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Neuroscience reveals Female Sex Offending

octubre 23, 2017

Female Sex Offenders

Article written by Psychologist Natalie Ramos Clarkson

Resultado de imagen de Female Sex Offenders

32 year-old high school teacher Julie Feil pleaded guilty to having a three-month sexual relationship with a 15-year-old boy who was in her English class. (Source: Entertainment,Thoughts, and Concerns of Gary Graefen – blogger).


Sex offending can be defined as an illegal sexual act, which may include sex, rape, molestation, sexual harassment and the production and distribution of pornography (Farlex, 2014). Recent neuroscience research suggests that there is a higher prevalence of female sex offending on adult and child victims than is reported. (Condy, Templer Brown & Veaco, 1987). Hetherton & Beardsall (1989) gender biases are found in child protective system, with claims against female sex offenders were not taken as seriously by law enforcement and social workers with few arrests. Since the development of services such as Childline in the UK recent statistics indicate that female sex offending is more frequent than official statistics represented, with five percent of females and fourty-four percent of males reporting female perpetrators. Recent statistics published by the Ministry of Justice (2014) reports that less that 1% of arrests are made for women accused of sexual offences in England and Wales (Minstry of Justice, 2014). Similar statistics show that less than three percent of reported sexual assaults and prosecutions of female perpetrators of sex crimes are reported in Europe (Crime and Criminal Justice Statistics, 2017). Thus, females continue to occupy a relatively low percentage of sexual offending in comparison to males in some countries.

7 out of 10 rapes are committed by someone known to the victim.

RAINN is the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization. Source:

Matthews et al. (1989) report a typology of female sex offenders.  These were categorized as the ‘teacher-lover’ type, which usually refers to the assault inflicted upon an adolescent, in which the perpetrator is misled to believe they have formed a romantic relationship with a victim (Wijkman, Bijleveld, & Hendriks, 2010). The ‘intergenerationally predisposed’ type, where the perpetrator has themselves suffered from a past of physical and sexual abuse, mainly inflicting the assault upon their own off-spring or child acquaintances (Wijkman, Bijleveld, & Hendriks, 2010). Ultimately, the ‘male-coerced’ type of sexual assault, in which females engage in sexually abusive activity predominantly lead by their intimate male partner (Wijkman, Bijleveld, & Hendriks, 2010). These typologies will enable us to obtain an understanding of the profile and neuroscience of women who sexually offend.


The Teacher-Lover Sex Offender

Resultado de imagen de The Teacher-Lover Sex Offender

Source: Kelly Hunter.

The teacher-lover offender can be typically seen in a woman who associates with adolescents and is under the impression that they are relatable as peers (Wakefield & Underwager, 1991). Rudin et al. (1995) claim that teachers, babysitters and nursery assistants consist of twenty-five percent of the female sex offending population (Bexson, 2011). A study conducted by Faller (1995) concludes that 7.5 percent of these females were themselves young adults who displayed signs of failed peer relationships and were not provided with any sexual alternatives. The study into the neuroscience of these women shows that they were found to suffer from childhood attachment issues and a lack of emotional bonds with others (Wakefield & Underwager, 1991). Elliot (2004) found that the teacher/lover offender has come from a dysfunctional family in which she has suffered from extensive physical, sexual or emotional abuse, most likely from a paternal figure or within family sexual abuse as an adolescent (Wijkman, Bijleveld, & Hendriks, 2010). This type of offender tends to show struggle in pursuing adult romantic relationships, and a history of having been sexually abusive (Menstuff,1996). It is more than likely that this type of perpetrator shows a history of recurrent substance addiction.


The Predisposed Female Sex Offender

Imagen relacionada

Long Term Effects of Sexual Abuse by a Female

Faller (1995) found that fifteen percent of females who abused their own children, were single parents, and were not involved in any significant relationships with males (Bexson, 2011). Thus, these women engaged in sexual activity more often with the older sibling as a substitute of a partner (Wakefield & Underwager, 1991). Women that fell into this typology, were described as suffering from attachment issues, failure to create emotional bonds and substance abuse (Wakefield & Underwager, 1991). Elliot (2004) found early physical, sexual and emotional abuse was more prevalent among this type of offender (Wakefield & Underwager, 1991). Females in this category showed low levels of empathy for victims and portrayed a need for power or control over the victim as the main motive for their offending behaviour (Elliott, Eldridge, Ashfield, & Beech, 2010).

