Misleading numbers and female sex offenders.

I was in a conversation about different ways people can help in regards to the issue of female perpetrated sexual abuse.  One of the ways that people can help that can have a big impact is to write or e-mail to places that have misleading figures or no mention of survivors of female sex offenders.

For example, Humboldt State University has a Rape and Sexual Assault prevention website.  On this they have a page titled Sexualized Violence Statistics.  They list the following statistic:

An estimated 91% of victims of rape & sexual assault are female and 9% male.

Nearly 99% of perpetrators are male. 1 This US Dept. of Justice statistic does not report those who do not identify in these gender boxes.

This is misleading in a number of ways.  The United States Department of Justice found a rate of 8.3% for “Other sexual offenses” for females. (United States Department of Justice. (2003). Crime in the United States 2002, Federal Bureau of Investigation. Washington, DC: USGPO)  This does not include the 1% for “Rape”. 

So we have about 10% for all forms of sexual violence yet if you read that page and statistic it easily appears as if it is only 1%. 

This also does not take into account problems around the word “Rape”.  For example, frequently the term rape is used instead of a term such as sexual violence or sexual offences.  With many states and some countries having had, or like Idaho and Georgia, still have laws that make it impossible for a female to be convicted of rape.  This causes a misrepresentation of the true numbers.  Some agencies have this same problem with outdated definitions.  For example the FBI’s definition of rape was limited to male-to-female intercourse.  Even today the UCR Program defines forcible rape as “The carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will” (p. 19). .  Ohio’s Office of Criminal Justice Services has the following definition listed in their crime definitions:

 FORCIBLE RAPE = The carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will. Assaults or attempts to commit rape by force are included here; however, statutory rape (without force) and other sex offenses are not included.

If you look at the FBI’s handbook about the UCR you will see this:

Carnal knowledge is defined by Black’s Law Dictionary, 6th ed. as “the act of a man having sexual bodily connections with a woman; sexual intercourse.” There is carnal knowledge if there is the slightest penetration of the sexual organ of the female (vagina) by the sexual organ of the male (penis).

Agencies must not classify statutory rape, incest, or other sex offenses, i.e. forcible sodomy, sexual assault with an object, forcible fondling, etc. as Forcible Rape

By definition, sexual attacks on males are excluded from the rape category and must be classified as assaults or other sex offenses depending on the nature of the crime and the extent of injury.

This misleading number can cause problems for survivors of female perpetrated sexual violence.  We have recently had posts and comments from surivors talking about this very thing.  Places that continue to do this are helping to ostracize the millions of women and men who are survivors of female perpetrated sexual abuse. 

By speaking out, writing and e-mailing places that do this and letting them know how you feel about this is one way to try and get them to change.  And when they change it it means more people will become aware and that is the first step. 

A few studies to consider:

In a study of 17,337 survivors of childhood sexual abuse, 23% had a female-only perpetrator and 22% had both male and female perpetrators. ( Dube, Shanta R et al. “Long-Term Consequences of Childhood Sexual Abuse by Gender of Victim.” American Journal of Preventive Medicine. (2005):28(5), p 430 – 438.

The sexual abuse of children by women, primarily mothers, once thought to be so rare it could be ignored, constituted 25% (approximately 36 000 children) of the sexually abused victims. This statistic is thought to be underestimated due to the tendency of non-disclosure by victims. – (Source National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect)

According to a major 2004 study commissioned by the U.S. Department of Education – In studies that ask students about offenders, sex differences are less than in adult reports. The 2000 AAUW data indicate that 57.2 percent of all students report a male offender and 42.4 percent a female offender with the Cameron et al. study reporting nearly identical proportions as the 2000 AAUW data (57 percent male offenders vs. 43 percent female offenders).. (Source .PDF Download)

One in six adult men reported being sexually molested as children, and — in a surprise finding — nearly 40 percent of the perpetrators were female, a new study found. (Source Link)

Approximately 95% of all youth reporting staff sexual misconduct said they had been victimized by female staff. In 2008, 42% of staff in state juvenile facilities were female. (Bureau of Justice Report)

Women reported to have perpetrated conflict-related sexual violence in 41.1% of female cases and 10.0% of male cases. (Source Link)

Another study that I have posted about  makes a point that applies here when it stated:

Moreover, professional minimization or disbelief of victims’ allegations of female perpetrated sexual abuse may actually exacerbate the negative effects of the sexual abuse, ultimately inciting secondary victimization.

 Another study had a comment from one of the researchers that stated:

programs that focus only on male perpetrators and female victims are addressing only half of the problem.”

Sexual Violence is a human rights problem that is not restricted to one gender.   Isn’t time we stopped addressing only part of the problem?


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8 thoughts on “Misleading numbers and female sex offenders.

  1. I’ve contacted various campaign websites about placing stories re. sexual abuse/violence under “Women’s Rights”, suggesting that it should be bracketed with “Human Rights” instead. None of them have taken any notice yet, but we have to try.

  2. Thank you Als for doing that. I too have contacted different sites (including the one mentioned above) and most don’t even respond. But a few have and there are some changes happening and a little more awareness is occurring.

