Research suggests that, in line with the chivalry hypothesis of female offending, a range of mitigatory factors such as mental health problems, substance abuse, and personal experiences of abuse are brought into play when women who offend against children are brought to trial. This is reflected in sentencing comments made by judges and in the sanctions imposed on the offenders, and as a result female offenders are treated differently to male offenders. The current study investigated this in an Australian context. Seven cases of female-perpetrated child sexual abuse were identified over a 6-year period through the Austlii database. Seven cases of male-perpetrated child sex abuse matched as far as possible to these were identified. Court transcripts were then located, and sentencing comments and sanctions imposed were analysed. All offenders were sentenced to imprisonment, but in general the women were more likely than the men to receive less jail time and lower non-parole periods because their personal backgrounds or situation at the time of the offending (i.e., difficulties with intimate relationship, male dependence issues, depression, loneliness and anger) were perceived as worthy of sympathy, and they were considered as likely to be rehabilitated. Further investigations are needed to support these findings.
Field of Research
170106 Health, Clinical and Counselling Psychology