Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Female Sex Offenders


Females apparently represent only ten percent of sex offenders, and many of these are mothers molesting their children or female relatives of the victims. Yet the number of female teachers targeting students is increasing. These women initiate the activity with some type of flirtatious overture, taking advantage of boys who were sexually stimulated and flavoring their crime with a romantic tone. There was no violence involved, some of them rationalize, and the boys were willing, so what is the problem? These offenders apparently feel entitled to cross the line and take whatever they want. But they're abusing their roles to satisfy themselves.  Romantic or not, they are female sexual offenders.

Some have only one victim, but many have several, and it's often not clear that those with one victim had actually limited themselves; it could be the case that they're just not talking and neither are their victims. Those who view the relationship as "love" and convince themselves that they're soul mates with the boy generally do stick to one victim.

Psychologist A. J. Cooper points out that the reasons why some women become sex offenders is incompletely understood, but he thinks that it might result from a combination of hypersexuality, associations with early sexual experiences, and imitation of abuse perpetrated on them (although only a few of the teachers have said they were abused). Most are immature, dependent, and sensitive to rejection, so they gravitate toward younger people who are not their peers. The risk of rejection is less likely and they create situations in which they can be in control.

Practical Aspects of Rape Investigation
Practical Aspects of Rape

Psychiatrist Janet Warren and psychologist Julia Hislop also researched female sexual offenders, and in Practical Aspects of Rape Investigation, they offer a typology:

  • Facilitators — women who intentionally aid men in gaining access to children for sexual purposes
  • Reluctant partners — women in long term relationships who go along with sexual exploitation of a minor out of fear of being abandoned
  • Initiating partner — women who want to sexually offend against a child and who may do it themselves or get a man or another woman to do it while they watch
  • Seducers and lovers — women who direct their sexual interest against adolescents and develop an intense attachment
  • Pedophiles — women who desire an exclusive and sustain sexual relationship with a child
  • Psychotic — women who suffer from a mental illness and who have inappropriate sexual contact with children as a result

In some cases, women who lacked ongoing relationships with men put their male children in the role of substitute lover, and there are cases in which the sexual contact is used as revenge against a male partner. These female perpetrators generally come from chaotic homes. "Not only does this have long term effects on the children," these researchers note, "but it also serves as a contagion that follows victims into the next generation with repetitious and cyclical traumatization of others."

There are increasingly more studies that focus on potential long-term effects on the victims of these associations. Frederick Mathews, Ph.D. writes in The Invisible Boy about studies since the 1980s that attempt to quantify the cases. Generally, the percentages are small, but they range from 1% to 24%, apparently (one study even had female offenders at 50%). That's a fairly wide range of findings, which indicates, perhaps, that the studies have not been rigorous as yet. As Mathews states, "These extraordinary differences tell us we need to start questioning all of our assumptions about perpetrators and victims of child maltreatment."

At the very least, it's fairly clear that the female teachers generally use a style of seduction known as grooming, in which they gradually get a child into position to respond to their overtures. Sometimes they're even encouraged by tolerant social attitudes.

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