This is a topic that many people do not want to discuss. It is something that is often so difficult to mention that even when people do talk about it they add the caveat that “mostly men are pedophiles.” Rarely is that based on any factual information as most victims of sexual abuse, particularly of female abusers, do not report their abuse. Rather, it is an assumption based on people’s unwillingness to view women as sexual aggressors. A recent article from the BBC addressed this issue:
Women can commit a wide range of sexual offences, [Steve Bevan] says, including rape. And their victims commonly experience sexual confusion and a fear of intimacy. Anger can manifest itself as violence towards a wife or girlfriend in later life.
By its very nature the true picture of child abuse is unclear. But with women perpetrators it’s even more so. Convictions are thin on the ground and some believe the issue is an unhelpful distraction from the bigger problem.
Experts agree that women commit only a fraction of child sexual abuse but so much is hidden that it’s difficult to be accurate. An influential study in the US in the 1980s suggested 20% of all offences against boys and 5% against girls were by women.
A 2005 study suggested that women are responsible for nearly 40% of rape and sexual assault against boys. The rate against girls went up only 1%, but one must wonder how much social views about women played a role in keeping girls and women from considering those acts as rape and sexual assault. The article addresses this point as well:
In 2005, the [National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children] raised concerns about how disbelief of female paedophiles was hindering detection. Its report said child protection professionals too often met allegations of abuse by females with incredulity, dismissing them as fabrication and allowing women to continue to offend.
It also said that victims suffered a peculiar sense of isolation and stigma because this form of abuse was not so widely recognised.
Eight-hundred victims of female sexual abuse have contacted Michele Elliott, founder of children’s charity Kidscape, since she wrote her controversial book, Female Sexual Abuse of Children, in 1992. Three-quarters of the cases feature women acting alone.
“One of the issues of controversy is the thinking that if women do this, it’s because men made them do it,” says Ms Elliot.
“I disagree with that. I think there’s no difference in the motivation between men and women, which is sexual gratification and power over a child. It’s very selfish.”
In her book, Elliott mentioned the myth that women act alone over and over again. There simply is no credible information that proves that women primarily abuse children only when a man forces them to, especially when one considers that the same researchers admit that most victims do not come forward. That notion seems to be based on the reported instances, most of which are cases where the women have been extended plea deals in exchange for their testimony. There is no telling how many of those cases were resulted from the police, prosecutors and psychologists buying into those women’s lies and those people ignoring the recollection of children who said the women were more involved or the primary abuser.
What is interesting is that the professionals opinion of the behavior of female pedophiles does not seem to match how the women actually think of themselves. The professional community tends to present female pedophiles as victims who genuinely do care about the children the rape. However, one of the hallmarks of pedophile behavior is the assumption that the abuse is not abuse, that the pedophile actually cares for or loves the victim. They rationalize their actions as not as bad as other offenders. Unsurprisingly, female pedophiles do the same thing, except they compare themselves to men:
Like male paedophiles, many female offenders convince themselves they are not harming children, says psychologist Sharon Lambert who this month presented her research on the subject to the British Psychological Society’s annual conference.
She contacted a number of people through a website specifically aimed at women. There were no indecent images posted but there were stories and poems about their sexual fantasies with children and a forum for women to discuss their feelings and how they could avoid detection.
“They would say they’re not as bad as men because they’re more loving with their impulses, and a male involved with a child is more abusive.”
The article goes on to mention that some female pedophiles might be victims of abuse. A male survivor recounts what his abusive mother told him about her past:
Unlike Ms Lambert’s studies, some perpetrators seem also to be victims. Colin’s mother told him she was a victim of sexual abuse from her father, sometimes describing it to him in detail moments before indecently assaulting him.
“Maybe I reminded her of her dad and she felt like she was getting back at him, taking back some control that way, by taking it out on me,” says Colin.
In my experience, it seems to be the case that most abusive people abuse for two reasons: the victim reminds them of themselves or of their abusers. This is not an excuse, particularly when it comes to women as they have a host of resources available to them to help them address their emotional needs. However, in regards to female abusers, it seems to lean more towards the latter, with the only similarity between the victim and the abuser being the victim’s gender. A male, any male, tends to be good enough. That is not to say that female victims are not being abused for the same horribly twisted logic, only that this tends to be more blatantly obvious when it comes to male victims.
As more victims come forward, we will learn more about female pedophiles. Judging from the comments left below the article, it would seem that the majority do not even match the conclusions mentioned in the piece, particularly the claim that women raping prepubescent children is extremely rare. It is unfortunate, however, it is most likely true that women commit as much, and possibly more, sexual violence against children as men. The 40% abuse rate is pretty high, and that at point one must stop portraying sexual violence against boys and men as something only other men do. There also needs to be a greater recognition of female-on-female sexual violence. Besides the the failure to address and acknowledge rape against males, the sexual violence support community has wholly ignored and downplayed female-on-female assault to the point that one would be hard-pressed to find it mentioned in any of the literature.
At this stage, there is no excuse for not acknowledging that women are just as capable and apparently just as likely to rape and sexually abuse children.