It's not all about sex for female offenders

BOISE, Idaho (KBOI) - The story shocked the valley. A 35-year-old Kuna mom accused of having sex with eight of her teenage son's friends.

This story was shocking on its own, but there are several other valley women serving time right now as sexual offenders.

KBOI-TV spoke with a local counselor who treats sex offenders. She told us some years she has no female clients.

That's hardly the case now.

But it's why they're doing it that seems to separate male from female sex offenders.

Courtney Reschke, Tara Bagley, Lisa Marie Rasho and Ashley Jo Beach are just four of the local women now labeled as sex offenders. And all of their victims are under 16.

"You think about the 16-year-old boy that hooks up with the really attractive 30 year-old down the street, and our society, our culture, hasn't wanted to call that sexual abuse," says Sandra McCullough, a sex offender treatment counselor.

McCullough says there are some years she hasn't seen a single female client. Right now she has six.

But McCullough doesn't think it's happening more often, it's just being reported more.

"I think we're just starting to wake up and realize it's offending," says McCullough. And people are prosecuting, they're not sweeping it under the table. They're saying this is not OK."

Erica Kallin agrees. She heads the Special Victim's Unit at the Canyon County Prosecutor's Office. Kallin says prosecuting female over male sex offenders has inherent hurdles.

"It's extremely difficult," says Kallin. "It's a huge double standard when you're looking at offenders."

Kallin says, society tends to think an adolescent boy is "getting lucky" or "scored" when he has a sexual relationship with a woman, but the same doesn't hold when the roles are reversed.

There is one big difference when it comes to the question of "why" for male and female offenders.

McCullough says women who sexually abuse children aren't always looking for sex.

"Part of what's hard is that they will say things like 'I didn't give a rip about the sex,'" says McCullough. "Women will get into those situations for emotional gratification because they're lonely. We have that with men also, but they have the underlying attraction to the female that I don't see very often with females."

Despite female sex offenders making news more often in the Treasure Valley recently, female sex crimes are far from an epidemic.

Twenty three percent of male inmates in Idaho have a sexual component to their crimes. For females, it's less than 1 percent.

Ashley Jo Beach was a 37-year-old married mother of three and a teacher at Meridian Middle School when she was caught in September, 2009 with a 13-year-old boy in bushes near the school.

Three months later Beach pleaded guilty to having sex with him.

"I failed to be the responsible and moral adult I should have been," Beach said during her sentencing. "And I only wish I could go back and re-do those two months of my life."

KBOI-TV contacted Beach, who is serving her sentence in Pocatello, to ask her why she would risk her family, her career and her reputation to have sex with a child.

Beach declined an interview, but sent us a letter.

She wrote, in part, she has "deep feelings of remorse... for the pain and harm my selfish actions have caused my victim..."

Beach also wrote that the treatment she's receiving in prison has been "exceptional."

But therapy for female sex offenders is still relatively new and changing.

"We're flying by the seat of our pants," says McCullough. "I see more mental health issues with the females. Quite often, they're almost more psychologically damaged," she says. "Not all of them, but a good chunk of them, which makes recovery more difficult."

Beach was sentenced to 20 years in prison, but she can ask for parole after serving just four years.

If she is granted parole, she could be out as early as this December.