Female Sex Offenders: A Comparison of Solo Offenders and Co-Offenders
Vandiver, Donna M., Violence and Victims
Even though much of the prior sex offender literature focuses on males, recent research has included females as offenders. Such research, however, has been limited by small sample sizes. Several researchers have proposed typologies of female sex offenders that include both females who act alone (i.e., solo offenders) and females who act with another person (i.e., co-offenders), often a male. The current research includes a cross-national sample of 123 females who were solo offenders and 104 who were co-offenders. It was found that the two groups of females were not significantly different in regard to their age, race, time of offense, and the location of the offense. Co-offenders were more likely than solo offenders to have more than one victim, to have both male and female victims, to be related to the victim, and to have a nonsexual offense in addition to the sexual offense listed.
Keywords: female sex offender; solo offender; co-offender; logistic regression
Much of the prior literature on sex offenders has focused solely on males (see Barnard, Fuller, & Robbins, 1989; Knight, Rosenberg, & Schneider, 1985; Kuznestov & Pierson, 1992; Prentky, Cohen, & Seghorn, 1985; Rosenberg, Knight, Prentky, & Lee, 1988); recently, however, sex offender research has included female offenders (see Denov, 2004; Lewis & Stanley, 2000; Nathan & Ward. 2002; Vandiver & Kercher, 2004). Official law enforcement reports for 2002 (U.S. Department of Justice, 2003) indicate that females were arrested for 6.7% of sex offenses (forcible rape and other sex offenses, excluding prostitution). Some researchers, however, have suggested official numbers of female sex offenders are underestimated (Finkelhor, Hotaling, Lewis, & Smith, 1990). Sex offenses, in general, often go unreported to law enforcement. Females may be better able to hide the offense by engaging in such offenses during normal child-rearing practices, such as bathing, dressing, and other normal routine tasks (Groth & Birnbaum, 1979). Additionally, the cases reported to law enforcement do not always result in an arrest (Allen, 1991). It is often perceived that females simply cannot sexually assault another person; society has been geared towards assuming sex offenders are only males and females are incapable of committing such offenses (Denov, 2004).
Prior research on female sex offenders has been limited by small sample sizes, making it difficult to generalize to larger groups; fewer than 12 studies have used samples greater than 30. With the exception of one study (see Vandiver & Kercher, 2004), studies have utilized no more than 100 female sex offenders in their sample. Other studies have relied on extremely small samples, ranging from only one to nine female sex offenders or victims of female sexual abuse (see Chasnoff, Burns, Schnoll, Burns, Chisom, & Kyle-Spore, 1986; Chow & Choy, 2002; Krug, 1989; Margolis, 1984; Marvasti, 1986; Peluso & Putnam, 1996; Rowan, Rowan, & Langelier, 1990; Travin, Cullen, & Protter, 1990). Even though the studies have provided a great deal of descriptive data, the information is limited in that it is not possible to assess complex relationships among the variables.
Prior research has also been limited in the source of the sample of offenders (Vandiver & Kercher, 2004). Much of the research has relied upon clinical samples, which may not be representative of female sex offenders in that it includes a psychologically impaired sample. Prison samples have also been utilized, which include only the most serious offenders. Prison samples do not include those who are placed on probation or receive another form of community supervision. It also excludes those who are circumvented from the criminal justice system altogether. Additionally, few studies have included cross-national samples. Including only localized samples leads to poor generalizability.
Despite the development of information regarding characteristics of females who have committed sex offenses, a paucity of information exists in regard to the differences of females who act alone and females who act with a co-offender. …