Coerced Female Sex Offenders

“National Incidence Study figures suggest that almost half of the sexual experiences of children included a female perpetrator” (Wakefield & Underwager, 1991). According to Faller (1995), 72.5 percent of females involved in sexual offending, fell into the male-coerced category. He claimed sexual acts were usually enforced by the male perpetrator, and females acted in a secondary position. McCarthy’s study (1986) provides evidence that women involved in male-coerced offending, showed a generally lower IQ than average, and a high dependency on their intimate partner (Wakefield & Underwager, 1991). Females in this category showed an inability to empathise with their victims (Elliott, Eldridge, Ashfield, & Beech, 2010). Studies found that most women who participated in male-coerced sexual offending suffered from extensive dependency issues and complied due to fear that they would be punished by their partners (Bexson, 2011). This type of abuse usually remains intra-familial (Wakefield & Underwager, 1991).


What are some of the neurological characteristics that are found to be common amongst these women? Numerous studies into the neuroscience of female sex offending concluded that parental rejection, neglect and poor attachments were highly associated with women categorizing into all three of these typologies. Only five percent of women across these typologies were found to have been previously reported for sexual offences. This is cause for concern as this is a very low sample of women to be on police radar and even so, were still able to have access to children (Elliott, Eldridge, Ashfield, & Beech, 2010). Ramsay-Klawsnik (1990) found that one out of eighty-three cases of female sex offending, was criminally prosecuted (Denov, 2003). This is highly concerning as we see how female sex offenders are more difficult to detect. Fifty percent of women across these typologies displayed an inability to process negative emotions and henceforth struggled with the notion of parenting, and their behaviour towards children (Elliott, Eldridge, Ashfield, & Beech, 2010). Statistics show that fifteen to 50 percent of female perpetrators reoffend or have more than one victim (Wakefield & Underwager, 1991). The incidence and nature of structural brain dysfunction was investigated in a pilot study sample of individuals currently assigned the Nebraska Penal Code designation of mentally disordered sexual offender. It was hypothesized that the sexual offenders would show a significantly higher incidence of dysfunction than a psychosocially normal group as evidenced by computed tomography scan measures, regional cerebral blood flow, and neuropsychological instruments.Preliminary analyses indicate that 50% of the sexual offenders tested showed brain dysfunction as demonstrated by decreased density measures, decreased blood flow, and performance deficits on the Luria Battery. The implications of these findings, if confirmed, are substantial on issues of criminal responsibility, sentencing, treatment, and rehabilitation of the sex offender (Graber B, Hartmann K, Coffman JA, Huey CJ, Golden CJ, 1982).

Resultado de imagen de Brain damage among mentally disordered sex offenders


What are some of the main problems within this area? Professionals such as therapists, social workers and police officers struggle with the notion of female as sex offenders and therefore need to be trained to understand that this does and can happen regularly. The impact of female sexual offences are proving to be significantly more destructive with statistics showing that over half of male victims and three quarters of female victims identifying the impact to be so severe that they remain doubtful about any chance of recovery (Bexson, 2011). Female sex offending has been overlooked and there are many biases in the legal system and social services that need to be addressed.


How can these be solved? It is necessary that professionals be trained to deal with victims of female sex offending, in order to ensure that victims feel at ease when reporting the crime. It becomes increasingly obvious that the population of female sex offenders are very impacting, though largely neglected and therefore research should be directed towards the development and criminal behaviour of these women, to later determine adequate methods of intervention before and after incarceration (Menstuff,1996). According to Harris (2010), as attention from the Criminal Justice System increases on behalf of women as sexual perpetrators, female sexual offender typologies should continue to be developed through rigorous methodology and data collection (Blasko, 2016). This could ultimately ensure we develop accurate profiles of female sex offenders that will facilitate the detection of them by the public, and subsequently lead to its prevention.

From → Neurociencia

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