- 1. Introduction
- 2. The Prevalence of Female Sexual Abuse of Minors
- 3. Male Offenders’ History of Childhood Abuse
- 4. UK Sex Offenders in Prison
- 4.1 Sentencing of Sex Offenders by Sex
- 5. Female Perpetrated Sex Offending Is Harmful
- 6. Sex of the Victim
- 7. Examples of UK Women Sex Offenders Against Minors
- 8. The USA and Canada
- 8.1 Female Sex Offending in Correctional Facilities in the USA
- 9. Conclusions
I have had it in mind to post on the matter of female sexual offenders against children for some time. I was reticent about doing so because of the risk of appearing to wish to deflect attention from male abusers. However, I have decided to go ahead and this decision stems directly from the ongoing pogrom in Parliament – and many other places. We are marinated constantly in stories of male sexual offending, but it is rare that one hears anything about female sexual offending on the broadcast media.
Consequently, I think it is fair game to redress the balance. And the statistics, below, do not disguise male offending.
But ladies don’t do that sort of thing, surely? Well, that’s the conventional social narrative. But it is not true.
The purpose of this article is not to demonise women. Any idea that all women should bear the guilt of a few is just as preposterous as when the same unjust illogic is applied to men. The purpose of this article is not even to cast stones at the guilty women (named below). Its true purpose is twofold. Firstly, it is to undermine the aforesaid illogic – namely that the guilt of a few can be laid at the door of the entire identity class. Indeed, firing artillery at identity politics in general is a valid objective. The second purpose is an attempt to penetrate the gynocentric carapace which protects women from criticism even when it is justified. Women are not all blameless angels; they are no better than men. For both sexes we can truthfully say that some people are admirable, some are badly flawed, even wicked, but most are averagely decent.
Actually there is a valid third purpose, which focuses on the victims. A web site listing female sex offenders (no longer available) expressed it thus: “The website and this attached blog are NOT about bashing women. The goal is to highlight the ways in which popular stereotypes of women, motherhood and violence work to further exacerbate survivors’ struggles to make sense of the abuse. It is about highlighting the fact that there are female abusers out there and how society as a whole has dealt, or has not dealt, with that fact.” The site Toy Soldiers deserves a shout for persistence in presenting the latter perspective.
Here I will be concerned exclusively with adult female sexual offending against minors. I may, in the future, post separately on women’s sexual offences against adults, as well as female perpetrated abuse of children of a non-sexual nature. But not today.
The case studies I have identified explicitly are certainly the tip of the iceberg as regards illegal sexual activities between women and underage boys or girls. In case you don’t make it that far down this long article, here are 39 UK cases of women who have been convicted of sexual offences against minors, and here are approximately 275 cases from the USA, specifically of teachers who have sexually offended against their pupils.
One UK case I will discuss immediately – specifically because the case hit the press whilst the recent furore in Parliament was in progress. I make the point that you probably heard nothing about this genuine case of sexual abuse. The media was too busy whipping up a Parliamentary sex scandal – a scandal which is beginning to look to me rather like effective corporate manslaughter.
The case concerns Nicola Fox who forced a 13 year old boy with no previous sexual experience to have sex with her. Fox lured the boy into her house, saying she wanted a chat with him. She then slammed the door shut and barricaded it with a table so he could not escape. Fox pinned the boy down to the bed using her weight. She removed her trousers and lower clothing then held the boy’s hands over his head and forced sexual intercourse on him. He made it absolutely clear he did not want her to do what she did, telling her to stop and to get off. He struggled and was crying at one point.
The Hull Daily Mail report states, “Her response was to tell him to stop crying, and she said that in an annoyed and aggressive tone. He felt annoyed, upset and embarrassed. During the ordeal, the boy had treated Fox with dignity because of her gender, and did not want to hurt her by using violence to free himself.” (This is a common reaction of males to being sexually assaulted by women, e.g., see this).
The only reason this offence is not classed as rape is because in our wonderful egalitarian English law rape is defined as penetration using a penis, so a biological woman cannot rape. But, legally niceties aside, this was forcible rape.
Fox has been sentenced to 4 years in prison. At the Court of Appeal in London, Louise Oakley, representing Attorney General Jeremy Wright QC, claimed Fox had been treated more leniently because of her gender. Oakley said: “It cannot be right that a female who commits an offence is dealt with more leniently than a male, simply because she is female.” Lady Justice Hallett, presiding at the appeal, agreed that leniency had been shown but argued that mitigation was justified due to Nicola Fox’s mental health problems. She declined to alter the sentence.
[Oh, and in the interests of equity – yes, there was also this sexual abuse case, news of which broke whilst everyone was distracted by the Parliamentary nonsense].
It is eight years since Esther Rantzen caused public shock with this 2009 Guardian article. It reported on calls to the UK’s ChildLine. Extracts are as follows,
“The figures released by ChildLine demonstrate that sexual abuse by women is not nearly as rare as we would hope. There has been a dramatic rise in the number of women reported by child callers to ChildLine as abusers. This rise is partly due to the fact that many more boys are ringing us.
