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Female Child Molesters/Offenders

by Peter Banning

(This article is written by a survivor who is not a professional)


The image of the child molester is an anti-social white male in his thirties or forties. With this as the typical image of the child molester, then the typical victim is a girl around the age of 10 to 14. If boys are considered victims, the perpetrator is usually considered a male homosexual. In those instances where a boy is sexually abused by a woman, this is considered at best an abnormality if it's even considered molestation. Most times, molested boys are considered lucky or fortunate to learn 'the ropes' at an early age from an experienced woman.

The idea that women are not child molesters is a myth. From David Finkelhor's data as reported in Child Sexual Abuse, New Theory and Research on page 160 uses a 1978 American Humane Association survey.

"This reporting practice shows up in the AHA data as a high percentage of cases where a woman (usually a mother) is cited as a perpetrator in sexual abuse. In Table 10-3, we see that a female was listed as involved in 41% of cases where a male was victimized and even 31% of cases where females were victimized."

I believe, Finkelhor in 1984 could not believe that women would molest or could molest in percentages this high so modified the data by removing women as perpetrators in any situation which included a male offender.

"However, in most of these cases where a female is listed as involved, a male was also involved, and he was the one doing the actual molesting (NCCAN,1991). A more accurate picture of the number of children who were actually molested by women comes from looking at the number of cases where a woman was the perpetrator alone, without a male also being listed. These constitute a smaller percentage of the cases, 14% of the boys and 6% of the girls."

I do not agree that a more accurate picture occurs by removing female offenders from the data as the data was raw and the assumption made was that the women did not directly participate in the sexual abuse. Even if this was the case, 14% is a greater percentage of female offenders than earlier expected. During this time, it was thought that female offenders made up less than 1% of the offenders.

Yet in the 1988 book by David Finkelhor and Linda Meyer Williams, Nursery Crimes, Sexual Abuse in Day Care, the statistics are even higher for female offenders.

"However, in the daycare cases we studied, the proportion of women involved was much higher: in 270 cases, there were 147 female perpetrators, 22 of whom were studied in the in-depth sample. Although, as in other studies of child sexual abuse, the majority (60%) of the perpetrators in day-care settings were men, fully 40% of the abusers were women and 36% of the cases involved female perpetrators. Of 293 boys who were sexually abused where the sex of the perpetrator was known to us, 59% were abused by at least one woman. Of the 471 girls who were sexually abused where the sex of perpetrator was known to us, 50% were abused by women." P40

This extremely high percentage which more closely matches the 31% to 41% found in the 1978 AHA study is explained away as due to the larger percentage of female daycare workers. It is interesting that the data is still slanted against the male offender because many of the incidents of sexual abuse by men did NOT involve an employee of the day care but a family member of another child, an employee of another organization located in the same building as the daycare, or a family member of an employee. If non-employee were removed from the study the percentage of female offender would be much higher.

It is interesting the degree to which various professionals and survivor groups go in order to continue the idea that men are offenders and women are victims. This attitude or notion is one reason the cycle of abuse continues. When a child is sexual with an adult, one of the ideas which the child may pick up is that sex with an adult is not just acceptable but also enjoyable. Therefore with the idea that women don't sexually molest, the boys they have been sexual with may come to the wrongful conclusion that sex with an older woman is not molestation. Burdened with the misconstrued idea that sex with an adult is OK, the boys may when they become adults turn and become sexual with children. The mistaken idea being that since sex as a child did not harm them that sex with a child will not harm the child.

By denying that women molest young boys, these young men are not helped in understanding that sex between adults and children is wrong. When it's okay for a 30 year old female neighbor to take a 14 year old neighbor boy as a lover, why should it be considered wrong for the boy when he turns 30 to take a 14 year old neighbor girl as a lover?

