Note: I submitted this piece to The Good Men Project, but since I received no response I assume they have no interest it in.
Female rapists are a taboo subject. People know women rape, yet few want to talk about it. When people do talk about it, they blame women’s violence on men, drugs or mental illness. They treat female-on-male rape as a joke, a badge of honor or an anti-feminist ploy. Few realize just how often women rape boys.
Case in point: In his recent article, Hugo Schwyzer claimed, “Because women are much less likely to sexually abuse teens than are men, those rare cases that do feature female defendants tend to attract lots of media attention – particularly when the woman involved is relatively young and conventionally attractive.” Schwyzer implies that the media covers most of the cases of women’s violence, yet most cases never make the news. Likewise, while there is a lack of research on female-on-male rape, the available studies suggest that women rape boys about as often as men do. Here are some of the statistics:
- In 1994, David Finkelhor published a paper reporting that women commit 20 percent of the sexual abuse against boys.
- In 1996, the National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect found that women committed 25 percent of sexual abuse against children.
- Both the 2000 American Association of University Women study and the Cameron study showed that about 42 percent of students reported abuse by women.
- The 2005 Long-Term Consequences of Childhood Sexual Abuse by Gender of Victim study found that women committed 38 percent of the abuse against boys.
- According to a 2008 University of British Columbia study of homeless youths, nearly half the youths said at least one woman sexually exploited them, and 1 in 3 said that only women exploited them.
- The 2008-09 Sexual Victimization in Juvenile Facilities Reported by Youth report found that of the staff members who sexually abused juveniles, women committing 95 percent of that abuse.
- In 2009, ChildLine received 2,142 calls from children abused by women, and found that boys reported more abuse by women (1,722 cases) than by men (1,651 cases).
The research shows that women commit 20 to 50 percent of the sexual violence against boys. The prevalence rate increased as more researchers studied the problem and more male victims reported their abuse. The facts are clear: Women abuse boys almost as often as men do.
Schwyzer likely based his assumption on police reports and gender-skewed studies. Police reports are misleading because most male victims do not report their abuse, particularly those abused by women. Likewise, many of the studies that show a low rate of female-on-male rape rely on those police reports. Other studies do not include women as potential abusers or use gendered language on their surveys, which may result in male victims not reporting their abuse.
Yet the likely reason for Schwyzer’s claim is that it is the accepted social view. People simply do not believe women commit rape or count their acts as rape. Schwyzer summed it up best in his response to Pal Sarkozy’s account of his sexual encounter with his nanny at 11-years-old: “To suggest he was a victim is preposterous.”
That is the sentiment we must overcome if we want to address female-on-male rape. As long as people think it is preposterous to view males as potential victims and view women as potential rapists, we will never know the full extent of women’s violence. As long as people claim that women’s violence against boys is rare and frame it as a “relationship”, we will never help male victims. As long as people pay lip service to the sexual abuse of boys, we will never see society take this issue seriously.
Only when we stop treating women’s violence like a rare novelty can we stop the abuse.