Why awareness about Female Sex Offenders matters

One of the many reasons why we try to raise awareness about female sex offenders is because so many people don’t even think they exist. Many times when someone reports that they have been sexually abused by a woman they are not believed.For example one study found this:

65% of the survivors who tried to tell a therapist, doctor, teacher, or other professional were not believed the first time they disclosed. Overall, 86% of those who tried to tell anyone were not believed the first time they disclosed.” – (Kidscape, Female sexual abuse of children: The ultimate taboo)

The following news story is an example of this happening.  According to the report the man had been reporting that his mother had been sexually abusing him and his brothers and sister.  He first reported his mother when he was 8 years old and nothing happened.  He allegedly told authorities half a dozen times that he was being molested and raped by his mother and still nothing was done.  (You can read the news story here)

For years these children were being molested, tortured, by their mother and nothing was done to help them.  The courage they displayed in reporting it was incredible and the fact that they kept reporting it and being ignored is criminal.


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  1. The idealization of women: its role in the minimization of child sexual abuse by females



    Wilkins (1990) asserts that before the public is convinced of the true extent of female child sexual abuse, doctors have to first suspend their disbelief that it can occur. The same is true for all professionals working in the area of child sexual abuse. As Longdon (1993) argues in relation to the impact of professional denial on victims, the long term effects of any sexual abuse are devastating enough. When this is coupled with the knowledge that what has happened is not
    acknowledged as being real or taken seriously, the damage to the survivor can only be compounded.


    The necessity of professionals in the child abuse system being vigilant to subjective gender biases in their work is evident. To improve professional practices in response to female perpetration of child sexual abuse, however, the following recommendations are proposed:

    1. The taboo operating against disclosing female-perpetrated sexual abuse is powerful. Counselors and investigators must therefore foster a climate which indicates that such disclosures are permissible. This could be facilitated by female abuse being routinely probed for as a matter of course (Sgroi & Sargent, 1993).

    2. Disclosures of female-perpetrated child sexual abuse deserve to be taken seriously. Minimization of victims or survivors experiences is devastating and could be classified as secondary abuse. The impact of female-perpetrated abuse is the same as male-perpetrated abuse in many cases. The responses to all victims and survivors therefore should be equally supportive regardless of the perpetrators’ gender.

    3. In cases where a co-perpetrator is female, investigators should not assume that her role is only that of allowing the abuse to occur. Females abuse independently or may victimize children as equal partners with men. The involvement of females in cases of child abuse should therefore be investigated just as thoroughly as their male counterparts. This should involve questioning which is just as detailed as that which occurs when males are suspected of abuse.

    4. Professionals throughout the child abuse system should not assume that female child sexual abuse refers to “misguided motherly love” or over-nurturance. They must be receptive to the idea that females are capable of serious abuse and should be willing to refer female perpetrators to therapy or to the penal system as appropriate.

    5. Researchers should endeavor to investigate empirically whether professionals in the child abuse system demonstrate gender biases in their work as has been suggested. If so, this tendency must be brought to the attention of the professional agencies involved in order that they can then be addressed. In fact, gender biases in the decisions advocated by child protection professionals have recently been found (Hetherton & Beardsall). Further research focusing on other professionals and child protection teams would appear warranted.

    6. Professionals in the child abuse system should strive to lift the taboo surrounding female child sexual abuse by bringing it into the public arena. As Holmes, Offen, and Waller (1997) argue in relation to raising the profile of male victims of child sexual abuse, this could be done through the dissemination of research findings, through lobbying, and through access to the media and
    other mean of mass communication. Similar procedures should be instigated concerning sexual abuse of children by females. Without such endeavors, survivors may experience continued isolation, disclosure may be inhibited and the belief that the phenomenon does not exist will continue to be perpetuated.

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