In The News

28 Sep 2014

Women can abuse children too - and society must confront it

Bill Jenkins is familiar with people assuming that women are incapable of harming children. His childhood was defined by the sexual and physical abuse meted out by his foster mother – but all the signs of his distress were ignored.

“I was eight or nine when the physical abuse turned sexual,” he recalls. “It was at bath time – but her in the bath, not me. It was inappropriate washing and touching and I didn’t have an understanding of what was going on. Not at all. I was a kid. It was about making me do things that gave her more power.

“There were lots of signals about unhappiness and what was going on, but nobody did anything. I remember when I was six, I’d been beaten so badly on my back, the whole of my back was bruised and the primary school teacher, Miss Cross, saw it and did nothing. That was the way it was.”

He ran away four times. At 12, he even cycled from Chichester to London to see his father, who sent him back the next day. But nobody checked what was going on.

Now 60 and a successful tech entrepreneur living near Slough in Berkshire, Mr Jenkins hopes his story will help to wake people up to the idea that women, not only men, sexually harm children.

New figures reveal the current scale of sexual abuse of children committed by women. More than one in 10 calls to ChildLine reporting sexual abuse over the past year were from children who had been harmed by women.

In all, there were 762 counselling sessions where the abuser was female – compared with 6,004 where the perpetrator was male. NSPCC research from 2005 found that women were responsible “for up to 5 per cent of all sexual offences committed against children” but the latest figures suggest the true proportion could be much higher.

Jon Brown, head of the NSPCC sexual abuse programme, said: ““The ChildLine calls we get indicate it’s a bigger scale than we thought. It’s not on a par with male offending but it’s probably higher than 5 per cent. These worrying figures show the need for much better understanding of female sexual abuse and the importance of looking for warning signs; and the need for appropriate treatment programmes, both for victims and perpetrators.”

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