Suicide is the biggest single cause of death for boys in their late teens and early 20s, even outnumbering deaths in road accidents. So ChildLine counsellors believed that far too many boys and young men were reluctant to disclose a problem until it became so overwhelming that they felt life was not worth living. That is why we have focused on boys – with so much success that the number counselled has reached an all-time high of more than 58,000.
Last year, more than half the boys who rang disclosing sexual abuse reported that they had been abused by women. The most common female perpetrator – in almost 1,000 cases – was the boy’s mother. Among the boys who reported being sexually abused by a man (almost the same number of callers), the most common perpetrator was the father – again, in about 1,000 incidents. Both shocking statistics.”
Yet the phenomenon of sexual abuse by women was hardly unknown before 2009. The web site femalesexoffenders.org includes a massive bibliography of academic publications going back to the Victorian era. These publications, around 650 of them, all relate to female sexual abusers or their victims. That web site has given notice of closure, but I have retained a copy of the bibliography here (or in chronological order here). The number of publications per year remained sparse until the mid-1980s when it started to take off considerably. It was then that Michele Elliott started Kidscape.
Evidence is beginning to accumulate that around 20% – 25% of paedophiles are women. Michele Elliott has long been of this opinion. (The ManWomanMyth videos with Elliott here, here and here are strongly recommended viewing). Michele Elliott’s book Female Sexual Abuse of Children, The Ultimate Taboo was published in 1993, nearly a quarter of a century ago. The story of Elliott’s own awakening to the reality of sexual abuse perpetrated by women is revealing. In the late 1980s she gave a talk at an RAF base, claiming, as she believed at the time, that abusers were all men. But an RAF officer came up to her privately afterwards and told her, with tears in his eyes, “it isn’t only men, you know, my mother did it to me”. Shortly afterwards Elliott appeared on a radio phone-in show hosted by Philip Hodgson. She raised the issue of sexual abuse by women. She was unaware that she was opening a flood gate.
The radio station’s switchboard was jammed with calls from people disburdening themselves of their own experience of sexual abuse at the hands of women – almost always the first time they had told anyone. Over the following week, Elliott’s office at Kidscape was inundated with letters bearing similar tales (this was before email). This experience led to Elliott hosting the Kidscape First National Conference on Female Sexual Abuse. The event was invaded by 30 or so feminists intent on preventing witnesses speaking – and they largely succeeded. There is nothing new about feminists shutting down events. Not deterred, Michele Elliott appeared on the TV programme ‘This Morning’ to talk about the issue. Again the TV station was flooded with telephone calls, over a thousand. 90% of callers had never told anyone of their abuse at the hands of women before.
And yet nearly a quarter of a century later, the social narrative still will not acknowledge the reality of female perpetrated sexual abuse. The public is resistant to the notion because it transgresses against the gynocentric obligation to believe that women are invariably caring, nurturing and benign. Men and women both have a powerful disinclination to believe that some women might deploy their social power in harmful ways. The pernicious effect of this mindset has been stressed in 1999 by Henderson in “The idealization of women: its role in the minimization of child sexual abuse by females”.
More recently a UK study by the Lucy Faithfull Foundation has come to the view that up to 20% of paedophiles are women, leading to an estimate that there might be 64,000 women in the UK who have committed sexual offences against children. Studies in the USA by the National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect have reached a similar conclusion: “the sexual abuse of children by women, primarily mothers, once thought to be so rare it could be ignored, constituted 25% of the sexually abused victims (approximately 36,000 victims)“. Like Michele Elliott’s work, this knowledge goes back over twenty years. It is not news, but it is only in recent years that it has begun to surface in public discussion. A 2014 US study by Wurtele et al based on anonymous self-reporting of sexual interest in children also indicated that about 25% of people admitting to such interest were women.
In a 2005 study of 17,337 subjects of childhood sexual abuse, 23% had a female-only perpetrator and 22% had both male and female perpetrators. Males were 39% of those victimized, and men reported female perpetration nearly 40% of the time. (Dube et al. “Long-Term Consequences of Childhood Sexual Abuse by Gender of Victim”, American Journal of Preventive Medicine, (2005):28(5), p 430 – 438). The long-term impact of childhood sexual abuse on multiple health and social outcomes was found to be similar for males and females.
This major 2004 study commissioned by the U.S. Department of Education reports on “Educator Sexual Misconduct”. Like other studies that ask students about offenders, sex differences are less than in adult reports. The US DoE report calls on various other studies. One study, from the American Association of University Women in 2001, indicated that 57.2% of all students reporting sexual abuse specified a male offender and 42.4% a female offender. Another referenced study, by Cameron et al, reported nearly identical proportions (57% male offenders vs. 43% female offenders).
Jenni Murray has difficulty understanding why women do it. I will not be straying into the psychology of offenders here, which will certainly be both complex and varied. In particular, it is likely that women in the role of carer, offending in the domestic environment against young children (paedophiles), have a distinct aetiology from that of (say) teachers offending against pubescent boys or girls in the 11 to 15 age range (hebephiles). In regard to the latter, this is the opinion of Anthony Beech, criminological psychology professor at the University of Birmingham, “The teachers feel entitled. They think they can have sex with anyone they want. It’s power imbalance and manipulation. There’s a narcissism – I can do what I want because I’m the most important person going.”
