The assessment of females who sexual abuse

One in every hundred



  • Today is 22nd March 1998

Where are we?

  • Understanding the base rate is fundamental.
  • 1-3% sexual recidivism rate.
  • Identify the one in 100 who will re-offend.
  • Who is ‘high risk’?

Static Risk

General & violent recidivism factors in males.

  • Younger age
  • Single
  • Lifestyle instability
  • Rule violations
  • Prior criminal history

Sexual recidivism factors

  • Prior sexual offences
  • Male, stranger and/or unrelated victims.

Static indicators associated with higher general

risk in females

  • Prior criminal history.
  • Younger age (less than 30 years)?

Potential sexual recidivism indicators.

  • Prior non-sexual child abuse offences
  • Prior sexual offences
  • Solo Offender?

Dynamic Risk Factors

  • Dynamic risk factors for women are


  • Assessments of risk/need can only be based on common factors among FSO’s that are suggestive of a relationship with offending.
  • While FSO’s possess some unique features, they do share some of the same characteristics as males – however these manifest themselves in different ways.
  • Denial & minimisations of offending
  • Distorted cognitions about sexual offending

& abuse in general.

  • Problematic relationship & intimacy deficits
  • Use of sex to regulate emotional states or

fulfil intimacy needs.

  • Sexual gratification, desire for intimacy or instrumental goals such as revenge or humiliation.
  • Anti-social attitudes, associates and substance abuse also considered.

Conducting the Assessment

  • Comprehensive psycho-social history examining– dispositional factors, antisocial personality characteristics, historical factors (adverse childhood experiences, prior criminal history); contextual factors (circumstances of offences, social networks); personal life circumstances (relationship and parenting status, educational, work & social functioning) & clinical factors (mental health/substance abuse history)
  • Examination of developmental & family history provides clues to the elements that have contributed to the elements that have contributed to the abusive behaviour.
  • History helps establish if/how past physical, emotional or sexual victimisation links to her offending via a pattern of coping.
  • Helps determine role of sexual relationships the woman’s life, cognitions related to offending, type & extent of problematic relationships & presence/extent of general anti-social characteristics.

Key Takeaways

  • Using risk tools designed for assessing adult male sex offenders grossly overestimates risk in FSO’s.
  • State of our current knowledge is weak and conclusions of likely risk factors for FSO’s continue to be


  • Only indicator of potential for sexual recidivism is the presence of prior child abuse offences.
  • General recidivism is much more likely than sexual recidivism. Select a tool with general validity for

female offenders (LSI-R)

  • Comprehensive assessments of risk and need should be undertaken examining those dynamic factors commonly found in both male and female clinical samples.
  • Simple transfer of knowledge from male sex offender literature to females not appropriate. Examine the factors from gendered perspective.
  • Base rate of sexual recidivism for FSO’s is extremely low.