When women sexually abuse

Originally posted on April 11, 2013

Several years ago I read a book called Female Sexual Abuse of Children. Michele Elliot edited the book. As I recall, the book gave two different views of the issue: one professional, the other from the victims.

The book relied on a handful of testimonials — I believe four women and one man — to describe the ways women sexually abuse children. However, what they shared painted a picture far different from what people expect. These abusive women were not angels. The abuse was not pretty and harmless. These women were not victims of controlling men forcing them to act. These women were just as vicious, violent, and predatory as many male child rapists.

For obvious reasons, Elliott’s book prompted a great deal of backlash. Here is a dedicated sexual abuse researcher and a feminist writing about women committing child rape. Elliott recounts the responses people had to her findings in an interview.

I have written numerous times about female sex offenders. While there is not the same amount of research on female abusers as male abusers, there is a wealth of information proving that women do abuse. Granted, much of the research plays into gender politics and cultural assumptions. Many researchers will minimize women’s abusive actions by claiming that the women are acting out of misguided love or immaturity. Others will mitigate the affects of the abuse on children. Others will claim that women rarely abuse or that men force them to abuse.

Yet recent studies suggest that all of those are untrue. Women are more likely to use objects to sexually abuse a child. Women tend to act alone, just like male offenders. Women exhibit the same emotional tendencies as male offenders, although they seem more inclined to rationalize their actions. Women appear to commit at least 40% to 60% of the sexual violence against males.

As Elliott notes in the interview, this is something people have a problem admitting. We do not want to believe that women can commit such violence. Feminists in particular are hesitant to talk about this issue, even when discussing something as basic as teaching girls to ask for and respect boys’ consent.

People simply do not want to talk about this issue because it rides against our cultural beliefs. We believe that women are innocent, inherently loving, and maternal. As Elliott mentions, people would not think twice about allowing a woman they barely know to watch their children. Women committing abuse, let alone child abuse, let alone sexual abuse, completely dismantles that.

Those attitudes create a dynamic that not only allows for abuse, but also excuses it:

Anderson and Aymani (1993) stated that males reported being recipients of female aggression more than females admitted to being aggressors. The largest difference between male and female reports (41.1%) was recorded on a question measuring female adults’ initiation of sex with male minors. The next largest difference was observed on the question asking each gender their account of a woman initiating sex with a man when his judgment was impaired by alcohol or drugs (30.2%). Discrepancies were concluded to be the result of sexual socialization of women and sexual stereotypes of men. Women were believed to have answered the survey partially focusing on socially desirable responses and partially on the myth that men will never turn down a sexual opportunity.

In a follow-up study, Anderson and Sorensen (1999) concluded that men reported significantly more events of adult women initiating sexual contact with them while they were minors (OR=10.9), by getting them drunk or high (OR=3.7), and by threatening to end their relationship (OR=6.3) than women reported. All questions, except the one assessing mutually consenting sexual activity, showed some difference in the expected direction (i.e., men reported that women were more likely to initiate or be aggressive than women self-reported). The authors concluded that women may interpret their sexual aggression as more normal than do men.

This is hardly surprising. One finds the same dynamic in reverse. Women will report more instances of abuse by men than men will admit to doing. The problem is that we do not discuss women’s violence on a social level. We do not talk about how women mask their behavior in ways that men cannot. Most of the people I know who were abused by women recount those women using benign situations to initiate the abuse. This ranges from women changing a baby’s diaper to measuring them for new clothes.

We also do not talk about what these women do. Elliott mentions an account in the interview of a woman sticking a thorn-covered rose stem into a girl’s vagina.

While those explicit details may be uncomfortable to read, they are things we need to know in order to get it out of our heads that women’s sexual violence is something harmless and pretty. In my personal experience, it can be very physically painful. The sex toy always hurt more than any finger or penis. Those are attached to someone’s body, and if the person gets too rough they risk injuring themselves as well as me. A dildo, however, has no feeling. It is much easier to push it into someone’s body without feeling the pain one is causing.

Likewise, a person engaging in rough or forceful sex tends to have to use their entire body to do it. A person using a sex toy may only need to prop up their arm. Acts like oral sex can be painful. I think most men can attest that teeth do not feel good on their penis, and neither does rough sucking, biting, or chewing. Having a woman use her legs to pin a person’s head down on her vagina can hurt if the woman is forceful, and it can also suffocate the person because they cannot lift their head to breath.

Again, this may be graphic, but this is the type of thing people need to know. That certainly is not the limit for what abusive women — or men — can do. However, our perception of sexual abuse is so skewed that as a culture we make it difficult for people to come forward. When I told a social worker about the things done to me, she did not believe me. She stated she did not believe me. She believed some of what my father and uncles did, but not all of it, and completely dismissed anything I said about women.

