Issues - child abuse - Young girls molest boys
Researchers into sexual abuse by girls say female
sexual offending is chronically under-reported and specialised
rehabilitation programmes are urgently needed.
Findings released yesterday from New Zealand's first study
into adolescent female sexual offending reported a "culture
of denial" about female sexual offending, which allowed
adolescent female abusers to molest young, usually male, victims
If not rehabilitated, female abusers would most likely continue
to offend and eventually pose a threat to their own children.
The survey of 400 health, mental health and related professionals
identified eight young women in Christchurch currently aged
between 12 and 19 who had sexually abused. It identified other
female abusers older than 19, who were excluded from the results.
Lead researcher Nikki Evans, from the University of Canterbury's
social work department, said there was "an enormous amount
of minimisation" surrounding sexual abuse by females,
which meant it was usually not reported by victims, families
or health professionals.
"People find it really difficult to perceive young women
engaging in sexually abusive behaviours; it goes against the
idea of women as nurturers," she said.
Research showed many people, including mental health professionals,
perceived female sexual offending as not abusive or harmful.
"If a young girl abuses a 12-year-old boy it's seen as
an initiation and a positive thing, rather than something
traumatic," Evans said.
Researcher Don Mortensen, manager of the STOP Trust, which
runs rehabilitation programmes for adult, adolescent and child
sexual abusers, said society had been slow to acknowledge
that sexual abuse by females was equally as destructive as
that perpetrated by men.
STOP commissioned the research as a feasibility study into
establishing the country's first rehabilitation programme
for adolescent female abusers.
In nearly all of the eight Christchurch cases, the girls'
victims were well known to them. Most were siblings or foster
siblings. Peers at school and other neighbourhood children
they were babysitting were also abused.
"They're abusing within the context of a relationship.
We know that sort of abuse is the most difficult context (for
the victim)," Evans said.
Their victims were always younger, and typically male. Three
abused children aged between one and five years old.
The number of victims for each girl ranged between one and
five, although Evans said the true numbers may be higher due
The girls' average age was now 16 but several had been pre-teens
when they started abusing.
None were reported to the youth justice system or referred
to specialist treatment programmes.
"That suggests their offending was not prioritised, which
reflects the general view in the community," Evans said.
There was a pressing need to treat adolescent female offenders
because females who had been sexually abused were more likely
to become teenage mothers, she said.