Another study on prevalence rates and female sex offenders

We have posted previously about a study that looked at prevalence rates of male and female sex offenders and found they were about the same.  Now we are adding another study that has found similar results.  According to a CNN article that quoted this study

“The study also found that males and females carried out sexual violence at strikingly similar rates after the age of 18 — 52% of males and 48% of females. The study classified sexual violence into a few categories: foresexual or presexual contact (kissing, touching, etc. against their will), coercive sex, attempted rape, and completed rape. Women were more likely to instigate unwanted foresexual contact.”

Ybarra, M. L., & Mitchell, K. J. (2014). Prevalence rates of male and female sexual violence perpetrators in a national sample of adolescents. Jama Pediatrics, 167(12), 1125-1134.


Importance  Sexual violence can emerge in adolescence, yet little is known about youth perpetrators—especially those not involved with the criminal justice system.

Objective  To report national estimates of adolescent sexual violence perpetration and details of the perpetrator experience.

Design, Setting, and Participants  Data were collected online in 2010 (wave 4) and 2011 (wave 5) in the national Growing Up With Media study. Participants included 1058 youths aged 14 to 21 years who at baseline read English, lived in the household at least 50% of the time, and had used the Internet in the last 6 months. Recruitment was balanced on youths’ biological sex and age.

Main Outcomes and Measures  Forced sexual contact, coercive sex, attempted rape, and completed rape.

Results  Nearly 1 in 10 youths (9%) reported some type of sexual violence perpetration in their lifetime; 4% (10 females and 39 males) reported attempted or completed rape. Sixteen years old was the mode age of first sexual perpetration (n = 18 [40%]). Perpetrators reported greater exposure to violent X-rated content. Almost all perpetrators (98%) who reported age at first perpetration to be 15 years or younger were male, with similar but attenuated results among those who began at ages 16 or 17 years (90%). It is not until ages 18 or 19 years that males (52%) and females (48%) are relatively equally represented as perpetrators. Perhaps related to age at first perpetration, females were more likely to perpetrate against older victims, and males were more likely to perpetrate against younger victims. Youths who started perpetrating earlier were more likely than older youths to get in trouble with caregivers; youths starting older were more likely to indicate that no one found out about the perpetration.

Conclusions and Relevance  Sexual violence perpetration appears to emerge earlier for males than females, perhaps suggesting different developmental trajectories. Links between perpetration and violent sexual media are apparent, suggesting a need to monitor adolescents’ consumption of this material. Victim blaming appears to be common, whereas experiencing consequences does not. There is therefore urgent need for school programs that encourage bystander intervention as well as implementation of policies that could enhance the likelihood that perpetrators are identified.

With more than 1 million victims and associated costs of almost $127 billion each year, sexual violence is a significant public health problem.1 In addition to societal costs, the impact on the individual can be high, including increased rates of posttraumatic stress disorder,2 physical health problems,3 and suicidal behavior.4

Sexual violence can emerge in adolescence,5– 7 making this developmental time a critical period of inquiry. Nonetheless, nationwide estimates for adolescent perpetrators of sexual violence in community samples are lacking8 and state estimates vary significantly.1 Moreover, almost all of the sexual violence perpetration literature focuses on boys as the sexual aggressors and females as victims.9– 12 In studies that include both adolescent males and females as perpetrators, females are less likely to engage in sexually violent behavior than males.13– 15 Research examining specific event characteristics of male and female sexual offenders is even more limited and is conflicting as to whether differences exist.16,17 There is a clear need for a better understanding not just of prevalence rates but also how sexual violence may be different for older and younger adolescents as well as males and females. Given emerging interest in possible links between exposure to sexual material and sexual behavior and attitudes18– 20 as well as violent pornography and violent sexual behavior,21 further research examining the associations between media and sexual violence also is critical.


It is interesting to see this study as other research has pointed to female offenders offending against children/adolescents more than adults.


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2 thoughts on “Another study on prevalence rates and female sex offenders

  1. I am so grateful that you are out there. Traumatized by female therapist – still really in survival mode. Women’s organization out here – despite knowing what she did – held a fundraising event to honor her as a feminist role model. They are simply dismissing those of us who experienced exploitation at her hands. Your website is a relief in what has been a devastating experience…

    I would like to know what your experience has been in trying to get people to recognize this. I am not ready to simply let this go – but the women’s community is a tough wall to crack. Any advice would be appreciated.


  2. The experience has varied over the years depending on the group. It seems that there will always be some people that just don’t want to look at the entire picture unless it matches what they believe it should be. There are even some researchers in this very topic that appear to deliberately low ball the numbers by cherry picking the research they look at or cite but ignoring all others. I have found that it is not even worth the stress of trying to convince those people and much easier to try and present all the research and let people decide for themselves.

    When it comes to denial, that is something that is common with sexual abuse and abuse cases in general. Some of the worst responses I have ever had have come from people who were the last people you would expect to be so callous. Working with sexual abuse cases in religious settings and with professions that help others and every time I have experienced denial, people minimizing it (such as saying well she/he has helped so many people over the years…) and in very nasty ways and language.

    But the denial about female perpetrated sexual abuse or abuse in general is just part of the norm in the US. Watch television and every time that human trafficking, prostitution, domestic violence are brought up it almost always shows female victims but never mentions male victims or female perpetrators. In my opinion we will never go beyond a certain point in reducing various forms of violence until we look at all of it rather than trying to divide people.

    As for Women’s community I assume you are meaning feminist groups. I have experienced the range from good to bad with them and frankly I try to purposely avoid the gender politics and stick with a humanist message. I also try to stick with letting people research and decide for themselves because, for me anyway, trying to force or push this on people has just made them more resistant. Plus there will always be a few that nothing will change their minds.


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