Female sex offenders target kids, helpless

Sex offender. Those words usually bring to mind a picture of a domineering man who pushes himself on a woman against
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010

Sex offender.

Those words usually bring to mind a picture of a domineering man who pushes himself on a woman against her will.

But women are also capable of committing such offenses. In Erie County alone there are five registered female sex offenders. That number may seem small compared to their male counterparts -- 153 in the county -- but the crimes aren't any less severe.

Three of those women were convicted of offenses against children, said Erie County Sheriff's Capt. Steven Westcott.

Three of the women were also convicted of sexual battery, meaning they abused a position of trust with the victim, Westcott added. Most of those women are also Tier III sex offenders, or the most severe offenders by classification, and must register with the local sheriff's office for life.

In 2005 about 140,000 men were incarcerated for sex crimes nationwide, compared to 1,500 women, according to statistics gathered by the U.S. Department of Justice Center for Sex Offender Management.

In Ohio, there are 26,410 registered male sex offenders and 710 females, said Jennifer Brindisi, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation.

"Just like male offenders, there is a range of offenses that are quite common for female offenders," said Anna Aylward, program administrator for Washington State Department of Corrections.

Many sex crimes committed by females are against children and teenagers, Aylward said.

"There are people who are with children for less than good reasons," she said.

Just this month Sandusky resident Heather L. Fox, 34, was indicted on charges of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor.

Fox is accused of having sex with a 15-year-old boy, police said.

The reason for the crimes can differ for women compared to men. Men often commit the crimes out of sexual desire.

Women, on the other hand, may act out from substance abuse issues or because they, too, were victimized at one time, Aylward said.

"They tend to be less categorically violent offenses, but that doesn't mean to that person it's any less violent," she said. "Any time you're assaulted that's traumatic and awful, and especially so when it's someone that you know."

The media have reported on cases of women, often teachers, involved with juvenile boys. Those cases are not the norm for all female-committed sex crimes, but may just attract more attention.

"I think those are just sexy cases," Aylward said.

Other times women will act out sexual crimes with their partner. For example, a woman may help a man commit an offense against a child or simply be held liable for not stopping the action, Aylward said.

Treatment for female sex offenders varies but can include group therapy, participation in motivation groups, learning to identify future behavior and having a woman admit she has a problem, Aylward said.

Nationwide there are more than 300 such programs for female sex offenders, the Center for Sex Offender Management reported.

Female sex offenders in Erie, Ottawa and Huron counties, and the offenses for which they were convicted:

-- Lundie Luann Godwin, 37, Norwalk, sexual conduct with a minor

-- Suzanne Gaye Neidler, 44, Sandusky, unlawful sexual conduct with a minor

-- Wendy Ann Santiago, 27, Huron, gross sexual imposition

-- Catherine Ann Sorrell, 58, Sandusky, sexual battery

-- Marilyn Louise Varo, 48, Willard, Tier I offender (charge outside of Ohio)

-- Janis E. Wasem, 56, Milan, sexual battery

Source: Ohio Attorney General's office sex offender database Web site