People also do this on a broader social level. Unless a woman is dragged into the bushes, we do not think it is rape. Unless a man anally or orally penetrates a boy, we do not think it is rape. Short of a woman putting a gun to some man’s head, we do not think it is rape.

What made the Sandusky case so different than others is that we heard the details. We could not simply write off what he did as “molestation.” We heard exactly what he did, down to how the boys reacted. That detail changed the way people responded. That is a new thing. Ten years ago, people may not have cared. Yet during that time, we heard about what happens to boys, and that reshaped how people responded.

We need to do the same thing with female abusers. We need to talk about what they do, how they do it, how they cover it up, how they excuse it, and how they rely on cultural norms and political agendas to get away with it.

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30 thoughts on “When women sexually abuse

  1. ” As Elliott mentions, people would not think twice about allowing a woman they barely know to watch their children. Women committing abuse, let alone child abuse, let alone sexual abuse, completely dismantles that.”

    This made me remember something from middle school. A girl in my grade used to babysit and once demonstrated to a couple of other girls how she masturbated the baby because she thought it was fun and she meant the baby liked it. The rumor spread and it ended up in the draft to the yearbook but was edited out by the school administration. No one actually thought to react against it as the action it was. Not that people condoned it but no one saw it for what it actually was, sexually molesting a baby, not an innocent but shitty thing to do.

  2. “We need to do the same thing with female abusers. We need to talk about what they do, how they do it, how they cover it up, how they excuse it, and how they rely on cultural norms and political agendas to get away with it.”

    Damn straight. I suspect most women, yes MOST women, have a dirty little secret involving children in their care. What astounds me is the teflon-coated ease with which it is glossed over, especially in the minds of the guilty. It came as a shock to realise the depths of depravity to which women can go within the social structures that MEN have built for their protection. Men must not allow the women in their lives to prosecute The Evil One’s schemes in the world, if it’s the last thing they do in this life. Own that responsibility, men.

  3. I suspect most women, yes MOST women, have a dirty little secret involving children in their care.

    I doubt that. There is nothing to suggest that most women commit sexual abuse. I do agree that women may be more likely to rationalize it. Men seem more likely to know that the behavior would get them in trouble.

    It came as a shock to realise the depths of depravity to which women can go within the social structures that MEN have built for their protection.

    I think this is true of any group that has that kind of social protection. Once someone has that kind of cover, it makes it easier for them to abuse. We this often in organizations like the Catholic Church.

    Men must not allow the women in their lives to prosecute The Evil One’s schemes in the world, if it’s the last thing they do in this life.

    Who is “The Evil One”?

  4. “The Evil One” is the devil, whatever you hold her to be.

    Pretty much all of the women I’ve known reasonably well since I swallowed the red pill (perhaps 50 or so) have at some point or another, by the things they’ve revealed in casual conversation, given me pause to believe they’ve thought, said or done something with a child that would make a child protection worker suspicious if it were a man thinking, saying or doing those things. I’ve also experienced enough abuse by women to know that women sexualise children in ways that are often too sophisticated for the average person to detect. The sum of my experience tells me that while direct sexual abuse by women of children is uncommon, indirect sexual abuse certainly is not. How can anyone doubt this, given the ultra sexualisation of women in today’s society?

  5. The sum of my experience tells me that while direct sexual abuse by women of children is uncommon, indirect sexual abuse certainly is not. How can anyone doubt this, given the ultra sexualisation of women in today’s society?(stalk)

    Generalisations such as this do not help matters at all.

  6. Jacob, I am sorry that has been your experience. However, most people do not engage in sexual activity with children, although I agree that women can get away with doing things to or with kids that no man could. Also, I think we must be careful not to attach nefarious intent where there is none. Some acts that adults do are done with no intent to hurt or abuse the child.

  7. This is such an excellent post. Thanks TS.

    The thing that gets me is the video. I don’t understand Elliott’s stoic reaction to the way her conference was sabotaged. This happened 20 years’ ago. Elliott thus must have been aware that, to some extent, the discussion around child sexual abuse was being distorted by feminist ideology. However, rather than address that, her career panned out differently: she went on to talk about bullying among children. She moved away from the sensitive areas altogether, and the discussion appears to have slid back much to where it was.

    I know that it would be really harsh to have a go at Elliott, because after all she did write an important book and that is likely more than I will ever achieve in my life, but I still feel disappointed that she didn’t follow up on it and do so much more. It seems like such a missed opportunity.

  8. I don’t understand Elliott’s stoic reaction to the way her conference was sabotaged. This happened 20 years’ ago.

    Time makes for a different reaction. I also think some of her other conference may have gone down the same way.

    I know that it would be really harsh to have a go at Elliott, because after all she did write an important book and that is likely more than I will ever achieve in my life, but I still feel disappointed that she didn’t follow up on it and do so much more. It seems like such a missed opportunity.

