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Sexually abusive mom is not unique
|February 5, 2010|
The set of facts involving the Windsor-area mother who sexually abused her 2-year-old son horrified both those involved in the case and those who'd only heard about it.
"Society expects the mother of a toddler would do everything in her power to make sure her child is protected from harm," said the judge who yesterday handed the 24-year-old woman a 31/2-year prison sentence.
He called her crimes "appalling" and "abhorrent." While female sexual abusers are rare in the court system, those who deal with child sexual abuse know the woman is not unique. She may be the first Ontario woman to be jailed for making child pornography featuring her own offspring, but she's not the first mother to sexually abuse a child.
A national study released in 2005 shows that biological mothers were the perpetrators of sexual abuse in five per cent of the substantiated cases investigated by child welfare authorities.
The instance is probably higher, since researchers are certain that many cases of child sexual abuse never come to light.
"A lot of people have difficulty believing women are capable of sexually abusing children," said social worker Angela Hovey, whose doctoral thesis deals with a topic related to this theme.
Even victims of such abuse, looking back at it as adults, have a hard time talking about it.
In her past employment in federal prisons, she would ask inmates about any sexual abuse in their past.
"Many men had been abused by women." The problem, she said, was "they often had more difficulty identifying it as abuse." A U.S. report, entitled Child Sexual Abuse - The Predators, explains it this way: "Mothers generally have more intimate contact with their children, and the lines between maternal love and care and sexual abuse are not as clear-cut as they are for fathers." Therefore, the report says, "sexual abuse by mothers may remain undetected because it occurs at home and is either denied or never reported." Hovey says it's hard to get accurate data on the prevalence of female sex offenders, much less women who abuse their own children. The best information, she believes, may come from victims themselves.
A 2003 U.S. study questioned a random sample of adults to determine the prevalence of childhood sexual abuse. It found that of the 32 per cent of females and 14 per cent of males who identified themselves as victims, nine per cent of women and 39 per cent of men said they had been abused by at least one female.
"Do I think it happens a lot more than we hear about? Absolutely," said Bill Bevan, executive director of the Windsor-Essex Children's Aid Society - which sees two or three such cases each year.
"It's not the first place you look. It's the father figure you look at first."
By SARAH SACHELI, Canwest News Service; Windsor Star