We have continued the data analysis on our current sample of women who were charged with embezzlement, now including 30 women charged with fraudulently taking money that ranged in amount from a low of $3,000 to a high of $850,000. Eighteen women in our sample were charged in state court and twelve in federal court and their sentences ranged from probation to 6 ½ years. Only two of our sample of 30 women had any criminal history and both previous offenses were for relatively minor charges (i.e., DUI’s).
With respect to factors in these women’s personal histories, 47% lived in families where there was parental substance abuse and over 33% witnessed domestic violence between their parents. One third of the women experienced physical abuse prior to the age of 18 and half experienced sexual abuse before age 18. In addition, 17% of our sample also experienced sexual assault after the age of 18 and a whopping 53% percent had been involved in a domestically violent relationship themselves, many of which were concurrent with their offense conduct. Finally, 40% of the women we evaluated had what we call “the double-whammy” which is having experienced some form of childhood abuse and then were re-victimized by either sexual assault or domestic violence as an adult.
These women also presented with a variety of mental health diagnoses. A large portion of our sample met criteria for an Axis I diagnosis. For example, over half (63%) of the women in our sample were diagnosed with a depressive disorder, including Major Depressive Disorder, Dysthymia or Depressive Disorder Not Otherwise Specified. One third were diagnosed with an Anxiety Disorder, including General Anxiety Disorder, Social Phobia, a Specific Phobia, or Anxiety Disorder Not Otherwise Specified. Posttraumatic Stress Disorder was present in 17% of these women. However, it should be noted that a much higher percentage of the women presented with significant symptoms of PTSD; the 17% represents the proportion of women in our sample who met the full criteria for a diagnosis of PTSD.
As we expected, a significant majority of these women (63.3%) presented with either features of or a full personality disorder. Again, as we hypothesized, a significant number of our sample presented with features of either Avoidant Personality Disorder (43.3%) or Dependent Personality Disorder (46.7%), or features of both (30%). The dependent and avoidant personality features in these women clearly pre-dated their embezzlement and, in general, this was also true of the depressive and anxiety disorders.
What is clear thus far from our data is that there are patterns of exposure to parental substance abuse and domestic violence and sexual victimization in our sample of female embezzlers. As is very often the case for women exposed to childhood traumas, the women in our sample had significant rates of sexual assault as adults and over half had been in domestically violent relationships themselves. Similarly, over half of the women in our sample presented with passive, dependent and avoidant personality traits.
The next step in our work on this topic is to take a very close look at the extent to which the “double whammy” of childhood and adult abuse is a risk factor for the poor problem-solving that leads to embezzlement as a means of solving financial crises. We are also going to attempt to identify any patterns that might exist between the historical and mental health factors seen in these women and the various motivations for embezzlement described in previous posts as well as the sentencing outcomes and risks for recidivism.