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FSOs - McLeod 2014

David A. McLeod, PhD, MSW | University of Oklahoma | | | 405-325-4647

Female Sexual Offending FACT SHEET

Myth, Media, & Reality: Public Perceptions and the Phenomenon of Female Sexual
Offending in the US

Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) is an Epidemic
o Up to 10 times higher rates than polio at the height of that epidemic
CSA causes incredible trauma and sustained problems throughout the lifespan
o Affective and emotional dysregulation, cognitive impairment, attachment
impairment, behavioral regulation problems, social development problems,
negative self-concept.
o See Trauma CEU resources at or
It is a myth that females do not sexually offend on children
o This is perpetuated by the media
o We are all susceptible to the misinformation that FSOs are only young teachers
in romantic relationships with 17-year-old boys.
FSOs account for 20% of sex crimes and 1% of sex crime related incarcerations
FSOs have major mental health issues and their offending patterns are significantly
different than those of males
o Higher personal trauma histories
o Distorted boundary development
o Less about power, control, or entitlement and more about relationship based
o They will return to their victims
McLeods nationwide research study (including all CPS reported child sexual abuse
cases in the country for one year)
o Some basics
! 21% of cases had a primary perpetrator who was female
! FSOs are more likely to have female victims (68%)
! FSOs have younger victims than males
! FSOs are more likely to offend on very young children
! 14 yoa girls are at the highest risk (both male and female offenders)
o System entry and exit
! FSOs more likely to be reported by relatives, friends, and anonymous
! Male offenders and victims of a higher age are more likely to be reported
to LE, and female offenders and lower age victims are more likely to be
reported to CPS
o Using social services data to learn about FSOs
! Low SES
More likely to be on housing assistance, other public assistance
and have significant financial problems
! Receive far more family based services
FSOs - McLeod 2014
David A. McLeod, PhD, MSW | University of Oklahoma | | | 405-325-4647
These include family support, adoption, CASA, post investigation,
Likely due to complications of females being more likely to be in a
caregiving role for children
! Treatment services
Twice as likely as males to receive counseling and mental health
services and 3 times more likely to receive substance abuse
! Financially based services
Far more likely than males to receive daycare, education, legal,
transportation and other services indicative of low SES
o Victim and Offender Risk Factors
! Victim risk
FSOs are more likely to offend on children with drug and alcohol
problems, metal or physical impairment, learning disabilities,
medical conditions, or children who were prior victims
FSOs offend on the most vulnerable
! Offender age
FSOs start offending later in life and end before men
o 27-39 is the primary window
! at least that we know of - they may just be better at
not being caught
! Relationship
FSOs are almost 5 times more likely to be a biological parent
3 times more likely to be an adoptive parent
! Offender risk
Much like in their victim selection, FSOs are more likely to have
drug and alcohol problems, physical, medical, emotional, and
cognitive impairments, and current experiences of domestic
violence in the home
o Substantiation
! Cases involving male offenders are substantiated at slightly higher rates
than those involving females


McLeod, D.A., (In Press) Female offenders in child sexual abuse cases: A national picture. The Journal of Child Sexual Abuse.

McLeod, D.A. (2013). The Impact of Perpetrator Gender on Child Protective Services Sexual Abuse Cases: A National Picture. Virginia
Commonwealth University.

Others available on request.

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