Female Sexual Abuse of Boys Often Goes Unreported: Public Health Problem: Women Offenders Typically Use Persuasion Rather Than Force in Pedophilic Acts

By Frieden, Joyce | Clinical Psychiatry News, November 2003 | Go to article overview

Female Sexual Abuse of Boys Often Goes Unreported: Public Health Problem: Women Offenders Typically Use Persuasion Rather Than Force in Pedophilic Acts


Frieden, Joyce, Clinical Psychiatry News


SAN ANTONIO -- Sexual abuse by females is a public health problem that needs to be addressed, Dr. John Bradford said at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law.

"Sexual abuse of boys by female perpetrators is not as uncommon as people think," said Dr. Bradford, director of the Sexual Behaviours Clinic at the Royal Ottawa Hospital, and professor and head of the division of forensic psychiatry at the University of Ottawa.

Dr. Bradford and his colleagues first became interested in this problem when they were recruiting normal male controls for another study. They eventually came up with 150 normal controls, all of whom had answered "No" when asked whether they had been sexually abused as a child.

Despite the fact that they had answered "No" to that question, Dr. Bradford was surprised to find that a significant percentage of the controls had had sex with a woman aged 20 or older when they themselves were 13 or younger.

"That left us with the impression that [these subjects] had been the victims of pedophilic acts by women but in fact didn't see it as sexual abuse," he said.

Sexual offenders are usually thought to be males who offend against women and children, Dr. Bradford said. But a few studies of female offenders have been done, with interesting results. For instance, studies of childhood sexual abuse have found that 1%-3% of perpetrators were female.

Among convicted sex offenders who were abused as children, the percentage gets much higher: one study found that 33% of incest offenders had been sexually abused by women, he commented.

Much of the information about female abusers and their victims is conflicting, according to Dr. Bradford. For instance, "one of the studies showed that victims of female perpetrators were younger than victims of male perpetrators, and another study showed that they were the same age," he said at the conference. The same goes for the female abuser's relationship to the victim, with one 1990 study indicating that nearly half of 19 convicted female abusers were biological mothers or stepmothers to their victims, while other studies found that females generally abuse unrelated males. …

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