Nathan and Ward (2001) conclude that the similarities between male and female child sex offenders include maltreatment and abuse during childhood; social and attachment deficits; poor adult intimate relationships; grooming patterns; denial and lack of empathy; distorted beliefs regarding children and deviant arousal and substance abuse. Females differ from males as the majority of offences occur in the presence of a male associate; they use less coercive measures; they prefer female victims; there is a higher level of incest; they are more attached to the victims and usually offend against familiar victims (see also Hunter & Mathews, 1997). Of interest is the finding that female sex offenders have a relatively higher incidence of serious mental illness (Adshead, Howelt, & Mason, 1994 as cited in Nathan & Ward, 2001) and mental health problems such as borderline personality disorder, major depression and substance abuse have been found prominent in female sex offenders.
In regards to using violence, “existing evidence suggest that only a minority of female offenders use violence or other force in perpetrating acts of sexual abuse” (Grayston & De Luca, 1999, p. 97). They appear to use persuasion rather than force or threats. However, Atkinson (2000) reported that violence was common amongst incarcerated female sexual offenders. Lewis and Stanley (2000) noted that a higher percentage of women sex offenders used weapons than their male counterparts. It appears relevant to consider the use of violence when assessing sexual female offenders.