If you take just one message from this article it should be this: more than half of male sex offenders against women were sexually abused themselves as children by a woman. I have been aware of this claim for some time. But the studies I had seen which supported this contention, all from the USA or Canada, were quite old – from the 1980s or 1990s – and I was suspicious about the provenance of the data. Were the samples large enough? Of what exactly did the historic childhood sexual abuse consist? How egregious was it? I will review these older references below, but first…
My doubts vanished earlier this year, thanks to Naomi Murphy’s presentation at the 2017 Male Psychology Conference. Naomi Murphy is a psychotherapist working at HM Prison Whitemore, a top security prison housing serious violent and sexual offenders (men, obviously). Naomi reported that 54% of the male sex offenders had been sexually abused themselves as children by women. Moreover, she emphasised to me in private conversation that this was generally women acting alone – not typically in conjunction with a man, as the usual narrative goes. Mothers feature large in this abuse, but other female relatives, neighbours, baby sitters, etc., also feature.
Let the implications of this sink in. As always, we must be careful about the distinction between correlation and causality. But it would be perverse not to suspect a causal connection in this case (though not deterministic). Women in a caring capacity are naturally the arbiters of right and wrong to children in their care. So what effect will sexual behaviour with a mother, or other carer, have upon a child? It is hardly surprising that the victim may become confused as to what is acceptable. And if the victim comes to understand that he has been inappropriately treated, resentment at the breach of trust may set in. Either way, it is reasonable to expect that the resulting psychological state might predispose the former victim to become an offender. Not that there is anything deterministic about it. Victims are not doomed to become offenders. We are all responsible for our behaviour. But some, due to their history, may be prone to predispositions that others are not.
In 1984, American researchers Petrovich and Templer studied a sample of 83 adult (male) rapists and found 59% had been heterosexually molested as children (“Heterosexual molestation of children who later become rapists”, Psychological Reports, (1984) 54(3), 810). Most of these men (77%) reported sexual abuse on more than one occasion and that the abuse involved intercourse. Note that the 59% statistic relates specifically to sexual abuse as children by women perpetrators. The boys’ mean age at the time of the sexual activity was 11.5 years.
The paper “Sexual trauma in the life histories of rapists and child molesters” by Groth, Victimology: An International Journal, (1979) 4(1), 10-16, concluded the following. “This study examined the life histories of 348 men convicted of sexual assault. The subjects were mostly recidivists, men who either had previous records of sexual assault or who admitted to similar prior offenses for which they had not been caught. Of these subjects, 170 had sexually assaulted adult victims, while 178 had victimized children. Evidence of some form of sexual trauma during their developmental years (ages 1 through 15) was found in the life histories of 31% of the offenders. In contrast, a control group (of law enforcement officers) reported similar experiences in only 3% of cases. The predominant type of trauma experienced by child molesters was a forcible sexual assault, whereas for rapists the abuse had taken the form of being pressured into sexual activity by an adult. In many cases the sexual assaults appear to replicate the offender’s own victimization.”
This latter point was confirmed by O’Brien (1989) who reports that sex offenders against male victims who had themselves a history of having been abused were more likely to have been abused by a male. Similarly, and even more emphatically, of sex offenders against female victims who had themselves a history of having been abused in childhood, 93% had been abused by a female. [O’Brien, M.J. (1989), “Characteristics of Male Adolescent Sibling Incest Offenders”, Orwell, VT: Safer Society Press]. Such observations suggest a causal link and some form of ‘learnt’ or familial behaviour.
The 1993 paper “Childhood Sexual Abuse and Subsequent Sexual Aggression Against Adult Women”, by Brière and Smiljanich, presented at the 101st annual convention of the American Psychological Association, Toronto, Ontario, has been quoted by Mathews as implying an alarmingly high 80% prevalence rate of sexual abuse by females in the background of male sex offenders.
The 1987 paper by Condy et al , “Parameters of sexual contact of boys with women”, Archives of Sexual Behavior, 16(5), 379-394, has been cited by Mathews as giving a prevalence rate of female-perpetrated abuse against male sex prisoners as children of 46%. [Apologies, the pay wall frustrates my checking the primary source].
Further evidence comes from the 1996 Canadian report “The Invisible Boy: Revisioning the Victimisation of Male Children and Teens”, by Frederick Mathews. Table 2 of the report gives the prevalence rates of sexual abuse of males, both in general populations and in populations of sex offenders. Male US undergraduates were reported to have an anomalously high prevalence of sexual victimisation (the average of two samples being 28%). Ignoring this, the prevalence rate of sexual victimisation of males was 13% averaged over 8 samples of general population. In contrast, the prevalence rate of sexual abuse of males was 47% averaged over the 4 samples of sex offenders (and greater than 50% when confined to cases of abuse by women).
A extract from the Abstract of “Sexual victimization in the history of sexual abusers: A review”, by Hanson and Slater, Annals of sex research, December 1988, Volume 1, Issue 4, pp 485–499, reads, “The present paper reviews the empirical literature on the proportion of child sexual abusers who were themselves sexually victimized as children. While findings in individual studies ranged between 0% and 67%, on average about 28% of the offenders reported being sexually victimized as children. This rate is higher than the base rate for community samples of non-offending males (about 10%)”.
