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Maternal Child Sexual Abuse on Rise in U.K.

Posted on: October 16, 2009

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Maternal Child Sexual Abuse on Rise in U.K.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

By Robert Franklin, Esq.

Bill Jenkins doesn’t know whether his foster mother deliberately took him into care so that she could abuse him. But that was the tragic result and he, like other victims of female child abusers, says that, while he spoke about the abuse at the time, no one investigated it or believed him.

In the United Kingdom, it’s slowly coming to light that women commit far more sexual abuse of children than was previously thought.  Read the latest here (Times Online, 10/5/09).  As the above quotation shows, official statistics don’t tell the real story.  That’s because official statistics, including those for convictions and incarcerations, reflect prevailing biases about who does and who doesn’t commit sexual abuse of children.

The simple fact is that, up until very recently, few people – the police, judges and juries – could actually believe that, for example, a mother could sexually abuse her child.  Mothers are, after all, selfless givers of care and nurturance, right?  A good half of our Western European culture for some 2,000 years has named the Virgin Mary, mother of Christ, the very embodiment of virtue.

So trying to convince people that mothers sexually abuse their children is roughly akin to paddling a canoe up Niagara Falls – progress is slow and the chances of success remote.  The linked-to article describes Detective Superintendant Graham Hill of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Agency as saying,

According to Hill, ten or fifteen years ago most crimes involving accusations of child sexual abuse that the police dealt with were always examined on the premise that the man was the guilty party.

Now though, Hill says that essentially every police force in the country is dealing with a female offender.  And that, unsurprisingly is leading to a change of perception by police about who is committing these crimes.

But public perceptions are slower to change.  According to Hill, the public clings doggedly to the notion that even when a woman commits a sex crime against a child, a man made her do it.  And that,

Hill believes that the public’s perception that female sex offenders usually operate alongside a controlling and manipulative man is often false. He dismisses that stereotypical image as a societal cliché born out of a reluctance to believe that a woman could act so heinously alone and for her own sexual gratification.

Still, Hill believes that at most 20% of sexual abuse of children is done by women.  But it’s well known that in the U.K. and in the United States at least, the percentage of violent crimes perpetrated by women is on the rise, even as violent crime itself becomes less frequent.  So it may be that even that figure proves, once we start getting accurate data, to understate the truth.

But getting and admitting the truth about sexual abuse of children may take longer than we think.  Dr. Michelle Elliott, who operates Kidscape, a support group for sexually abused children, places the problem squarely at the door of  professionals who work in the field.

“No one really wants to talk about it. But the professionals are the ones who really annoy me. I’d say that 75 per cent of them are in denial — a mental block. I think there are professionals working in the field who have staked a career on a certainty that it is men who do the abusing. They are very threatened by the idea that that might not be true.”

And psychologist Diana Cant talks about the effects of childhood sexual abuse by women.  As it turns out, those are intimately associated with the very notion of mother as a provider of safety, warmth and caring.

“If you think about the experience that we have as children, we expect a degree of safety and security and primary care from our mothers. If that expectation is confounded, something at a very primitive level is broken and gets destroyed. The child grows up immediately with a sense of fear and threat. That can lead to an underlying degree of anger, resentment and fury that colours adult life.”

The bottom line?  The thing that makes female sexual abuse of children so terrible is the very thing that keeps it hidden.  That’s a bad combination.

Thanks to Michael for the heads-up.

Wake up, American citizens, moms in the U.S. are guilty, too!



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