Originally posted on October 14, 2011
Would it surprise you to know that 60% to 80% of male sex offenders were victims of childhood sexual abuse? How about if that 60% to 80% were sexually abused by females?
Female-perpetrated sexual violence remains a taboo subject in society. While people are more willing to accept that some women commit sex offenses, people continue to think the violence is rare, the abusers are crazy, the women were forced or coerced to do it by men, and that the victims wanted it. Reality paints a much different picture. As Barbara Kay mentioned in her article:
According to a 2004 U.S. Department of Education mass study of university students, 57% of students reporting child sexual abuse cited a male offender, and 42% reported a female offender. Interestingly, 65% of the survivors of female abuse who opened up to a therapist, doctor or other professional were not believed on their first disclosure. Overall, 86% of those who tried to tell anyone at all about their experiences were not believed.
According to a 1996 report from the National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect (NCCAN), about 25% of child sexual abuse is committed by women, but that figure may be low, because survivors are far more conflicted and shamed in admitting abuse by their mothers than by fathers. In one study of 17,337 survivors of childhood sexual abuse, 23% reported a female-only perpetrator and 22% reported both male and female. A U.S. Department of Justice report finds that, in 2008, 95% of all youths reporting sexual misconduct by staff member in state juvenile facilities said their victimization experiences included victimization by female personnel, who made up 42% of the staff.
Keep in mind that these numbers only represent those willing to come forward or who consider the violence committed against them abuse. Many more victims, particularly male victims, keep quiet or do not think anything wrong was done to them.
Part of what causes that is the social shame that comes with being assaulted by a woman. Part of it is the difficulty of dealing with the reality of women committing violence. Yet the greatest problem is likely the social reaction to who people come forward. Even professionals refuse to acknowledge the violence women commit:
Even mental-health professionals and social service agencies avoid facing up to the phenomenon. I spoke at length with an adult survivor of a mother’s sadistic sex abuse. “Nina,” not her real name, told me that although she has attempted many times to deal with her past therapeutically, “I have never found any social service agency willing to acknowledge this or speak about it.”
Nina’s story is hardly unique. Plenty of victims get shot down when they seek help. Female victims have it particularly difficult because very few people will acknowledge that women will prey on girls.
The social perception of female abusers does more to keep victims silent than anything else, and not just because victims think no one will believe them, but also because the notion that females cannot abuse or that they only do so if they are crazy or made to by a man makes people less willing to examine the prevalence of female-perpetrated sexual violence. If we never bother to look for it or address it, how can we ever come to understand and prevent it?