A more recent paper, “Characteristics of Perpetrators of Child Sexual Abuse Who Have Been Sexually Victimized as Children”, “Sexual Abuse” Vol 14, Issue 3, 2002, by Jackie Craissati, Grace McClurg and Kevin Browne reports on a study of all convicted child sexual abusers in S.E. London. They conclude “almost half the offenders reported experiences of sexual victimization in childhood”. This paper, and the previous one, are not specific regarding the sex of the offender.
A 2001 paper “Cycle of child sexual abuse: links between being a victim and becoming a perpetrator” by Glasser et al, The British Journal of Psychiatry, Dec 2001, 179 (6) 482-494 studied 843 subjects attending a specialist forensic psychotherapy centre. They concluded, “A high percentage of male subjects abused in childhood by a female relative became perpetrators. Having been a victim was a strong predictor of becoming a perpetrator, as was an index of parental loss in childhood”. However, abuse in childhood was not found to be a significant indicator of future perpetration by females – only by males. Detailed results were as follows. Of the 41 females attending the forensic psychotherapy service who were victims of sexual abuse, only one was also a perpetrator. However, of the 135 male victims, 79 were perpetrators (59%). Twenty-four male subjects reported having been sexually abused by females, 23 of whom were identified as female relatives. Seven of the 24 were also abused by male relatives. Of these 24 males, 19 went on to become perpetrators of sexual abuse (79%). Of the 111 male subjects abused by males, 60 became perpetrators (54%). This indicates that abuse of males by female relatives may be more likely to contribute to the male victim becoming an abuser than abuse by male relatives or persons outside the family.
In summary, multiple studies show that the incidence of childhood sexual abuse in the history of adult sex offenders is significantly higher than that in the general population. Not surprisingly there is a spread of estimates, ranging from 28% to 80%. There is a particularly marked correspondence between male sex offenders against women and the offender’s history of childhood sexual abuse specifically by a woman. The best estimate at present is that a little over 50% of male sex offenders against women have a childhood history of sexual abuse by a woman.
Whilst not strictly proved, there may well be a causal connection between childhood sexual abuse and later becoming an offender (though not deterministic). We constantly hear calls to “teach boys not to rape” as a means of reducing the rape of females. But society already does this very effectively – which is why rape is universally regarded as a particularly heinous crime. What society does not do so effectively is to acknowledge that women may sexually abuse children – girls or boys. It appears that boys abused by women have a significantly enhanced likelihood of later becoming sex offenders against women.
Consequently, even if one’s sole concern were the protection of women, a strategy which is far more likely to be effective in reducing rape than “teach boys not to rape” would appear to be to acknowledge more widely women’s own sexual offending against boys and its harmful effects.
The current refusal to accept potential female culpability for sex offences against boys may well be significantly increasing sex offences against women.
Before embarking on the issue of sex offenders in prison, let’s do a quick recap. We have found that about 25% of paedophiles/hebephiles are women. Roughly equal numbers of boys who ‘phone ChildLine report female sexual abusers as male sexual abusers. There is a massive academic and research literature on female sex abusers. And finally, the kicker: more than half of male sex offenders against women were sexually abused themselves as children specifically by a woman, generally acting alone. Recall these findings as we go through the statistics on prisoners.
In July 2014 there were 11,150 people in prison in the UK for sex offences – and this was already double what it had been just a decade earlier. In round terms, 99% of imprisoned sex offenders are men. By March 2015 there were just under 11,600 sex offenders in prison in England and Wales. A total of 6,402 sex offenders were convicted in the year ending March 2015, an increase of 10% on the previous 12 months. The increase is most likely due to the police and the CPS pursuing a policy of ‘prosecute everything’. There are at least eight men’s prisons which house only sex offenders.
If the 2014/15 rate of increase in sex offence prisoners has continued, there will be well over 12,000 by now. This increase in numbers is further exacerbated by the government-led policy of longer sentences.
By March 2015 the average sentence length for sex offences had become longer than it had ever been before, reaching 5 years 3 months. (Recall that Nicola Fox got 4 years). This average sentence length has increased from 40 months in 2003, an increase by 58% in 12 years. Note that the number of convictions for rape in 2015 was 1,295 (and 1,164 in 2014), so more than 80% of the men contributing to that 5 year 3 month average sentence were convicted for a lesser offence than rape.
There is a considerable appetite for putting men in prison for sex offences. Chris Grayling, when he was Justice Sectretary, said, “I make no apology for putting sex offenders where they deserve to be“. He has not, to my knowledge, made explicit that the place they deserve to be differs according to sex.
This Independent article states that, in 2006, “women formed just 0.5% of all sex offenders in prison, and around 1% of convicted sex offenders in England and Wales”.
In 2009 there were just 56 female child sex abusers in custody (49 sentenced and 7 on remand). Another 84 were under supervision in the community. (Note that this latter statistic is an indication that even women convicted of sexual offences most often are not sent to prison, a theme that will be confirmed by the case histories – below). Fewer than 2% of people on the sex offenders register were then women.
In 2010 and 2011 there were respectively 121 and 103 female prisoners in custody for sexual offences.
Based on June 2013 data, just 77 sentenced sex offenders were women, so only 0.7% of imprisoned sexual offenders were women. (The House of Commons Briefing Paper from which I took this is no longer available).
