Female sexual offending

Miriam Wijkman, Jeffrey C. Sandler

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Many people think that sexual offenses are only committed by men. This is reflected in the fact that research on female sexual offending is scarce: The majority of studies on sexual offending focus on adult or juvenile males. At the same time, victimology studies and self-report studies on sexual offending show that female sexual offending is not as rare as many may think (Cortoni, Babchishin, & Rat, 2016). Even if women involved in sexual crimes may constitute a small group and may be responsible for a small proportion of all sexual offenses, the short-and long-term impact of sexual victimization is relatively large, varying from medical and sexual problems to psychological problems and (sexual) re-victimization (Beitchman et al., 1992; Browne & Finkelhor, 1986). Some researchers even suggest that the effects of sexual victimization caused by a woman may be more serious than the effects of sexual victimization caused by a man (Bunting, 2007; Denov, 2004a). The aim of this chapter is to provide a review of the scientific literature on the topic of female sexual offending. We will report the prevalence research on female sexual offending, describe offender and offense characteristics, and provide an overview of several topics less studied for female sexual offending, namely criminal career features, risk factors for recidivism and assessment, and treatment. Comparisons and contrasts with male sexual offending will be made. In this chapter, we will solely describe female sexual offending of hands-on offenses, offending such as rape and sexual assault, as research has indicated that females who commit hands-off sexual offenses may differ significantly from those who commit hands-on offenses (e.g., Cortoni, Sandler, & Freeman, 2015). Likewise, studies which focus on women who commit other hands-off offenses such as trafficking for sexual exploitation and prostitution (e.g., Reid, this book), or child pornography (e.g., Fortin & Paquette, this book) are also not included in this chapter. Furthermore, we will only include studies with adult (18+) women. For more information on juvenile female sexual offending, we refer to McCuish and Lussier’s chapter (Chapter 10).

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSexual offending
Subtitle of host publicationa criminological perspective
EditorsPatrick Lussier, Eric Beauregard
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9781315522685, 9781315522692
ISBN (Print)9781138697034
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Publication series

NameGlobal issues in crime and justice

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    Wijkman, M., & Sandler, J. C. (2018). Female sexual offending. In P. Lussier, & E. Beauregard (Eds.), Sexual offending: a criminological perspective (pp. 257-275). (Global issues in crime and justice). Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315522692