Female Sex Offenders: Public Awareness and Attributions


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Abstract

Traditional gender roles, sex scripts, and the way female sex offenders are portrayed in the media may lead to misconceptions about who can commit sexual offenses. Sexual crimes by women may go unnoticed or unreported if there is a general lack of awareness that females commit these crimes. Data from the 2012 Nebraska Annual Social Indicators Survey were used to determine whether the public perceives women as capable sex offenders and the perceived causes of female sex offending. The traditional focus on male sex offenders by researchers, media, and politicians, in addition to gender stereotypes, introduces the possibility of group differences (e.g., between men and women) in perceptions of female sex offenders. Consequently, two secondary analyses were conducted that tested for group differences in both the public's perception of whether females can commit sex offenses and the explanations selected for why females sexually offend. The findings suggest that the public does perceive women as capable sex offenders, although there were group differences in the causal attributions for female sex offending.

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