In June 2015, about 2.5% of the female prison population were sex offenders (see Figure 7.08 of Statistics on Women and the Criminal Justice System 2015). The female prison population in 2015 was 3,900, so the number of female sex offenders in prison was around 100.
Now, recall once again that more than half of male sex offenders against women were sexually abused themselves as children – and by a woman. So, tell me, if there are 12,000 men in prison for sex offences – predominantly against females – where are the 6,000 women who should be in prison for sex offences against boys? And that doesn’t count women’s sex offences against girls, probably a roughly equal number. So, where are the missing 12,000 female sex prisoners?
Yes, yes, I know it isn’t as simple as that. There is a time delay between the two phenomena, and probably a host of other complications. Nevertheless, the exact figure aside, you take my point. There is a massive disconnect between the sex offender prison populations – in round terms 12,000 men but only 100 women – and the research observation that more than half of male sex offenders against women were sexually abused themselves as children. Actually the number should be far larger than 12,000 women offenders because only a proportion of abused boys will go on to be abusive men. These women are offending with almost complete impunity.
And one of the ultimate victims of a woman’s sexual abuse of a boy may be another woman (in some fraction of cases).
The cycle of offending cannot be broken if women’s offending is ignored.
Ideally, criminal sentencing should be based only upon what you did, not upon who or what you are. In the UK – and all “Western” societies – we fail massively to achieve that ideal.
The vast majority of female sex offenders are never prosecuted. Are the few women who are prosecuted and convicted for sex offences sentenced equally severely as men? You know the answer, I think.
In March 2012, in the Journal “Feminist Criminology” (absolutely no possible bias there) Randa Embry and Phillip Lyons published a paper “Sex-Based Sentencing: Sentencing Discrepancies Between Male and Female Sex Offenders”. Regular readers will recall that sex bias in prison sentencing is a pet subject of mine. The case of sex offences sees this bias at its most extreme. I was highly amused to read Embry and Lyons’s Abstract,
“The current research examines the utility of the evil woman hypothesis by examining sentencing discrepancies between male and female sex offenders. National Corrections Reporting Program data are used to identify sex offenders for the years 1994 to 2004 and the sentences they received for specific sex offenses. Statistical analyses reveal a significant difference in sentence length between men and women, but not in the expected direction. The evil woman hypothesis would assume women are sentenced more harshly, but data show men receive longer sentences for sex offenses than women. Support is provided for the chivalry hypothesis to explain immediate sentencing disparity.”
For “chivalry hypothesis” read gynocentrism. Yes, feminists have discovered gynocentrism – but, of course, it appears in the guise of benign sexism against women. It must be exhausting constantly having to contort one’s brain into such configurations. (Who was it called it ‘pretzel logic’?).
Leaving aside the fact that “Feminist Criminology” has no right to exist, that phrase “expected direction” is some giveaway. Actually, of course, their finding is precisely in the expected direction – as expected, that is, by anyone in the MRM – just not in line with feminist delusion. One has to give the (presumably feminist) authors credit for accepting reality (for once).
In 2009 in the journal Psychiatry, Psychology and Law (Vol. 16, p.394), Rebecca Deering and David Mellor came to the same conclusion regarding “Sentencing of Male and Female Child Sex Offenders” in Australia. Their Abstract,
“Research suggests that, in line with the chivalry hypothesis of female offending, a range of mitigatory factors such as mental health problems, substance abuse, and personal experiences of abuse are brought into play when women who offend against children are brought to trial. This is reflected in sentencing comments made by judges and in the sanctions imposed on the offenders, and as a result female offenders are treated differently to male offenders. The current study investigated this in an Australian context. Seven cases of female-perpetrated child sexual abuse were identified over a 6-year period through the Austlii database. Seven cases of male-perpetrated child sex abuse matched as far as possible to these were identified. Court transcripts were then located, and sentencing comments and sanctions imposed were analysed. All offenders were sentenced to imprisonment, but in general the women were more likely than the men to receive less jail time and lower non-parole periods because their personal backgrounds or situation at the time of the offending (i.e., difficulties with intimate relationship, male dependence issues, depression, loneliness and anger) were perceived as worthy of sympathy, and they were considered as likely to be rehabilitated. Further investigations are needed to support these findings.”
We have already seen the female mitigation-bonus applied to Nicola Fox. Many instances of the same phenomenon can be seen in many of the 39 example UK cases of female sex offenders.
Many of the academic papers within the bibliography identify the long-term harm caused by childhood sexual abuse. Many do so by sex of offender or by sex of victim. Broadly the findings are that boys and girls suffer comparable adverse outcomes, and abuse by a female is not less damaging than abuse by a male. In some ways female perpetrated abuse can be worse. Studies find that the trauma of sexual abuse for the victim increases when compounded by disbelief from the community and professionals, and hence when the perpetrator is female. Moreover, it should not be assumed that abuse by a male is more severe. Male and female perpetrated abuse falls in the severe category in roughly the same proportion of cases. I will not attempt a thorough review of the literature but discuss just a few examples below.
