« "The last thing the Supreme Court needs: Another judge" | Main | Shotgun killing by juvenile in PA raising lots of legal and other challenges »

February 23, 2009

How could more female offenders impact the reality and perception of sex offender sentencing?

This new article from the Dallas Morning News, headlined "Child sex cases involving women are on the rise in Texas," discusses a notable trend in sex offense cases:

The number of women serving time in Texas prisons for having sex with minors has increased more than 36 percent in the last five years. "Up to five years ago, we didn't talk about this," said Keith Durkin, a criminologist and researcher at Ohio Northern University. "Our culture is becoming more aware that women can and do commit these offenses."...

Last month, as a Collin County jury deliberated whether a 40-year-old Allen woman was guilty of having sex with two teenage boys, two other young men came forward with similar accusations against her. Rather than wait for a verdict, Regina Bowling pleaded guilty to two counts of indecency with a child and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Bowling is one of a growing number of women in Texas and nationwide accused of committing sex crimes against minors. So far this year, at least six Collin County women charged with having sex with minors – including Bowling – are either being prosecuted or have already had their cases adjudicated....

Studies suggest that female sex offenders often have a history of depression and anxiety. In addition, like many of their male counterparts, women abusers also may have been sexually abused as children. Durkin said teenage boys are ideal victims of such crimes because they're less likely to complain and, if they do, their outcries "may be dismissed as teenage fish stories."...

Most of the women convicted of sex crimes against minors have had relationships with men their own age but abuse children for their own emotional needs, said Anne Mooney, supervisor of the prison treatment program, which launched in October 2000. She said that unlike male sex offenders, who often seem to lead outwardly normal lives and have families and stable jobs, women convicted of these crimes often have chaotic lives, marked by substance abuse, frequent moves and erratic employment.

I have blogged before about notable cases in which female sex offenders have been sentenced differently than male sex offenders.  But while it is easy to note how sex offense cases appear impacted by gender dynamics, it is hard to feel confident if and how these cases should be impacted by gender dynamics. 

Some prior related posts:

February 23, 2009 at 09:06 AM | Permalink

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d83451574769e201116891e108970c

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference How could more female offenders impact the reality and perception of sex offender sentencing?:

Comments

"She said that unlike male sex offenders, who often seem to lead outwardly normal lives and have families and stable jobs, women convicted of these crimes often have chaotic lives, marked by substance abuse, frequent moves and erratic employment."

Translation: See, women should be treated differently not because they are women but because they have "chaotic lives". Don't you feel sorry for them now? Don't you have pity on these poor women who have so little employment and are on drugs that they are driven, driven by circumstances I tell you, to abuse children. And those males, those tricksters, leading normal lives. Now that's evil for you, all that posturing and lies. Just like men. But women, oh no, just bad circumstances. Just victims. Always victims.

Crapola. The overwhelming majority of people with erratic employment and substance abuse issue don't abuse children. There is no reason that female sex offenders should be treated differently than male sex offenders. But that doesn't mean that there won't be women who will try to spin that story and hope to snare gullible males.

Posted by: Daniel | Feb 23, 2009 11:45:42 AM

"There is no reason that female sex offenders should be treated differently than male sex offenders."

Yes, there is. Now it may be that you find those reasons unpersuasive, but there clearly are very good reasons that we would treat a 40 year old woman who preys on a 14 year old boy differently from a 40 year old man who preys on a 14 year old girl, not the least of which is the fact that the adult male/girl scenario is being done by someone who almost certainly can overpower the victim physically. That matters.

Posted by: federalist | Feb 23, 2009 12:10:08 PM

"not the least of which is the fact that the adult male/girl scenario is being done by someone who almost certainly can overpower the victim physically. That matters."

Not from a legal point of view it. There mere fact that someone has an ability to do something is immaterial in these situations. The law simply looks at whether physical sexual contact took place. I have the ability to physically overpower a lot of people; that ability is not against the law. It is only against the law if I actually do so. Potential is not against the law. You may wish it were against the law, but it's not.

