The typical child abuser is pictured as male but there are many female abusers as well. There are no reliable statistics available because this sort of abuse is the most difficult to talk about. Even many professionals and survivor groups find it hard to discuss this issue. The general public finds it hard to accept that women can sexually abuse minors because women are supposed to take a caring role in a child’s life.
Those who have experienced this sort of abuse may feel very isolated but it happens more than one might expect.
When a female abuses a child, the abuse can easily be hidden behind claims of caregiving – washing the private areas, putting on cream, checking that everything is alright, etc. If the child feels uncomfortable, if the child is old enough to manage alone, if it is repetitive and done without a good reason, then this is abuse. It may go on for many years, from the time the child is small until late adolescence, and it is difficult for a child to recognize this as abuse even when older.
Abuse by females is just as psychologically damaging as is abuse by males, especially if the abuser is the child’s mother. Survivors abused by men might think that female abuse is less harmful, less violent and easier to get over. It is not,
Abuse by a mother has been shown to be the hardest for the victim to accept and to recover from. The lack of normal boundaries, of a healthy role model and the impact of having receiving the opposite kind of relationship from what one expects from a mother [protection, care, support] is devastating. A mother should be there for her child - but in an abusive relationship, the child is there for the mother to use and manipulate for her own needs.
Abuse of girls by a woman does not mean that the victim is gay. A normal biological reaction to being touched sexually is to be sexually aroused and this does not make the girl a lesbian. It is particularly confusing for the victim to have a normal sexual response when it is her mother or other female caregiver causing it.