On the few occasions that women are imprisoned for sex offenses against underage boys, many people struggle to interpret this as just. Many (most?) people simply do not believe that the sexual exploitation of underage, but teenage, boys is damaging. Barbara Ellen, responding to the case of Madeleine Martin, wrote in the Guardian, “do we seriously think that a female teacher sleeping with a male pupil is on a par with a male teacher sleeping with a girl pupil? I don’t. And neither, I’d wager, would most 15-year-old boys….If anything, one would have thought they might be jealous. The internet is awash with sites dealing with “older woman teacher-pupil” fantasies. And there lies the rub – should the law be treating male and female pupil victims equally when male and female teenagers are so different?”
Empathy gap, anyone?
It is curious how feminists’ insistence that gender is fluid and interchangeable is suddenly reversed when the circumstance renders such a stance inconvenient.
Barbara Ellen can rest assured that, in general, the judiciary reflects her (overtly sexist) position, as do most of society. Barbara Ellen’s position, simply put, is that “he enjoyed it and he should be grateful for the attention”. Think of these same sentiments expressed in the context of a man’s sexual exploitation of an underage girl. Barbara Ellen’s views are obnoxious, but, I suspect, distressingly common. In her world view only females are precious and vulnerable. Males are neither.
It never crosses her mind that a teenage boy’s facade of sexual bravado has been imposed upon him by a gynocentric society – because the presumption of braggadocio is the role which boys have been allotted. It is no coincidence that this psychological trap then gives spurious justification to female preference. That the outcomes for sexually exploited boys are no different from those for girls is something in which Barbara Ellen and her kind have no interest. Perhaps she would change her mind if she knew of the link between such abuse of boys and their subsequent likelihood of becoming sex offenders against women.
This gross sex-based bias in the perception of sexual offences is confirmed by the literature. I will look at just a very few examples. The first paper reflects the bias which is not only inherent in society, but also in the therapeutic and professional community. The Abstract of “Female-perpetrated sexual abuse: a review of victim and professional perspectives”, by Hannah Clements, David L Dawson & Roshan das Nair, in the Journal of Sexual Aggression, Volume 20, 2014 reads,
“Professional attitudes towards female-perpetrated sexual abuse (FPSA) reportedly reflect the gender-role expectations found in broader society, which cast males almost exclusively as sexual aggressors or willing sexual recipients, females as sexually non-coercive or victims and male-perpetrated sexual abuse as particularly significant or injurious. Such views, however, appear to stand in contrast to the perspectives of individuals who have experienced FPSA. This paper details a systematic review of peer-reviewed quantitative and qualitative literature examining these different (professional and victim) perspectives. Although the methodological shortcomings of primary papers limit the conclusions that can be drawn, the findings suggest that victim and professional perspectives of FPSA remain discrepant; professionals generally considered FPSA as less serious, less harmful and less deserving of investigation than male-perpetrated abuse; while victims of FPSA felt their experiences influenced significantly their psychological wellbeing and abilities to form and maintain interpersonal relationships.”
The review paper “Female perpetrators of sexual abuse of minors: What are the consequences for the victims?” by Christos Tsopelas et al, International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, Volume 35, Issue 4, July–August 2012, Pages 305-310 concludes, “Victims of sexual abuse by female perpetrators are usually friends or relatives of the abuser and find themselves sometimes under persuasion and psychological coercion to participate in sexual acts. The percentage of male victims is growing. There are severe and longstanding psychological consequences for the victims”.
In 2004, Myriam Denov published “The Long-Term Effects of Child Sexual Abuse by Female Perpetrators: A Qualitative Study of Male and Female Victims”, in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence ,Vol 19, Issue 10. Key findings were,
- 93% reported that the sexual abuse was highly damaging and difficult to recover from;
- 100% reported a strong mistrust of women as a result of the sexual abuse experience;
- 29% reported having sexually abused children at some point in their lives. The men were charged and convicted. The sexual abuse by the women was never reported.
Denov also stated “Moreover, professional minimization or disbelief of victims’ allegations of female perpetrated sexual abuse may actually exacerbate the negative effects of the sexual abuse, ultimately inciting secondary victimization”.
Finally, a paper which highlights the media’s role in reinforcing stereotypical views of the sex of offenders: “Coming Clean on Duty of Care: Australian Print Media’s Representation of Male Versus Female Sex Offenders in Institutional Contexts” by Roland Landor and Susana Eisenchlas in Sexuality & Culture, December 2012, Volume 16, Issue 4, pp 486–502. Abstract:
“Public opinion about sexual abuse of minors is greatly shaped by mass media and the way individual cases are reported. This paper examines Australian print media’s representation of sex offenders, focussing particularly on the sex of the offenders and aiming to shed light on some of the misconceptions and deep-rooted prejudices within the population at large. Given the multi-faceted nature of sexual offences, this paper focuses on sexual offences committed by both males and females against minors in the context of a companion breach of duty of care. In order to explore the effect that linguistic tools can have in the Australian print media’s way of reporting sexual abuse cases, twenty-nine newspaper articles published in Australian dailies were selected for analysis. The analysis of these articles reveals a marked bias in the manner in which sexual offences perpetrated by males, as opposed to females, are reported, suggesting a male monopoly on sexual abuse. We argue that this biased representation, which hinders adequate profiling of sexual offences against minors, may stem from an androcentric view of sexuality and from the systematic denial of female agency when it comes to sex.”