    To be fair, there is only so much a person can take. If you tried talking about it and kept getting shut down, it is understandable why she might move on rather that continue to face that kind of reaction.

  9. “Generalisations such as this do not help matters at all.”

    @titfortat

    The statement you’re ineptly referring to was not a generalisation. It was an opinion based on my experience. Are you suggesting that my experience of abuse and my response to it is somehow invalid? Great.

    Perhaps you’re suggesting that I have no right to infer that the subtle sexualisation of children by women is commonplace, despite it being true in my experience?

  10. @JIS

    I will use your logic, in my experience it is completely untrue. Are you suggesting my experience and response invalid? I was beaten for many years and have experienced much violence at the hands of men. If I generalized that most men are violent abusers, that belief would certainly be a false statement. Though it may be accurate when viewed just from my own worldview. It took a few years for me to grow past that outlook, fortunately I did. It has made my world so much safer and serene. I hope the same for you one day.

  11. “I know that it would be really harsh to have a go at Elliott, because after all she did write an important book and that is likely more than I will ever achieve in my life, but I still feel disappointed that she didn’t follow up on it and do so much more. It seems like such a missed opportunity.”

    When a female nursery worker and her accomplices were caught and convicted of child sexual abuse a few years ago, Elliot appeared in the news and said that she didn’t think women sexually abused children and said as much in a conference, then an adult man walked up to her and said that his mother had abused him – that changed her world view.

    So it’s not harsh at all to criticise people that the media turn to for a comment every single time like they’re supposed to be helping, when they’re close-minded and failing the perceived “wrong” type of victim for decades, whether that’s boys, soldiers, or women with the wrong type of clothes on.

  12. Wow!! …..and wow again. First of all, let me say that my heart goes out to any child that has been molested or raped, etc. As far as a grown behind man, a woman cannot raped a man!!!! A man who wants to prove a point, will do just that, prove his point. Women in a general sense, do not, I said do not, have enough strength to rape a man.
    Further, I was disappointed by the article for many reasons, and I will not discuss all of them here, at this time. But, we all have heard of cases where women allowed male partners to coerce them into molesting, and have bothered males on their own. But we know this is not common and it has just now begun to be heard of more and more. But, in the past and now, men are generally the sexual perpetrators. If a naked man walked through a group of 25 or so of regular population of women, he might get his wang touched here or there. But if a naked, or even clothed female walked into a group of men, not even 10, she can bet she will be bent over raped, sodomized, slapped around, fondled, groped, beated and then laughed at.

    Now, let me ask this: Why do we get angry when doctors, counselors, women’s groups, and the like, suggest that it is shown that fathers molest their daughters. Well, if it you can believed, that there are women who rape, then you all should be able to believe that fathers regularly molest. And we all know they do. If only women of the world, could write a giant book, the stories about dad, would blow your mind.

    It seems in this country, that the general population is in denial when it comes to men’s sins. I’m not!! I’ve seen it in a few Christian female counselors on the internet, whose names I will not give, who keep scolding and blaming wives/women for men’s sins, then give wives a list of 50 things to do to exalt and worshop these men. Poor gullible, weak minded, women fall for this crap. . Girls, women love yourselves. Don’t put all your trust in any man, not dad, not boyfriend, not husband, and certainly not men who blame and demean women. Satan is busy. Watch and listen. Love yourselves girls and women.

  13. Hi Jean,

    I just want to speak to your comment re: a grown man cannot be raped by a woman. I completely disagree. Spousal rape occurs by both genders. It is not only physical force that can be used for coercion, but also emotional manipulation, threats of harm or self harm, etc. Additionally, some men are physically weaker than some women (or may be physically paralyzed by emotional threats). To imply that it cannot ever happen, is to heap shame on any man who has been raped by a woman. It is never a victim’s fault (whether the victim is male or female, or the perpetrator is male or female). Not knowing the specific circumstances of someone’s situation, making these kinds of generalizations might be damaging or harmful to someone who has been victimized. I know that was not your intent at all, and I want to commend you for your encouraging words to women in the last paragraph. May we also extend that grace to men (not boys, but men) who have been victimized by women, even if the percentage of those abused is significantly less than that of women abused by men.

  14. To theauroracrossing,
    Hello, I welcome yours and all other comments. We must all respectfully agree to disagree and must always remember to read thoroughtly through an article, before we make our reply. Read my 1st line, then my 7th and 8th lines.

    ” First of all, let me say that my heart goes out to any child that has been molested or raped”
    “But, we all have heard of cases where women allowed male partners to coerce them into molesting, and have bothered males on their own.”

