RARE JUVENILE SEX OFFENDERS
Often unusual cases of juvenile sex offenders are reported in the media—they are rare events and become newsworthy. This can give the impression that these cases occur more frequently than they do. For example, the majority of juvenile sex offenders are male—very few are female. Sensational media accounts of juvenile female sex offenders, however, may leave one with the impression that there are more juvenile female sex offenders than there actually are. This section discusses the number of female sex offenders, as indicated by arrest data. It will also provide information regarding the number of crimes where juvenile sex offenders escalate to murder.
Juvenile Female Sex Offenders
Juvenile female sex offenders account for a small number of juvenile arrests for sex crimes. According to arrest records compiled by the FBI, of the arrests for rape and other sex crimes in 2014, approximately 2% were juvenile females (FBI, 2016). Given their small numbers, few studies have been conducted on juvenile female sex offenders. Moreover, most of those studies have relied on sample sizes of less than 30 (Bumby & Bumby, 1993; Bumby & Bumby, 1997; Fehrenbach & Monastersky, 1988; Fehrenbach, Smith, Montastersky, & Deisher, 1986; Fromuth & Conn, 1997; Hunter, Lexier, Goodwin, Browne, & Dennis, 1993; Johnson, 1989; Miller, Trapani, Fejes-Mendoza, Eggleston, & Dwiggins, 1995). Only a few include larger samples (Mathews, Hunter, & Vuz, 1997; Vandiver, 2010; Vandiver & Teske, 2006), limiting their generalizability. Thus, the findings presented here should be interpreted with caution, as studies with larger samples may generate different results.
Most juvenile female sex offenders are, on average, between the ages of 12 and 15 and are White (Vandiver, 2010). The victims are typically very young, usually younger than 12 years old (Chasnoff et al., 1986; Fehrenbach & Monastersky, 1988; Fehrenbach et al., 1986; Fromuth & Conn, 1997; Johnson, 1989), and are typically younger than for juvenile male sex offenders (Ray & English, 1995; Vandiver & Teske, 2006). Reports of physical abuse occur at higher rates among juvenile female sex offenders compared to juvenile male sex offenders (Mathews et al., 1997). Girls were also more likely to have experienced emotional abuse and/or neglect (Ray & English, 1995). The girls were more likely than boys to exhibit more psychological problems (Bumby, 1996; Bumby & Bumby, 1997; Ray & English, 1995). Girls were also more likely than boys to act with a co-offender (Vandiver, 2010).
There is considerable evidence that juvenile female sex offenders typically know their victims and are often related to them. For example, one study found that half of the sample were related to the victim, and another showed that three-fourths were related to the victim (Bumby & Bumby, 1993; Hunter et al., 1993). Thus, juvenile female sex offenders most often choose victims they know, and often they are relatives.