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Neuroscience and Brain Stimulation: Female Sex Offenders.

noviembre 23, 2017

Article written by Psychologist Natalie Ramos Clarkson

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Female Sex Offenders

Sex offending can be defined as an illegal sexual act which may include sex, rape, molestation, sexual harassment and the production or distribution of pornography (Farlex, 2014). Recent research suggests that there is a higher prevalence of female sex offenders on adult and child victims than is reported (Condy, Templer Brown & Veaco, 1987). Hetherton & Beardsall (1989) state that gender biases are found in the child protective system, with claims against female sex offenders not being taken as seriously by law enforcement officers and social workers than claims against male offenders. Since the development of services such as Childline (UK) recent statistics indicate that female sex offending is more frequent than official statistics represent, with five percent of females and fourty-four percent of males reporting females as perpetrators of sex crimes. Thus, less than one percent of arrests are made for women accused of sexual offences in England and Wales. Similarly, less than three percent of reported sexual incidents against females perpetrators result in prosecution across Europe (Ministry of Justice, 2014). Is the idea of females as sex offenders being overlooked by the notion that women are born to be nurturers?

Matthews et al. (1989) report that there are three typologies of female sex offenders that can be identified.  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 the 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 led 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.

Brain Characteristics of Sex Offenders

Resultado de imagen de Sex Offenders brain

Source: Alice Algeria

The Teacher-Lover Sex Offender

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% 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.

Resultado de imagen de Sex Offenders brain

The Predisposed Female Sex Offender 

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% 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 empathize 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 fifty 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 using a sample of individuals currently assigned the Nebraska Penal Code’s designation of mentally disordered sex offenders. It was hypothesized that the sex offenders would show a significantly higher incidence of dysfunction than a normal psychosocial group as evidenced by computed tomography scan measures, regional cerebral blood flow, and neuropsychological instruments. Preliminary analyses indicate that fifty percent of the sex 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 BHartmann KCoffman JAHuey CJGolden CJ, 1982).

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 sex 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.

Resultado de imagen de Sex Offenders.

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 largely neglected and therefore research should be directed towards determining 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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