A comparative study of female sex offenders and female offenders
Strickland, Susan M.
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Although crime rates are declining in recent years, crime rates for women are increasing. Incarceration rates have increased for women by 121% in the last 12 years (compared to an 84% rise for men) (Sacks, 2004). In comparison to the general population, female offenders tend to have higher levels of chemical dependency, personality disorders, childhood trauma histories, including sexual abuse (DOJ, 1992; 1994). In the last 10 years, sexual crime committed by women has been identified and adjudicated at higher frequencies. Few studies have investigated the characteristics of female sex offenders, factors and/or causes of female deviance, and how best to rehabilitate them. Research to date has been descriptive in nature, with few comparison studies. Since women share the similar socialization, sexual development, trauma histories, and gender-specific issues, the pathway to female sexual deviance is unclear. This study used a correlational design, comparing two independent groups. Three valid and reliable test instruments, the Multiphasic Sex Inventory – II (female version) (MSI-II), the Substance Abuse Subtle Screening Inventory – 3 (SASSI-3), and the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire (CTQ), were used to identify differences between female sex offenders and other female offenders in the areas of personality disorders, chemical dependency, childhood trauma, sexual trauma, emotional neediness, cognitive distortions, and social competence. A sample of 130 incarcerated females, 60 sex offenders, and 70 non-sexual offenders, was used. Results indicate few differences exist between female sex offenders and female non-sex offenders. Significant results were found in the areas of total childhood trauma and severity of sexual abuse suffered, as well as in differences in the area of social and sexual competence. No differences were found in use/abuse of substances, personality disorders, emotional neediness or cognitive distortions. Implications for identification, adjudication, and rehabilitation of female sex offenders are discussed.