Sexual crimes by women against males are doubly downplayed by the public: both because the public remain incredulous about female abusers and because the popular narrative does not view males as the ‘authorised’ victims of sexual abuse. The latter is an aspect of the empathy gap: the source of most male disadvantage. It is this same empathy gap which permits male victimisation to be vanished away. This vanishing away of male victimisation is illustrated by the interpretation of VAWG as a ‘category of offence’, rather than literally ‘violence against women and girls’. By this ruse, the statistics of male victimisation are hidden within the VAWG data. At least this is now admitted in the latest CPS VAWG report.
And perhaps we should be hopeful. In September the CPS issued its first public statement making a commitment to male victims of sexual and domestic abuse. The full statement is here. Mankind Initiative welcomed the development. With the government committed to a domestic violence Bill in this session, now is the time to attempt to influence its direction and Mankind Initiative have laid out a set of ten Recommendations. Let’s be hopeful.
Meanwhile the popular narrative, orchestrated by the media, remains prejudiced. This is reflected in, for example, the public being largely unaware that not all the victims of Rotherham and Oxfordshire were girls – at least 50 and 80 respectively were boys. The Rotherham report noted that none of the boy victims had been flagged by social workers as “risky business” and stressed the importance of “making sure that judgments about child sexual exploitation are consistent and gender neutral, for example by asking if the same level of risk would be acceptable if the child was the opposite gender“. This is not a new observation. In the USA, a 2008 report revealed that, in New York City, about 50% of the victims of commercial sexual exploitation of children were boys. In 2013 a report by the organisation End Child Pornography and Trafficking extended this conclusion to the USA as a whole. In 2014 in the UK Barnado’s criticised the stereotypical belief that boys are less vulnerable to child sexual exploitation, observing that this has led to boys receiving insufficient protection from front-line services. Barnardo’s stated that new findings indicate up to a third of child victims are male.
I give just one example from the academic literature which identifies this bias against boy victims of sexual abuse in the legal arena. It is “Differences in Legal Outcomes for Male and Female Children Who Have Been Sexually Abused”, by Meredyth Edelson and Debbie Joa, in “Sexual Abuse”, 2010, Vol.22 Issue 4. The Abstract reads,
“The goal of the present study was to determine whether or not there were sex differences in legal outcomes for children who were sexually abused. Using the methodology of Joa and Edelson (2004), the results indicated that males who were sexually abused had poorer legal outcomes than females. Specifically, it was found that cases involving male victims were less likely to be filed with the District Attorney (DA) than cases involving female victims and had fewer criminal counts charged. For those children seen at a Child Abuse Assessment Center, cases involving female victims were significantly more likely to be filed by the DA’s office than were cases involving male victims.”
I have compiled this list of 39 case studies of women in the UK who have been convicted of sex offences against minors. All are reasonably recent (2010 to 2017).
I have not included in the list the exceptional cases of Marie Black and Vanessa George – exceptionally heinous, that is. These women were each instrumental in separate instances of organised paedophile rings, involving other abusers, both men and women.
I invite you to note the relative leniency of the sentencing of the female offenders in the case studies compared to what you might expect for a man committing a similar offence. For this purpose you could use Rolf Harris as a benchmark of public reaction, and recall that on average a male sex offender is now sentenced to 5 years and 3 months in prison.
In 23 out of these 39 UK cases the female offender did not go to prison (59%). Suspended sentences were the most common outcome. Two of the 16 women who did go to prison were originally given suspended sentences – only to be sent to prison by the court of appeal. Whether this is statistically significant is not clear, but I observe that prison sentences have become more frequent in the last couple of years.
The complainants in the Harris case were described in the newspapers as “brave victims” who had undergone “terrifying ordeals”. Do you actually know what Harris did? You may wish to read my summary of the case in order to judge just how terrifying he was. The boy victims of the women in my case studies were never described in such terms in the newspaper reports. The words used to described their abuser’s exploits were typically “affair” or “tryst” or “fling”.
The case studies demonstrate that women’s offending commonly displays the following characteristics: plying victims with drink or drugs, persistent grooming which continues for years, offences against multiple victims, offences against pre-pubescent victims (hence physically as well as legally children), and threats in the event of disclosure. Counter-accusations were sometimes deployed by the female abusers: that the boy victims raped her. The words used by judges in their summing-up at the trials have included statements such as, “a disgraceful abuse of power“, “a case of gross child abuse“, “serious abuse of trust” and “very serious offences indeed“.
And yet the women whose offences were described in these terms often received only suspended sentences. Why?
Don’t mistake my intent here. I am not one of the flog ’em and hang ’em brigade. I have no particular opinion regarding what the appropriate punishment should be. My question relates only to the stark contrast between the treatment of these women and the treatment of Rolf Harris, or other men, for offences which were no worse, even if you believe every word of their accusers.
The reason, of course, is that the judiciary reflects societal prejudice.
The prejudice of society could not be clearer. There is a double prejudice in these cases, one in respect of the offender and one in respect of the victim. If a man and a woman commit exactly the same sexual offence it is perceived by most people as being far more heinous in the case of a male perpetrator. As regards victims, if an early teenage boy and an early teenage girl are subject to the same sexual abuse, it is perceived by most people as being far less serious in the case of the male victim – even to the extent that many people regard the boy as simply lucky. This attitude persists in the general public.
