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Dealing with a Problem That Doesn't Exist?: Professional Responses to Female Perpetrated Child Sexual Abuse

NCJ Number
Child Abuse Review Volume: 16 Issue: 4 Dated: July-August 2007 Pages: 252-267
Lisa Bunting
Date Published
July 2007
16 pages
This paper explores the criminal justice response to female sex offending in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland.
Findings indicate female involvement in sexual offenses against children is more common than generally thought, and has serious implications for the long-term emotional and psychological well-being of victims. Additionally, the risk assessment tools for female sex offenders is a key area requiring development, and points towards small inconsistencies in the current practice of risk assessing females in the community. The way in which professionals identify and respond to child sexual abuse has been shown to be influenced by the gender of the perpetrator. Similar to male sex offending, in terms of the intrusiveness and seriousness of the abuse, some aspects of female sex offending can cause particular problems for professionals. Some sexual abuse can be disguised as childcare and make it difficult for professionals to identify this type of abuse while the high rate of co-offending brings additional difficulties in determining the degree of female involvement, and assigning responsibility. Also identified were the lack of treatment programs for this group of offenders; treatment services for female sex offenders are currently in need of development and resources must be made available to ensure that females have the same access to therapeutic intervention as males. In addition to the development of risk assessment tools and treatment programs, the survey also identified a range of gaps, such as the need for the development of national policies, having appropriately trained professionals, the lack of available training on treatment, and the access to information on good practice that may exist in other regions/countries. Data were collected from a comprehensive review of literature, an overview of relevant literature and legislation, and an electronic survey of Multiagency Public Protection Panels. Tables, references