It occurred to me today, as I sat looking over a book on female sex offenders, that we may be ignoring a large reason for sexual crimes happening. The book gave accounts from those who had suffered from sexual abuse at the hands of mothers, grandmothers, sisters, babysitters and other females. These aren’t your usual suspects when you hear about a sex crime in the news. Females are largely ignored or downplayed for their role in sexual crimes and abuse towards children. Males have tended to get all the attention and women have been ‘let off the hook’ due to the belief women don’t harm children. Furthermore, there is the belief that women are not supposed to want sex, let alone be aggressive and hurt children sexually. So we’ve let many females go ‘Scott free’ because nobody has been willing to face the ugly reality of one’s mother or sister, etc. being capable of sexually abusing a child.
Why do I care so much about this issue? Well for one thing my mother committed ‘moderate’ sexual abuse against me all through my childhood beginning by 2 or perhaps earlier. I will spare you the details of what she did to me and how I endured it. What I will tell you is we have gone long enough as a Society(in Western culture) believing women can do no harm when clearly that’s not the case. The news is only just beginning to scratch the surface with their coverage of women committing sex crimes against children. For years nobody touched the subject. It was too taboo to even think about, let alone utter out loud.
When you hear about sexual crimes, such as rape and child molestation, people assume the perpetrator to be male and for the male to be disgusting. But what do you think when you hear a grandmother or babysitter has been sexually abusing a child? Is there equal disgust and revulsion as there ought to be? or is there the thought that since it was a female offender it couldn’t have been too horrible? Well let me demystify any illusions lingering on the subject. When your mother, sister, grandmother, babysitter, or any other female, sexually abuses a child-male or female-damage is done. That damage is long lasting and creates confusion for the victims. We are taught to think what has happened to us is either ‘normal’ or not a big deal. Guess what? It IS a big deal! Especially considering most sex crimes against children done by female relatives are carried out over long periods of time. Even if the event happened ‘only’ once that’s enough to cause distress and life long trauma for the child.
People think if the victim is a male child that it is not as serious because boys ‘want it’, thus it’s just early training. Bull Sh*t! Grandma raping her young grandson isn’t training him for future sexual encounters, at least not any of a healthy variety. Likewise, mom fondling her daughter or getting her to perform sex acts on her isn’t okay either. We have to stop sugar coating reality and making victims feel like they are crazy for feeling bad or damaged. You’d feel bad, crazy and damaged too if you were made to believe horrible things done to you were nothing or insignificant. What I want you to understand is when we downplay/minimize these awful crimes against children we are creating generations of misery to follow. Sound like an exaggeration? Well not if you consider most people who sexually abuse others have been sexually abused themselves.
What if we told every child sexually abused by a female they were harmed in a serious way and needed help? Wouldn’t that lead to a more positive chain of events? Little Johnny doesn’t grow up to hate women and rape them and little Suzy doesn’t grow up sexually abusing her child(ren). We think if someone has been abused they would surely want to avoid perpetuating the cycle of abuse on the next generation; however, when it comes to trauma many children repress the memories. Some dissociate or use fantasy to cope. As adults the abused children ‘forget’ what was done to them fully and feel compelled to do bad things to their own children. Not in every circumstance mind you, I am aware there are those who seek treatment or therapy and avoid harming their own children, but many more avoid therapy believing they’ll be okay without it. Or maybe they couldn’t handle therapy because someone heard their story and minimized it so they went away believing they were making mountains out of mole hills. If that is the standard response from those who are supposed to be helping the victims how can we expect them *not* to abuse? If you don’t acknowledge something as harmful you can’t treat it as something to be abstained from. It gives the false impression that the damage isn’t real, or at least not significant enough to be concerned about.
I titled this post as I did because I believe you can’t change what you don’t acknowledge. You can only treat something once you’ve identified it as a problem. Until then you keep believing what happened was minor or you somehow deserved it. If you, as a child, were brave enough to tell someone about what happened to you and all you got was ‘poo pooed’ what is there left for you? Repression if a single incident, or dissociation and fantasy if more frequent. My mother was sexually abused by her father and other male family members yet her mother did nothing. I believe my mother repressed certain traumas and dissociated heavily due to the abuse. When she had my sister and I we were subjected to various forms of sexual abuse. I got the more physical side of it, whereas my sister was used as a trusted confidante concerning sexual matters from age 5 on. I can’t say my sister got off lightly because she didn’t and we both had to endure a lot of similar secondary sexual abuse in the form of listening to my mother’s sexual experiences. We were children once but I don’t recall having much of a childhood.
So why do sexual assaults happen? If you want my opinion/theory it has to do with revenge. Unconsciously sexual abuse victims learn to silence their hurt and anger through any means they can. Drugs, alcohol, prostitution, becoming a pedophile, and committing rape. You learn you are not worthy of love and care so you end up self destructive and/or becoming an offender yourself. Men who rape women aren’t simply sick or demented, in many cases they were sexually abused by a female when they were a helpless child with no opportunity for justice. The anger and hurt build to the point where women are representative of the original female perpetrator. Rape becomes an escape valve for the pent up emotions never allowed to be acknowledged or taken seriously. Women, on the other hand, end up sexually assaulting or raping children if they’ve never dealt with their feelings. Again, not EVERY woman sexually abused will rape or abuse a child, but there will be a significant number who do because the same was done to them.
We can’t afford to continue making female sexual perpetrators a taboo subject. It was once taboo to talk about males sexually abusing children yet we all accept it as fact now. The same needs to happen with female sex offenders committing sex crimes against children. If we keep burying our heads in the sand the abuse will continue. But if enough of us stand up and shout “STOP” maybe we can face an uncomfortable reality. Maybe if enough of us are brave and willing to challenge cultural stereotypes of women as incapable of harming children sexually we can begin the healing. Those of us who have endured sexual abuse at the hands of our mother, sister, babysitter, or whomever, deserve to see justice. We have suffered enough and it’s about time females were held legally accountable for their crimes against innocent children. I support women’s rights and am a woman myself but I was also sexually abused by my mother. For that reason I can’t stay silent and pretend nothing happened. Abuse is abuse no matter what the gender of the perpetrator. Trauma doesn’t discriminate based on gender either, meaning if your abuser was a woman you are still going to have emotional scars. Please take my message seriously and educate others if you have the will to do so. It’s not your job but I feel it’s mine to get on my soapbox and tell you about female sexual perpetrators. Isn’t it time we used some of that equality for the sexes in the justice system?