Many hundreds of female sex offenders against children are being convicted yearly in the USA. Even confining attention to female teachers alone, the number of convictions for sexual abuse is now in the several hundreds per year in the USA, and rising as the phenomenon has become more widely recognised. In U.S. schools in 2014 almost 800 school employees were prosecuted for sexual assault, nearly a third of them women. The proportion of identified women offenders is increasing steeply. In September 2014 I compiled a list of cases of female teachers convicted of sex offences against children in the USA, mostly by downloading from http://www.wnd.com/2014/08/39783/12/. The list of around 275 cases is here.
Most of these women did not offend just once, but had offended many times with one or several boys.
Whilst these 275 case studies were obtained from a spread of years, this number of cases is roughly equal to the number of female teachers convicted per year in the USA. In some States of the USA many of these offences would be classified as rape – though they would not be called such in English law because rape is defined as an offence committed using a penis, so biological women cannot rape.
Note that in some States the age of consent is 18 rather than 16. However, the overwhelming bulk of these cases relate to boy or girl victims younger than 16. It is often an offence for a school teacher to engage in sexual relations with a pupil irrespective of age, both in the USA and the UK.
A couple of interesting things about this list of sex offenders. Firstly, they are virtually all white, with just a couple of exceptions. This is most unusual for a list of criminals in the USA. Blacks usually figure disproportionately in crime statistics in the US. But not in this case. The reason for this is not certain, but recall this list refers only to perpetrators who are teachers. This probably biases the sample massively towards white women.
The other interesting thing is that these women offenders are not ancient hags in the main. Many are relatively young (but not that young) and often very presentable looking.
Yes, it’s youthful, attractive, white women who are the rapists. Who would have thunk it? Could it be something to do with their upbringing? They think they are entitled to whatever they want, perhaps?
8.1 Female Sex Offending in Correctional Facilities in the USA
Without doubt male-on-male sexual assault occurs all too frequently in prisons. What is less well known is that female-on-male sexual abuse also occurs with alarming frequency in juvenile detention facilities. This can occur when female guards are employed in youth facilities. Whether this is a significant phenomenon in the UK I have not thoroughly investigated. However, in recent years it has been revealed as a major issue in US youth correction facilities. If female teachers sexually offending against underage boys is an example of abuse of the power differential, how much more so does this power differential apply when the youth is a prisoner and the woman is his guard?
Nearly 10% of youth held in state juvenile facilities in the USA reported incidents of sexual victimization, with more than 80% of those incidents involving staff, according to a national survey of juvenile inmates published by the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics in 2013 that covered the preceding year. “About 90% of youth who said they were victimized by staff in the federal survey were males reporting sexual activity with female staff. . . .For example, staff at Nampa allegedly groomed inmates in the manner of child molesters, according to the legal claims.
One former inmate said in an interview that a nurse gave him perks, such as soda and candy, and flirted with him. That led to sex on several occasions in the medical clinic, he said. She gave him money, then threatened to turn him in for having contraband – the money – if he refused her advances, he said. He was 18 at the time and the nurse, who is accused of having sex with other juveniles at Nampa, was in her mid-30s. “You’re an easy target,” said the college student, now 24.”
86% of victims report more than one incident, with 20% reporting more than 10 incidents. The Bureau of Justice report estimated 1,390 youth victims of which 21.5% were bribed with alcohol or drugs to engage in sexual activity, whilst 20% were coerced with force or threats of force. The full Bureau of Justice report is here: Sexual Victimization in Juvenile Facilities Reported by Youth, 2012 (June 2013, NCJ 241708).
Brenda Smith has commented on this phenomenon in Uncomfortable places, close spaces: Female correctional workers’ sexual interactions with men and boys in custody, UCLA Law Review, 59(6), 1691-1745. An extract from the Abstract reads,
“It is well known that sexual abuse occurs within the correctional system. That female correctional staff commit a significant proportion of that sexual abuse is met with discomfort bordering on disbelief. This discomfort has limited the discourse about female correctional workers who abuse men or boys under their care. Scant scholarship exists that addresses the appropriate response to sexual abuse by women; even less addresses sexual abuse by female correctional workers. Likewise, feminist jurisprudence on sexuality and desire does little to illuminate the motivations of women who engage in sexual misconduct or abuse, much less women who abuse men or boys in custodial settings. What the literature does acknowledge is that female sex offenders receive less-harsh sanctions overall than male sex offenders; they are even less likely to be prosecuted or punished when the victim is male and in custody.”
Around 25% of paedophiles/hebephiles are women.
Sexual offences against boys are committed comparably often by men and women.
Just over half of men who commit sexual offences against females were themselves the victims of sexual abuse as children by a woman.
Consequently, even if one’s sole concern were the protection of women, a strategy which is far more likely to be effective in reducing rape than “teach boys not to rape” would appear to be to acknowledge more widely women’s own sexual offending against boys and its harmful effects.
There is a massive disconnect between the above observations and the fact that, in the UK, there are about 12,000 men in prison for sexual offences but only about 100 women.
The cycle of offending cannot be broken if women’s offending is ignored.