Shame and stigma for victims of female sexual abusers

Recent figures obtained by the BBC’s File on 4 show has brought to light the significant stigma and shame felt by of victims of sexual abuse perpetrated by female abusers. It has been suggested that there is a lack of understanding about  this type of abuse even though statistics confirm that there is a significant rise in such abuse being reported. Between 2015 and 2019 there was an increase in victims of sexual abuse by female abusers of 84%.

File on 4 obtained data from 36 UK Police forces which showed a rise of 1,249 cases to 2,297 cases during the period 2015 to 2019.

Dr Andrea Darling, Criminology Researcher at Durham University suggests that due to the stigma associated with this type of abuse there is still a lack of reporting.

Katherine Cox of Survivors UK was of the opinion that there has not been an increase in actual abuse but that the victims feel more able to report such abuse.

However victims still think it is unlikely they will be believed which is supported by the low conviction rates; this is especially the case with male victims of female abuse.

The issue has recently been covered in popular TV programmes such as EastEnders and BBC drama ‘A Teacher’.

The EastEnders storyline sees character, Mick Carter (the former landlord of the Queen Vic) who is depicted as a strong male character, detail his traumatic experiences of abuse in his childhood by a female carer.

The BBC Drama ‘A Teacher’ details a story of a female teacher entering into a sexual relationship with a male student – something that is recently being reported in the news more frequently.

Both TV shows mirror the view that victims of such abuse by female perpetrators do consider that there is a stigma attached to such abuse.

The following statistics assist with our understanding;

  • In 2018, there was 5,547 offenders found guilty of child sexual abuse in England and Wales; 66 convictions of female abusers.
  • In the 12 months from March 2018 there were a total of 73,260 reports of child sexual abuse offences in England and Wales  – only one in 25 resulted in a charge or court summons.
  • Data obtained from the Office of National Statistics shows in 2018-19, 3.8% of all child sexual abusers were female.

Written by Nicola Aspinwall at BLM nicola.aspinwall@blmlaw.com

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