Posted by: Daniel | Feb 23, 2009 1:08:21 PM

Daniel, legislators can take into consideration these types of issues when determining punishments. So, putting any constitutional issues to one side, having a different punishment for adult males in this scenario would be ok with me.

Posted by: federalist | Feb 23, 2009 2:28:02 PM

"not the least of which is the fact that the adult male/girl scenario is being done by someone who almost certainly can overpower the victim physically. That matters."

A woman could sexually assault a 14 year old by pulling out a gun and forcing the boy to engage in sex.

A woman could sexually assault a 14 year old by slipping the boy the date rape drug.

A woman could sexually assault a 14 year old by using her 200lb + advantage to overpower the boy.

A woman could sexually assault a 14 year old by using a mind controlling machine and make the boy engage in sex.

federalist, your argument fails on so many levels. Please try again.

Posted by: MarkM | Feb 23, 2009 6:52:32 PM

Ok Mark, let's get out of la-la land and enter the world of reality. The reality is that most 40 year old men can easily physically overpower a 14 year old girl, and most 14 year old boys cannot be overpowered by a 40 year old woman. That matters. As for the gun and roofie scenario (one wonders if a male could perform if given a roofie, but whatever), there are separate laws to deal with that.

Posted by: federalist | Feb 23, 2009 8:53:56 PM

Federalist, the cases that seem to be focused on here are the statutory situations, no force involved. Both are consenting parties (even if legally one side can't consent). The ability to overpower a consenting party has no bearing. Using your philosophy then we would also have to consider - could the man kill the girl(but didn't)? could the man have forced her to have sex at gun point (but didn't)? could the man have held the girls family hostage and forced her to have sex (but didn't)? Heck, lets use your philosophy with every other crime, say shoplifting! Let's tack on 10 more years to someone's sentence for shoplifting because he could have easily brought a gun and stole the chips at gunpoint. Or someone found guilty of disturbing the peace and sock it to him because he could have easily planted a bomb in a park and blow up 200 people.

Your ideology scares the crap out of me. Or are you like many people out there that think this only applies to 'sex crimes' and nothing more?

"As for the gun and roofie scenario (one wonders if a male could perform if given a roofie, but whatever), there are separate laws to deal with that."

This is an example of how narrow minded you are being about the subject. Sexual assault is not limited to intercourse. I've read enough of your comments to know you're more intelligent then that. Again, i have to say I think its the whole 'sex' element that seems to trip you up.

Posted by: MarkM | Feb 23, 2009 9:30:55 PM

The rules were changed and no one was told. Elvis (or the “King” as he is so commonly referred to by his fans) began a serious relationship with a 14 year old when he was 24. Linda Blair was 15 when she moved in with 25 year old Rick Springfield. Melanie Griffith was 14 when she began dating 22 year old Don Johnson. Sixteen year old Cher had a relationship with 25 year old Warren Beatty. Did any of these individuals do prison time? NO! And none of them are on the Registry.
Think about it!!!
Consensual sex should not be against the law. There is a huge difference between this and molestation and we have lumped them all together. I pray that someday we can straighten all of this HUGE mess out!

Posted by: Suzanne | Feb 24, 2009 11:49:11 AM

The rules were changed and no one was told. Elvis (or the “King” as he is so commonly referred to by his fans) began a serious relationship with a 14 year old when he was 24. Linda Blair was 15 when she moved in with 25 year old Rick Springfield. Melanie Griffith was 14 when she began dating 22 year old Don Johnson. Sixteen year old Cher had a relationship with 25 year old Warren Beatty. Did any of these individuals do prison time? NO! And none of them are on the Registry.
Think about it!!!
Consensual sex should not be against the law. There is a huge difference between this and molestation and we have lumped them all together. I pray that someday we can straighten all of this HUGE mess out!

Posted by: Suzanne | Feb 24, 2009 12:11:35 PM

Post a comment

In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB