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The Sexual Abuse by Women of Children and Teenagers

Summary of UK TV programme - Panorama - BBC1 - 10 pm Monday 6th October 1997

The sexual abuse of children by women was once thought to be so rare it could be ignored.

In this programme the victims tell a different story.


This was a vivid and horrific programme in which the victims of sexual abuse by women told disturbing stories of emotional and physical damage: It was acknowledged that the scale and nature of these attacks had been severely underestimated and there were examples of women using excessive force with implements such as chair legs and cutlery.

A surprising 86% of survivors of sexual abuse were not believed when they said the abuser was a woman.

Many myths were exposed, such as the one that women only sexually abused when coerced by men - they in fact played the lead part. Also the myth that women are incapable of cruelty - what was shown was beyond belief.

But despite the seriousness of these offences, women generally escaped custodial sentences.


The programme claimed that:

People find it difficult to believe

The issue strikes at the core of what women perceive themselves to be:

Society excuses female abusers

What tends to happen is that the female sexual abuser is excused in some way.

Women are seen as victims

Women are seen as victims rather than enemies or perpetrators of any abuse.

Disbelief the biggest trauma

More traumatic to be sexually abused by a woman

Violent and sadistic attacks

Across the board

The research showed neither class nor age were barriers to their behaviour. We can't make assumptions about the type of woman who will sexually abuse a child - sexual abuse is committed by:

Female abusers acquire positions of trust

Eternal victims

The need for more work

Click here to see the full transcript

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