Female child molesters

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Statistically, females prosecuted for the sexual abuse of children make up a comparatively low percentage of convicted child molesters[citation needed]. However, due to issues relating to the reporting of sexual abuse and societal views of female sex offenders, trying to ascertain an accurate number of female child molesters is challenging.

Recidivistic female sex offenders make up such a small percentage that little is known about them as a group.[1]


Sexual abuse is defined by C. D. Kasl (1990)[2] as:[3]

  • Chargeable offences such as oral sex, sexual intercourse and/or masturbation
  • Offences such as voyeurism, exposure, seductive touching, sexualized hugging or kissing, extended nursing or flirting
  • Invasions of privacy including enemas, bathing together, washing the child beyond a reasonable age, excessive cleaning of the foreskin or asking intrusive questions about bodily functions
  • Inappropriate relationships created by the adult such as substituting the child for an absent partner, sleeping with the child, unloading emotional problems on the child or using them as a confidant for personal or sexual matters


“Research attention is now being directed towards women who sexually abuse children.”[4] It is not uncommon for a male who has been sexually abused by a woman in his youth to receive positive or neutral reactions when he tells people about the abuse.[5] Males and females sexually abused by male offenders, on the other hand, are more readily believed.[6]

According to a study done by Cortoni and Hanson in 2005, 4-5% of all recorded sexual abuse victims were abused by female offenders.[6] However, the Cortoni study numbers don't match the official statistics by The United States Department of Justice which found a rate of 8.3% for “Other sexual offenses” for females and The Australian Bureau of Statistics found a rate of 7.9% for “Sexual assault and related offences” for females.[citation needed]

Other studies have found rates to be much higher. For example:

In a study of 3,586 of the cases of childhood sexual abuse, 9% had a female-only perpetrator and other 9% had both male and female perpetrators.[7]

A separate American study found that the sexual abuse of children by women, primarily mothers, constituted 25% (approximately 36 000 children) of the sexually abused victims from a population of over one million abused children. This statistic is thought to be underestimated due to the tendency of non-disclosure by victims.[8]

According to a major 2004 study commissioned by the U.S. Department of Education - In studies that ask students about offenders, sex differences are less than in adult reports. The 2000 American Association of University Women (AAUW) data indicate that 57.2 percent of all students report a male offender and 42.4 percent a female offender with the Cameron et al. study reporting nearly identical proportions as the 2000 AAUW data (57 percent male offenders vs. 43 percent female offenders).[9]

Some have even suggested that a greater degree of child molesters are female, estimating as many as 63% of sex abusers may be female.[10]

According to a 2011 CDC report there are an estimated 4,403,010 female victims of sexual violence that had a female perpetrator.[11]


Female sexual abuse of children is frequently hidden in the daily task of care giving. It can happen during bath time, dressing and undressing, and diaper changing. But the abuse is not restricted to care giving; sexual abuse of children can happen any time of the day or night under any number of circumstances. “Women who sexually abuse children can be of any age, social class, intellectual ability, and marital status, and can be involved in any type of employment. They can perpetrate any form of sexual act and can behave seductively or sadistically towards their victims.”[12] In the book, Women Who Sexually Abuse Children: From Research to Clinical Practice, the female offenders were classified into three main groups: women who initially target young children, women who initially target adolescents, and women who are initially coerced by men.[12] There were “atypical” perpetrators, however, who did not fall into any of these categories.


The reasons for molesting children are numerous. Some of the women who abused children misinterpreted their behavior as sexual invitations.[13] Sexual abuse can happen because the female wants comfort, she has affiliation needs, she wants power, or sexual gratification.[13]

Differences between male and female perpetrators[edit]

“Numerous studies have espoused that female sex offenders are not distinctly different from male sex offenders.”[14]

Effects on victims[edit]

Many studies show that the effects of female sexual abuse to children victims are statistically indistinguishable from male sexual abuse to children.[6]

“Traumatic sexualization includes aversive feelings about sex, overvaluing sex, confusion of sex and nurturing, and sexual identity problems.”[6] Sexually abused children have the potential to be sexually active with their peers at an earlier age and be sexually promiscuous.[6]

Another effect is stigmatisation. This “leaves victims feeling different from their peers and damaged, leading to feelings of shame and guilt, especially in relation to disclosure.”[6]

In addition to stigmatisation and confusions about sex, victims may also experience a feeling of powerlessness.[1][6]


  1. ^ a b Bader, Shannon M.; Welsh, Robert; Scalora, Mario J. (2010). "Recidivism Among Female Child Molesters". Violence and Victims 25 (3): 349–62. doi:10.1891/0886-6708.25.3.349. PMID 20565006. 
  2. ^ Kasl, C.D. (1990). "Female Perpetrators of sexual abuse: a feminist view". In Hunter, Mic. The Sexually Abused Male: Prevalence, impact, and treatment. pp. 259–74. ISBN 978-0-669-21518-2. 
  3. ^ Ford, Hannah (2006). Women Who Sexually Abuse Children. p. 14. ISBN 978-0-470-03081-3. 
  4. ^ Ford, Hannah (2006). Women Who Sexually Abuse Children. p. 8. ISBN 978-0-470-03081-3. 
  5. ^ Ford, Hannah (2006). Women Who Sexually Abuse Children. p. 9. ISBN 978-0-470-03081-3. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Saradjian, Jacqui (2010). "Understanding the Prevalence of Female-Perpetrated Sexual Abuse and the Impact of That Abuse on Victims". In Gannon, Theresa A.; Cortoni, Franca. Female Sexual Offenders. pp. 9–30. doi:10.1002/9780470666715.ch2. ISBN 978-0-470-66671-5. 
  7. ^ Dube, S; Anda, R; Whitfield, C; Brown, D; Felitti, V; Dong, M; Giles, W (2005). "Long-Term Consequences of Childhood Sexual Abuse by Gender of Victim". American Journal of Preventive Medicine 28 (5): 430–8. doi:10.1016/j.amepre.2005.01.015. PMID 15894146. 
  8. ^ Boroughs, Deborah S. (2004). "Female sexual abusers of children". Children and Youth Services Review 26 (5): 481. doi:10.1016/j.childyouth.2004.02.007. 
  9. ^ Shakeshaft, Charol (June 2004). "Educator Sexual Misconduct: A Synthesis of Existing Literature". United States Department of Education. 
  10. ^ Schwartz, Barbara K.; Cellini, Henry R., eds. (1995). "Female sex offenders". The sex offender: Corrections, treatment, and legal practice. Kingston, NJ: Civic Research Institute. ISBN 978-1-887554-00-8. [page needed]
  11. ^ The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey
  12. ^ a b Saradjian, Jacqui (1996). Women Who Sexually Abuse Children: From Research to Clinical Practice. p. 145. ISBN 978-0-471-96072-0. 
  13. ^ a b Saradjian, Jacqui (1996). Women Who Sexually Abuse Children: From Research to Clinical Practice. p. 127. ISBN 978-0-471-96072-0. 
  14. ^ Freeman, N. J.; Sandler, J. C. (2008). "Female and Male Sex Offenders: A Comparison of Recidivism Patterns and Risk Factors". Journal of Interpersonal Violence 23 (10): 1394–413. doi:10.1177/0886260508314304. PMID 18349348. 

Further reading[edit]