Originally posted on March 3, 2013
A recent study conducted by Barnardo’s found a growing rate of sexual violence committed by girls:
Barnardo’s service says 11% of the 128 young people it helped last year after they committed sex assaults were young or adolescent girls.
It hopes its research will lead to improved treatment for those involved.
A psychologist who led Home Office sex offender research said girls’ problems had never previously been studied.
Over the last few decades, research has focused on adult male sex offenders and has been followed up with studies into adolescent boys and adult women.
But Barnardos’ Taith – a specialist service which helps children and young people aged between eight and 21 who commit sex assaults – said little was known about girls who abuse other children.
According to the article, Barnardo’s will release the results to the Welsh government and other UK agencies. However, the article does note some of the findings, such as some of the girls being more physically violent than expected.
I am interested to see what the actual results show. My knowledge and experience with female perpetrated sexual violence is limited to women. While much of the available research claims that women are less violent and more “loving” when they abuse, my personal experiences and the stories other men have shared with me suggest otherwise. Women can often be far more abusive than men, and many are aware and will sometimes mention that as women they can get away it.
Yet current research shows that many abusive adults first show that behavior as children. Physically and sexually violent girls can hide not only behind the shield of childhood, but also girlhood. People simply do not expect girls to commit such acts, and they may be more likely to make excuses for girls who do.
That leads to a major problem with this research: the sample size. Fourteen girls is hardly a large enough sample group to draw any meaningful conclusions from. Granted, the researchers do not have much to work with considering that so few people report female abusers, and those who do get reported often walk out of court (assuming they went to trial) without much punishment.
This leads me to suspect that the girls who Barnardo’s treated may be the worst of the worst, the cases that no one could turn a blind eye to. If so, that would make their findings even more problematic. Most people who offend do not do so in the extreme. If the researchers have an over-representation of the worst of the worst, then they will not be able to give a clear analysis of what type of abuse girls actually commit.
However, I do not want to jump to any conclusions until more results are released. That said, I think it is great that someone is finally looking into girls’ violent behavior. Let us hope that the researchers do not make excuses for it by painting the girls are the victims.