Professionals’ perceptions of female child sexual offenders: Implications for prevention

Dr Larissa (Lara) Christensen1
1University Of The Sunshine Coast, Maroochydore DC, Australia

As a result of traditional gender roles, society has difficulty understanding that females are capable of

committing child sexual abuse (CSA). Earlier research has found that professionals (e.g., police and psychiatrists) viewed female suspects as less harmful than male suspects and minimised the seriousness of CSA reports. Given that the role of females in society has changed over the last two decades across social, political, and economic platforms (Fine-Davis, 2016), it is difficult to generalise these results to the present day. A number of  in-depth semistructured interviews were conducted across a  diverse group of professionals (police officers, social workers, counselors, case managers, child and family support workers, and a legal professional; N = 21) involved in the community response and justice sector. This process yielded: (a) an in-depth understanding about professionals’ perceptions of female child sexual offenders and (b) identified where system efforts should be focused to better address and acknowledge female child sexual offenders. Results indicated  professionals’ acknowledgment that female child sexual offenders can inflict serious and persistent negative impacts on victims. These findings take a positive step forward compared with earlier perceptions, but it remains evident  perpatrator gender may still play a significant role in some dealings across professions and among colleagues at the tertiary level. As will be discussed, professionals emphasised the need for a more open discussion in society concerning female-perpetrated CSA in order to change this narrative and assist with prevention and disclosure, as important primary and secondary prevention measures.


Dr Lara Christensen’s research focuses on understanding sexual offending behaviour and justice responses to these offences. Her research on female child sexual offenders has focused on exploring professionals’ perceptions of these offenders and how these women are portrayed in the print media. You will find Lara’s research published in a number of Q1 journals such as Journal of Interpersonal Violence and Child Abuse and Neglect. Lara also reaches non-academic audiences when disseminating findings as she hopes that with more public recognition of this topic, victims will have a greater liklihood of attaining the intervention and emotional support they may require.


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