Female Pedophiles Going Undetected
THE prevalence of female pedophiles preying on children in care is much higher than previously thought, according to
a study that reveals a significant amount of the sexual abuse occurs when the women are in positions of authority.
The study, the first of its kind in Australia, shows female sexual predators are responsible for 6 per cent
of all the reported cases of sexual abuse against children.
Much of the abuse occurs while the women are acting as babysitters or carers, says the study by Child Wise,
the nation's peak child protection group.
Child Wise national program manager Karen Flanagan said while there was no definitive profile of female abusers,
those known to have molested children included babysitters, nannies, nuns and teachers.
"It is fact of life that women have easy and open access to children all the time," she said.
"Women can and do use their positions of power to entrap vulnerable children."
However, the five-year study shows women are less likely than men to be prosecuted for their crimes against children.
Ms Flanagan said some sexual abuse of children by women was probably going undetected because
women were traditionally seen as nurturers and not considered capable of sexually abusing children, unless they were coerced by a male partner.
But the research shows the majority of female abusers act alone.
The research was undertaken to determine how much sexual abuse was perpetrated by women working in childcare,
health or welfare settings, schools, sporting groups, kindergartens and youth groups.
The threat posed by babysitters and nannies was also examined.
The research was based on Australian crime statistics and international studies relating to female predators.
The study found up to 30 per cent of child abuse by women occurs in an organisational setting, primarily while babysitting.
It shows that less than 2 per cent of cases reported to the police result in a jail term, compared with 16.5 per cent of cases involving men.
A review of South Australian and Victorian cases showed juvenile female offenders abused female children at twice the rate they abused boys.
Ms Flanagan said international studies showed the number of Australian female child sex predators was consistent with the rest of the world.
She said the study should be used to educate the community to raise awareness about the need to conduct checks on female carers, pointing out that
male workers faced far greater scrutiny.
"The message is we should screen all people who work with children, whether it is in a formal or informal setting," Ms Flanagan said.
"Organisations that look after children in any capacity have a duty of care to ensure they assess and screen all staff."
The Australian (7-3-2006)