Women victims of abuse turn child abusers: study

May 14th, 2008 - 2:00 pm ICT by admin  


Washington, May 14 (IANS) Women who have faced abuse at the hands of elders and relatives as children can themselves turn into child molesters, according to an extensive new study. Most people believe women are incapable of committing such acts and the abuse of boys by women is often dismissed as the boys sowing their wild oats, said Susan Strickland of University of Georgia and author of the study.

The truth is that female perpetrators molest both boys and girls. Their victims suffer a myriad of consequences affecting their sexuality, relationships and beliefs about themselves and others, she added.

The true prevalence of female sexual abuse on children is unknown, but a commonly accepted figure is that 5 to 7 percent of sex crimes in the US are committed by women.

Studies on female sex offenders are rare, and most have been descriptive in nature, used small samples and have not used valid statistical measures or control groups.

The latest findings have the potential to help break the cycle of abuse by improving treatment for offenders and their young victims.

Strickland’s study, the largest of its kind, surveyed 130 jailed females - 60 sex offenders and 70 nonsexual offenders - and examined factors such as childhood trauma, substance abuse, emotional neediness and personality disorders.

While a majority of both groups reported being victims of childhood abuse, the sex offenders were significantly more likely to have experienced pervasive, serious and more frequent emotional and physical abuse and neglect.

“We’ve pretty much known that the majority of women in prison have had bad childhoods and that many suffered childhood sexual abuse,” Strickland said.

“But the subgroup of female sex offenders has suffered significantly more abuse, particularly sexual abuse.”

“This study informs us about the pathway to becoming sexually deviant for females,” said Strickland. “With that knowledge, we can improve treatment and reduce the likelihood of future sexual assaults on children.”

The findings of the study have been published in the latest issue of the Journal of Interpersonal Violence.

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