Many male offenders have described a childhood sexual experience with an adult in terms which made the incident appear consentual. Some even describe the action to be their seduction of the adult. How many 10-13 year old boys are truly capable of seducing a 30 year old woman? In adult-child sex, the adult is always the one in control whether the adult is male or female. Rarely could a 12 year old boy force a 30 year old woman to be sexual with him if the woman's sexual boundaries with children were healthy.

For young adolescents, the idea of their being the seducer gives them the illusion of control. Women as offenders also tend to be passive in their sexual abuse of young boys. Through their passivity, the women delude themselves into believing that since they did not force the boy, what they did is not sexual molestation. The boys on the other hand tend to take on the responsibility for the action and later the burden of shame.

A male offender related in group therapy a teen-age sexual episode:

"We were on vacation with our parents and stopped over-night at a motel. My sister was 25 and I was 15. My parents slept in one bed, while my sister and I slept in the other. I had to go to bed at 10:30 while my sister was able to stay out at the bar. She returned around midnight. I waited until I thought she was asleep. I placed my hand on her breast as if by accident. She rolled over on her back. I very slowly and gently massaged her breast. I got braver and began rubbing both breasts. I then moved my hand up her leg until my wrist was resting on her crotch. There was no movement on her part so I very cautiously began caressing her crotch through her clothes. This continued for what seemed like forever. When I tried to reach under her night gown she rolled away from me and on to her stomach. I was afraid she would wake up so I didn't try anything else."

Unfortunately the therapists in charge of this offender therapy group practiced victim blaming. This 19 year old male offender went through treatment thinking he was to blame for all the sexual encounters in his life. Covert and overt abuse of offenders needs to be acknowledged. In this case, it was finally pointed out that the sister knew what was happening and allowed it to progress - even though later stopping it. The sister was in control all along even if the control was passive. If this situation was a 15 year old girl and a 25 year old brother, the offender would be much easier to spot.

The point to drive home is the offender's illusion of control and power as a child is just an illusion. When offenders are forced to face that they, as children, were not the initiator but the victim, offenders begin to see how abusers manipulate their victims. By being on the victim end of an exchange, offenders can no longer delude themselves with the idea that they controlled the situation. The adult was in complete control of the situation. The adult could and did allow it to occur. Control of the action was done by the adult and it was halted when the adult halted it. Once offenders acknowledge that the adults in their lives controlled the sexual encounters, they can see their abuse. They also begin to see how that abuse was passed on by them.

The passive sexual abuse is not uncommon among women. In 1995, a young lady admitted within a survivor's newsgroup on the internet that as a teen-age baby-sitter she would feign sleep while one of the children, (a 5 year old boy) would explore her body. She was a survivor of incest and in turn was sexual with a younger child. As an adult in her twenties, she first recognized that her sexualization of this boy may have led this young man to incest with his younger sister.

The point of this is not to justify or excuse the actions of boys and men in their molestation of children but to understand the dynamics of the cycle of child sexual abuse so that both genders are held to the same level of accountability. Child sexual abuse can not be stopped if one gender is permitted, ignored, or encouraged in their sexuality with children.

The reason I have taken the time to research this issue and to write this article is because I am a male survivor of female offenders. I did not view my sexual molestation by baby-sitters and older women as sexual abuse. In fact, I, like many other young boys, fantasized about being sexual with grown women. I did not realize the overall dynamics of my sexualization as a boy of 5 when I was first molested. I entered therapy, not to work on my survivor issues, but because I was confronted concerning my molestation of my oldest daughter. This was late 1988. I had to work on my issues of control and denial as an offender. I needed to learn what and where my thinking had taken a wrong turn. This was a long, winding road, involving therapy, admitting to aggravated sexual conduct with a minor, and working a 12 Step sexual addiction program. I was in offender therapy for almost 3 years.

In 1991, I began to read everything I could concerning child sexual abuse to learn all I could concerning offender treatment. I came forward on various computer forums telling my story of molesting and recovery. I found other offenders and together we shared our recovery and discussed our victory over our past. We also shared our various losses. I have worked with survivors in helping them to understand what happened to them and to understand it was never their fault.

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