The fact is most people know very little about female perpetrated sex crimes and what they do know is often far from accurate. Female sex offenders are viewed as a rare and peculiar phenomenon, but this is far from the truth.
Determining how common female perpetrated sexual offending is a very difficult task, but an international study last year found that the proportion of sex offenders who are female is higher than previously thought.
Although they constituted 2. That means more than one in nine sexual offences are committed by women. They result in a reluctance to believe victims or a minimisation of the seriousness of what they have experienced. Cultural stereotypes mean that female sex offenders are only believed to be capable of their crimes as a result of being either mentally impaired or coerced by male aggressors. While this may be true in some cases it most certainly is not in many others.
Reactions such as those absolve the women of the responsibility for their behaviour and can mean that effective support is not offered to victims nor appropriate treatment to offenders. Overall gender has so far been found to be more influential in sentencing decisions that age, race or ethnicity. Take for example the cases of Caroline Berriman , a teaching assistant, and Caroline Salisbury , a school bus supervisor, who both had their original sentences for sexual activity with teenage boys changed from suspended to immediate custodial sentences.
Perhaps this suggests that the tide is now turning - in the courts, at least. Looking specifically at offences against children like these, NSPCC data also shows that between and there was a per cent increase in the number of children reporting sexual abuse by a woman to ChildLine.
There have been numerous other cases considered in UK courts in recent years of teachers, teaching assistants or other child care workers who sexually abuse the children or young people entrusted into their care. These women almost always abuse alone and usually against one victim.
My current research at Durham University examining this type of female sex offending shows victims are typically male and in their mid-teenage years, however, around a quarter of victims are female and very few victims were under the age of Most have been working in their professions for a number of years and fully understand, but choose to ignore, clear professional boundaries.
Studies of the experiences of sexual abuse victims have suggested that more serious long-term harm for victims results from sexual abuse by women as opposed to men. The reality is women can and do sexually offend. Perhaps at lower rates than men but in numbers that we cannot continue to ignore; to do so is to do an unforgiveable injustice to victims.