November 11, 2009
Calls to a UK-based child abuse hotline have more than doubled over the last five years, and the number of children reporting abuse by a woman has grown dramatically, the charity said on Monday.
In the past year, 6,000 children reported sexual abuse by a male to Childline, a telephone- and Web-based service of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC). Of these, 2,142 children said their perpetrator was female.
While men were implicated much more often than women, calls citing a female offender have grown by 132 percent over the last five years, compared with a 27 percent increase for males. Reports about abuse by women now account for 25 percent of the total, Childline said. Earlier NSPCC research suggested women were the abusers in about one of 20 sexual attacks against children.
"It does not only happen to girls, as many people believe," said Esther Rantzen, Childline's president. "It happens to boys too."
Boys were slightly more likely to report their abuser was female (1,722) than male (1,651). In contrast, girls were 10 times more likely to report the perpetrator was male (4,972) than female (420). Most children disclosing abuse were ages 12-15 and knew their attacker.
"Mothers can sometimes sexually abuse their sons," Rantzen said. "And the report found that when girls are sexually abused, by far the most common perpetrator is not a stepfather, as many believe, but the biological father."