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October 3, 2016

Interesting look at gender dynamics in sex offender prosecutions in North Dakota

This local article from North Dakota, which is headlined "Investigators say all sex offenders treated the same, but some studies find female criminals face lighter sentences," take a close look at the interest intersection of sex offenses and gender. Here is how the article starts:

Last month, a young Bottineau teacher was sentenced to serve about a month and a half in jail, pay $325 in court fees and undergo treatment after admitting to having sexual relations with at least two teenage boys. Marissa Ashley Deslauriers, born in 1991, pleaded guilty in Bottineau County District Court to two Class A misdemeanor charges of contributing to deprivation of a minor and two Class B misdemeanors of sexual assault.
Originally, she faced felony charges that could have resulted in 15 years in prison and $30,000 in fines, but Deslauriers reached a plea deal with prosecutors that resulted in lesser charges and two years of unsupervised probation. She was not required to register as a sex offender.  The case sparked discussion about the way the legal system treats men and women who are convicted of sexual crimes, and if gender has an influence in sentencing.
There are 1,754 registered sex offenders in North Dakota, public records show.  Twenty-seven of them are women.  A wide range of research supports the theory that men are overwhelmingly more likely to commit sexual assault than women, but research on the differences in the way male and female offenders are treated in the justice system are hard to find.
Dr. Adam Matz, assistant professor of criminal justice at the University of North Dakota, said women, overall, tend to receive lighter sentences than men for similar offenses. Much of this is due to perceptions of women as primary caretakers for children.  Matz said the age of the victim and the age of the offender are both taken into consideration with sexual crimes.
"In general, the severity of the case and the person's criminal history are probably the two biggest things in terms of sentencing decisions," Matz said. "And in general sentencing research, you do see the same trend where women tend to get more lenient sentences or are more likely to receive probation."  Matz, who specializes in parole and probation, said he would not downplay probation and its impact on people's lives.
Those with little criminal history are more likely to serve lighter sentences. "Typically with females, particularly with teachers, a lot of times these are first-time offenders. They don't have a criminal history; that's another reason why there might be a disparity there," Matz said.
A study published in 2012 by a doctoral student at Arizona State University found noticeable discrepancies in the sentencing for male and female teachers convicted of having sexual relationships with students older than 15.  The study noted many teachers were first-time offenders, which also can lead to lighter sentencing.

October 3, 2016 at 07:54 PM | Permalink

Comments

"A wide range of research supports the theory that men are overwhelmingly more likely to commit sexual assault than women"

It difficult to take an article about gender differences in sentencing when it presents as fact such wild ass speculation. What research? Show it too me. Because I have never seen any research that supports a theory that men are more likely to COMMIT sexual assault than women.

Posted by: Daniel | Oct 3, 2016 8:06:13 PM

Why aren't more men raising hell about gender disparities the way black are with such organizations as Black Lives Matter over outrageous racial disparities?

Posted by: william r. delzell | Oct 4, 2016 9:23:57 AM

Um, the consequences to girls are more than the consequences to boys. That explains it.

Posted by: federalist | Oct 4, 2016 10:05:16 AM

There are certainly stereotypes in play, but ultimately cases have to be tried to juries that have those stereotypes.

While the law -- on paper -- respects the right of any person to say "not with you," most attorneys believe that juries are more willing to find that the sexual encounter was involuntary if the victim is "chaste." In popular culture, a chaste male is a rarity bordering on an oxymoron even when the male is a teenager (or maybe especially when the male is a teenager). Additionally for charges that require "force," the default assumption of the aggressive male and passive female makes it easier to pursue charges against the male offender than the female offender. It's just hard, even with a teenage victim, to portray the male participant in a sexual encounter as the victim.

Given this extra-legal burden, it is not surprising that female offenders are in a better position to receive more favorable plea offers or to get better verdicts.

Posted by: tmm | Oct 4, 2016 4:24:20 PM

Do you think that the prison strike that is going on in states like Virginia and South Carolina that both have civil commitment places for former sex offenders will also join in the prison strikes? The civilly committed detainees have nothing to lose.

Posted by: william r. delzell | Oct 5, 2016 10:24:11 AM

Those with little criminal history are more likely to serve lighter sentences. "Typically with females, particularly with teachers, a lot of times these are first-time offenders. They don't have a criminal history; that's another reason why there might be a disparity there, " Matz said.

So, Dr. Matz evidently assumes that most males DO have a past criminal history and that they are all past-offenders.

A female teacher, an authority figure who has sex with at least two students and then gets what amounts to a slap on the wrist and no time on the registry when there are plenty of males on the registry for lesser, non-contact crimes really gets me peeved!
Gender discrimination. Plain and Simple.

Posted by: kat | Oct 5, 2016 1:50:45 PM

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