Blogger T sent me an email about this article. It is a long read, but well worth it. Western society still holds on to a lot of taboos, and one of the most egregious is the belief that women simply cannot sexually abuse anyone. It is a subject that is most often viewed with a grin and wink, very rarely taken seriously and very rarely considered a real issue. Victims of female abusers live not only under the general shadow of being an abuse victim, but also under a host of social norms that no one, even those advocating for the removal of gender roles, wants to challenge. The article gives an example of how horribly this plays out:
The story that Sharon, who is now 40, has been unable to tell before today is one that few would wish to hear: from as far back as she can remember until the day she left home at the age of 16, Sharon, an only child, was sexually abused by her mother. The particulars of her abuse are too horrific to bear repeating in detail; this was sustained sexual violence, which she suffered silently at the hands of the one person who was supposed to love and protect her above all others.
It was at the age of 30, when she became pregnant with her own daughter, that Sharon finally summoned the courage to speak to her GP for the first time about what had happened to her. Her fear was that if she didn’t seek help to overcome her issues, they could in turn have a damaging effect on her unborn child. But her doctor’s response was: “Don’t be silly, mothers don’t sexually abuse children. You’re understandably worried about becoming a parent yourself, but don’t let your imagination run away with you.”
Later the article gives an account from a man who tried something similar:
Very few have ever before felt able to talk about the abuse because they feared they would not be believed – and those who have already come forward, to a doctor or therapist, have usually had their worst fears realised. One man, now 60 years old, recalls: “When I tried to tell my therapist of my abuse when I was 35, I was told: ‘You are having fantasies about your mother and you need more therapy to deal with that.’ In reality, my mother had been physically and sexually abusing me for as long as I can remember. The abuse was horrific, including beatings and sadomasochistic sex.”
It is sad and shameful that victims who reached out would be turned aside, and worse yet that they were turned away by people who are supposed to help athem As the article notes, many of the responses victims of female abusers receive are reminiscent of the responses all victims received before the advocacy programs began several decades ago. These are attitudes that male victims still face, both in the support community and in society.
It is worth noting that most of the abuse, according to the article, occurs in the home and that mothers usually are involved. That may be part of the reason why people are so unwilling to believe women sexually abuse children. Our concept of women and mothers as nurturers rules, and unfortunately that view has not really been challenged. While one may find the random feminist who will take issue with it, even feminists seem to equate kindness and sympathy with femininity. This cultural norm may be so deeply ingrained and routinely reinforced that it is not likely it will go away any time soon.
One of the key points about the article is how often girls are victims of female sexual violence. Of the victims of sexual violence, they are the most invisible. They are very rarely mentioned and very rarely taken seriously. There is less information and research available about female-on-female sexual violence than any other form of sexual abuse. It is not something that is mentioned in outreach programs for female victims, nor is it something mentioned by those who advocate for female victims.
This leaves girls and women who have been abused by a women with literally nowhere to turn because virtually no one will believe them.
It does not help that a great deal of female abuse occurs under the guise of caring for a child. Female abusers have a nearly perfect social situation that allows them to quite openly rape and abuse children without anyone really questioning them. Few people would question a mother taking a bath with her child, sleeping in the same bed with her child or a woman going to the bathroom with a child or spending hours alone with a child. All of these things would be questioned if the person were male. Whereas with males society is overvigilant, with females society is undervigilant. We are so unwilling to address this issue that thousands of men and women suffer in silence.
Worse yet, society regularly demonstrates its unwillingness to believe women abuse children to such an extent that abused children know “better” than to come forward. For victims of female sexual abuse, it is not a question of if someone will not believe you, but if someone will and whether it is worth the risk of being slapped down to find out.
As the article notes, there is no telling what the actual rate of female perpetration of sexual violence is. The current conviction statistics are in no way representative, and the few studies that have been done can only be considered at best low estimates. Until social views change and people are willing to accept that women can and do rape children, victims of those women will remain silent, something no victim should have to do.