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Female abusers of children – is this a new phenonomen?

Added November 27, 2010, Under: Children's Health, Parents

In the past, it was always believed that men were the main abusers of children but now it is becoming more apparent that children are being abused in their homes and by their own mothers. Although there are 4 types of abuse of children – emotional, physical, sexual and neglect – these rarely occur as just 1 type in isolation so children are often being abused in more than one way.

However, in the case of mothers, verbal abuse is often the main culprit rather than actual physical force.

As a general rule in the Western World, 75% of sexual predators are male and 25% are female. As some 86% of the victims of female sexual predators aren’t believed, the crimes go unreported and don’t get prosecuted. Until recently, sexual abuse by women of children and teens was a subject most parents and caregivers were not familiar with. Female sexual predators were largely unreported because of a lack of awareness by the public.

It is important to recognize that motherhood comes with a compete string of stresses which can often manifest in women who abuse their children. Children who are abused by their mothers are more likely to grow up to become abusers themselves so that the problem just goes on and on.

In the UK, Childline says that 11% of the calls received from children alleging sexual abuse suggest the perpetrator is a woman.

The Western world in the past 30 years has held men up to be the sexual perverts and child abusers. But it is becoming apparent that sex abuse by women against children occurs frequently too. Women are also the largest physical abusers and the most neglectful of children. This is usually because in most cases where parents or partners have broken up, the children are usually in their mother’s care due to the favourable custody rights women receive from the courts.

The media continually reports men as the sex attackers giving a false impression that this is a gender specific problem. While most experienced social workers agree that mothers neglect their children at an alarming rate, the authorities often do not want to intervene because of the cost to house and care for these children. Often they take the chance and leave them with their mothers.

But of course it is not just mothers who are doing the abusing but other females who have positions of trust in the care of children.

A child is anyone under the age of 18 and the word abuse covers any act or failure to act by a parent/caretaker which results in death, physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation or any act with imminent risk of serious harm.

In the UK, Michele Elliott, founder of the children’s charity Kidscape and author of the book Female Sexual Abuse of Children: The Ultimate Taboo exlained the phenonomen this way:

Women abuse children for the same reason men abuse children – for sexual gratification, for power. Quite frankly it is something they enjoy doing. I know that is hard for the rest of us to comprehend but women are no different than men in that case.”

Not too long ago, the Australian child welfare charity Child Wise began a television advertising campaign highlighting the risks from sexual abuse by people entrusted with the care of children.

Child Wise has calculated that almost a third of sex abuse by women takes place in an organisational setting, notably kindergartens and baby-sitting. The majority of such abusers are not coerced by a man but initiate the abuse themselves. The damage can last a lifetime.

In the US alone nearly a billion dollars are spent annually for the care of abused children – namely on the cost of medical care for injuries sustained, care and treatment for long term effects, mental health care, susbstance abuse (because so many abused chidlren turn to drugs and alcohol to cope with what has happened to them), prosecution and arrests, special education needs and much, much more.

The big worry is you cannot tell who will and will not abuse children – whether male or female.

For years the media and others have gone out of their way to highlight “stranger danger”, when the truth is that most abuse comes from those the children trust and know well.

Abusers do not wonder around with a label round their necks saying “child molester”. You cannot ever be certain of those who are hired. It takes a long time for these people to get what they want but they want it so badly they will wait until the time is right, be it months or years.

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