The exception that proves the rule

The exception that proves the rule

Female sex offending and the gendered nature of sexual violence

Mary Stathopoulos

ACSSA Research Summary No. 5 — March 2014
The exception that proves the rule: Female sex offending and the gendered nature of sexual violence

This Research Summary demonstrates that female sex offending, although a serious issue, makes up a very small percentage of all sex offences. Correctional services data show a prevalence rate of just under 5% (Cortoni & Hanson, 2005). This paper explores prevalence statistics as well as offender and offence characteristics from data collected about female sex offenders. Data limitations with this population include very small samples, usually limited to custodial populations. This summary outlines the impacts on victims of sex offences by women, as well as issues related to disclosing the abuse. The available literature on prevention as well as treatment options is also explored.

Key messages

Although female sex offending is a serious issue it makes up a very small percentage of all sex offences against children and adults: just under 5% of all offences.

Half of all female sex offenders in the criminal justice system co-offended with a male perpetrator.

Male coercion is an important avenue for women's offending.

Victim/survivors of female-perpetrated sexual abuse do not usually disclose abuse.

Female sexual offending can be difficult to conceptualise and theorise when most theories of sexual offending are based on male perpetrators.

Authors and Acknowledgements

At the time of writing Mary Stathopoulos was a Senior Research Officer with ACSSA at the Australian Institute of Family Studies.

The author would like to thank AIFS staff, particularly Elly Robinson, Antonia Quadara, Liz Wall and Vicky Nagy for their helpful advice on earlier drafts of this publication.

Publication details

ACSSA Research Summary
No. 5
Published by the Australian Institute of Family Studies, March 2014.
24 pp.
ISSN: 
2200-2308
ISBN: 
978-1-922038-46-3
Suggested citation:

Stathopoulos, M. (2014). The exception that proves the rule: Female sex offending and the gendered nature of sexual violence (ACSSA Research Summary). Melbourne: Australian Centre for the Study of Sexual Assault, Australian Institute of Family Studies.

Download Publication

AIFS news

Get the latest news about our publications, research and upcoming events.

Subscribe