  3. I too have started contacting sites (e-mailing or commenting) and doing exactly what you suggested. From some I get – at best – polite responses which acknowledge that it is a real problem (and some admit that >50% of their clients have been sexually or physically abused by women). But when I follow up and check to see if their sites have been updated, to date there have been no changes made. Frequently the response is to follow the ‘polite response’ with an increased flurry of “women as victims’ posts/articles, etc…

    I think the reason for that is, of course, because most of their funding comes from – as Als says above – various ‘Women’s Rights’ federal and state (province where I’m from) bodies. So, even though some of them may agree with us, to acknowledge it publicly might very well jeopardize their funding. In future I think I’m going to contact them, but simultaneously contact whichever body is responsible for their funding and make a case to have their funding revoked until such time as they correct this. And tell them that I’ve done so.

    Additionally, here in Canada our infamous Human Rights Commissions have been used very effectively for various “victims'” groups – frequently for less than stellar reasons. I’m thinking that one of the goals of my ‘growth’ is to get myself healthy enough to take some of these organizations to court – after all most of them have quite advanced strategies for utilizing legal precedent to advance their cause. As sad as it is to say, perhaps it’s time for us to start doing likewise.

    For instance, I think the following is highly discriminatory and prejudicial (and inciteful – it’s really hate propaganda) but this played without any controversy whatsoever in Canadian media for two years: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=puJQq6xnTVo

    Everytime I saw it I experienced secondary wounding. Because, of course, the image perfectly captured the situation in my family, except in our case my mother would be the one on the left side of the couch.

    I’d like to see how they react to an HRC lawsuit. I doubt it would be pretty.

    If there are any media artists out there who would be willing to rework this to reverse the genders and post it online – just let me know where to contribute funds!

  4. I went to a recent rally, and began posting stuff on their page, until I felt my annoyance level was reached. I had commented on an article were they recently shut down some centers for men in recovery for sexual abuse, and I commented that it was sad, and that the myth of abuse being done by one gender, and one gender only has got to be one of the cruelest myths about abuse.

    Someone came in and said something to the effect “I disagree with that. In order to fight against rape culture, the vast majority of sexual violence perpetrated by males against females must be addressed. This type of abuse is the most vilest form of sexism. And men need to be taught about it, and they need to open up a dialogue.”

    Okay? So the only centres to help men who are abused are being closed, and in order to “fight rape culture” we must only focus on male violence against women to end the other abuse, by ignoring the other side of it? Then bash men over the head about a dialogue on rape and consent (when I think a lot of men really do get it already).

    What if men wanted a dialogue on the sexual assault they experience as children? Or sexual exploitation as youth, and how these double standards make them feel? Are they no longer battling rape culture because now the abuse scenario is no longer, men to women?

    Why do I cringe whenever someone says something like this? It almost seemed rude that they chirped up about this when an organization helping men to recover from rape is being altogether shut down, and they can only seem to talk from their own agenda?


  5. essentially I think when someone is dismissive about abuse that is not typically male on female, it creates another rape culture.

  6. @Llamalady

    I think a lot of abuse is a cycle, and deliberatley ignoring one part of it seems appallingly negligent to anyone who understands the complexity of the issue. I’m not denying that some men have a kind of 19th century “women are there to be used” mentality, but they are far from constituting all rapists. Plenty of women who sexually abuse their partners or young teenagers have bought into the “men are always ready for sex with anyone who will give it to them” myth, which like the previously quoted idea, allows the abuser to kid themselves that what they are doing is ok. Leaving aside female-female rape for a moment, I think ignoring female abuse of boys and men contributes to sexual violence by men against women. Take for example: a 12yo girl at school has her skirt pulled down by a gang of giggling boys, it is treated as sexual harrassment (I’m not suggesting that anything is actually done about it, I just mean the general attitude). A 12yo boy has his trousers pulled down by a gang of giggling girls, it is treated as just a bit of fun, maybe he should even be enjoying the attention. In this way, boys learn that sex is cruel, and that sex and abuse are the same thing. It doesn’t excuse sexual abuse of others of course, but it is one reason for it. People who ignore abuse as a source of further abuse are shooting themselves in the foot. It’s not “blaming women” to point this out, any more than it’s “blaming men” to object to male rapists.

  7. Sorry, male partners and male teenagers, obviously. Should have made that clear.

  8. Als,

    “I think ignoring female abuse of boys and men contributes to sexual violence by men against women.”

    I’m always floored that someone who is an activist, who should be sensitive to the complexities of abuse, is not. You would think they would start to notice the damage a double standard can have, since they complain about it! Like if you are truly wanting to battle myths surrounding sexual assault and rape culture you would be open to all issues surrounding rape regardless of gender or sexual orientations.

    I noticed what Anne mentioned, you post something about this kind of abuse, and then you get that “flurry of activity” with regards to male on female abuse. The activist couldn’t just leave my comment of empathy as that; she had to debate it, and have that male on female violence was “the most vile.”

    I responded with examples of vile forms of sexism where the dynamic was female on female. I used the example of a “feminist centered” therapy place, and the therapist could not have I was a victim of violence at the hands of a woman. The woman was my mother and she actively encouraged (and participated with) my brother in physically abusing me, and the therapist could not have that she was the one who originally initiated the violence. The therapist tried to convince me my mother was the victim, and my brother, (a teen at the time) forced her to do it. The therapist kept trying to convince me my mother just could never act on her own free will.

    I asked the activist to imagine what that would feel like if you were automatically forced to view your perp as a victim, without your own victimization being acknowledged.

    People truly are hung up on the engendered idea that women don’t cause as much harm as men. But my experience of that is just so obviously ignorant.

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