The research on male/female differences among offenders, in general, is more developed than research specific to sex offenders. Explanations of variations in male/female offending rates have included socialization differences, gender inequality, and adherence to traditional gender roles (Bloom, Owen, & Covington, 2003). Female offenders may be more affected than male offenders by self-esteem issues, depression, and a history of victimization (Hardyman & Van Voorhis, 2004). In one study, approximately one-third had at least one psychiatric hospitalization (West et al., 2011). Female offenders also pose less of a danger to society and commit fewer violent offenses than male offenders. Female offenders are more likely than male offenders to have substance abuse and mental health problems (Hardyman & Van Voorhis, 2004) and to have experienced physical and sexual abuse (Bloom et al., 2003). Moreover, female sex offenders report more severe abuse when compared to male sex offenders (Oliver, 2007).

There are few studies about male/female differences among sex offenders. It has been found, however, that female sex offenders are more likely than male sex offenders to have reported a history of sexual victimization (Allen, 1991), come from dysfunctional homes (Mathews, Hunter, & Vuz, 1997), have more psychological problems (Johanson-Love & Fremouw, 2009), and have more suicide attempts (Miccio-Fonseca, 2000). With regard to criminal histories, female sex offenders have significantly fewer prior arrests than male sex offenders (Freeman & Sandler, 2008). Female sex offenders are also less likely to have prior drug-, violent-, and sexual-offense arrests. Also, female sex offenders are less likely than male sex offenders to have a prior incarceration and probation sentence (Freeman & Sandler, 2008). Female sex offenders are more likely than male sex offenders to have a male victim (Freeman & Sandler, 2008).

Similarities between male and female sex offenders have also been found. Male and female sex offenders have been found in at least one study to be similar in age, race, ethnicity, education level, and life stressors, including job stressors (Miccio- Fonseca, 2000). Also noteworthy, the types of sex crimes committed by women and men are similar (Allen, 1991).

Female and male sex offenders appear to have different pathways to sex crimes (Freeman & Sandler, 2008), which may require different assessment tools and, most importantly, different treatment plans when compared to male sex offenders. In the next section we discuss typologies that have been identified, which again highlight the need to assess female sex offenders differently from male sex offenders.

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