have married as teenagers. Half were characterized as seriously emotionally disturbed and almost half had a serious chemical abuse problem. However, all were at least of average intelligence. In three of the cases of mother-son incest, the father was out of the home and the mothers seemed to treat the boys as age mates. However, the women who abused daughters seemed to treat the daughters as extensions of themselves (Elliot, Michele 1994).

In conclusion, women in child care roles are sometimes capable of sexually abusing the ones they are taking care of. It is important for social workers and counselors working with these women to look in to their past attitudes and experiences to evaluate these circumstances to help prevent future cases. Sexual abuse in women is often unexpected and may go unrecognized but it can occur (

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