    Now, in general situations, a woman does not have the physical strength to rape a full grown man. You may not want to admit it. There are exceptions to every rule! A regular sized man can walk up to a regular sized women and rape her easily. A regular sized woman cannot walk up to a regular sized man and rape him on her own, with her regular female strength, unless there are certain tools to assist her. (Example; she drugged him, knocked him out with a weapon, he is sick, etc. )

    Again I say, my heart goes out to those who were truly raped by a woman or a man. I respect their pain.

    Thanks for your comment. 🙂

  15. If a naked man walked through a group of 25 or so of regular population of women, he might get his wang touched here or there. But if a naked, or even clothed female walked into a group of men, not even 10, she can bet she will be bent over raped, sodomized, slapped around, fondled, groped, beated and then laughed at.

    That is untrue. Most people are not rapists, so the idea that a large number of men or women would randomly assault a naked person is nonsense. This is not even difficult to prove. There are scores of places and events that allow public nudity and the vast majority of those people walk out of there without touching or being touched by anyone.

    Secondly, your first argument is easily disproven by the existence of places called “gay bars.” Having been to several with my brother, I can attest that women will happily, grope, fondle, kiss, and sexually harass men when given the chance.

    Now, in general situations, a woman does not have the physical strength to rape a full grown man.

    That assumes that all rape uses physical force. It does not. A woman can drug a man, wait until he is drunk, or threaten him with a weapon. Rape happens once a person refuses or revokes their consent, so if a woman continues to have sex with a man after he said “stop” or “no”, it is rape.

  16. I’m not that much of a online reader to be honest but your blogs really
    nice, keep it up! I’ll go ahead and bookmark your site to come back later on. All the best

  17. >There is nothing to suggest that most women commit sexual abuse.

    Except, of course, for how routine and ritual male genital mutilation is still legal everywhere in the world.

  18. Except, of course, for how routine and ritual male genital mutilation is still legal everywhere in the world.

    That still does not prove most women commit child abuse.

  19. Jacob, where do your comments leave women like me who were abused by a woman? Please don’t condemn me solely on my gender. I wouldn’t do the same to you, so please don’t do it to me.

    Jean, my abuser was not coerced by any man. She occasionally involved them, but she was my primary abuser and she did so whether there was a man there or not and for 90% of the time, there wasn’t. I know it’s hard to believe because you naturally want to compare my mother to your own or other mothers you know. But she’s not like any mother you know. She’s a monster. While there are people like you who don’t want to believe, people like me are not believed. There are very few resources out there for us as it is. I found a small section in a book called ‘The courage to heal’ about 18 years ago. Up until that point, I had never disclosed to anyone as I thought I was the only one and I wouldn’t be believed. There are still people so horrified it’s simply easier not to believe me.

    I have had problems as a feminist arguing with other feminists too. I won’t accept their line that ‘men rape, so men are the problem’ because it’s not just men, and it’s certainly not all men. I fell out with a friend of mine last year after she joined the Mumsnet Radical Feminists. They were indulging themselves in some male bashing on Facebook and I said it wasn’t just men. I was trying to subtly hint that I knew what I was talking about. My so-called friend, who knows about my abuse, said the number of children abused by women was ‘insignificant’. Our pain doesn’t matter, clearly. She said I should shut up as I was ‘diverting attention from the real issue of men abusing women and girls’. I couldn’t believe she hung me out to dry like that, to impress people that she hasn’t even met in real life. I, her friend, wasn’t important and my pain was ‘insignificant’. That hurt nearly as much as the original betrayal. Not as much, because there’s nothing worse, but she really hurt me.

  20. ‘If a naked man walked through a group of 25 or so of regular population of women, he might get his wang touched here or there. But if a naked, or even clothed female walked into a group of men, not even 10, she can bet she will be bent over raped, sodomized, slapped around, fondled, groped, beated and then laughed at’

    I don’t believe this either. Rape does not happen due to a victim’s clothing (or lack of it). If the ‘not even 10’ men were the men I love, I can guarantee that they would be trying to cover her up and help her to a place of safety. Sweeping statements and generalisations don’t help anyone. Then we get into ‘girls are abused by their dads’, ‘men and boys aren’t abused by women’ and ‘women don’t commit acts of sexual assault as they’re not violent’. None of those are true, so perhaps deciding on the basis of your own logic, isn’t the right way to go about it. Accepting the facts from those of us who have been abused, no matter how unpalatable you find it, is the only way you will know what’s actually true as opposed to what you want to be true.

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  25. Jacob, I am looking for information about the rape of boys and men in the third world. I am already familiar with the studies about rape of men during wartime and the Bacha Bazi tradition.

    Do you know if the Bacha Bazi tradition is practiced in arab countries today? I came across a source that said it was practiced in arab countries in the past but it did not say anything about the present and I have not been able to find any good sources on this. Do you know how widespread boy sex slaves or rape of boys is in arab countries? Or anywhere else in the world for that matter.

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