Female paedophiles: Why women sexually abuse children
9:29AM BST 30 Sep 2015
Marie Black, 34, has been sexually abusing children for the last 10 years.
She was at the centre of an utterly depraved sex abuse ring where two boys and three girls – all aged under 13 – were raped and abused.
Black organised sex parties where children were raffled to people who would then rape and abuse them.
The children were subjected to sexual abuse of the worst kind, he said. They were simply passed around like toys.
Jailed: Carol Stadler, left, Michael Rogers, centre, and Jason Adams, right
Black was jailed along with two men who were also part of the sex abuse ring: Michael Rogers, 46, and Jason Adams, 44, as well as Carol Stadler, 59, who was found guilty of assault causing actual bodily harm.
But while the men were respectively found guilty of 14 and 13 counts, including rape, (Stadler was clearled of nine other charges bar the assault), Black was found guilty of 23 offences.
It s why she is now being labelled as the mistress of the gang.
This has shocked many. Sadly paedophilia and sex abuse rings are rarely out of the headlines, but a female ringleader who has sexually abused children is more unusual.
We find female sex offenders abhorrent
Forensic psychologist Nina Burrowes says the gender of female abusers often accounts for some of our shock: I do generally believe [women sexually abusing children] happens less often than men, but it happens a lot more often than you realise. I suspect it s much more underreported.
She suggests that society has not been willing to learn more about female paedophilia (where adults are sexually attracted to children) and female child sex abuse (where they either act on those impulses and sexually abuse children, or do it for different reasons).
We find it abhorrent because it challenges our ideas of women and motherhood, she explains. We also find it frightening because we like to live with the idea that men are dangerous and women are safe, so when you see children to a male stranger in the park it s dangerous but if they re talking to a woman it isn t.
Female sex offenders challenge those notions, which is why a lot of people struggle to believe these things.
Yet women are paedophiles and child sex abusers. Franca Cortoni, professor of criminology at the University of Montreal, has written extensively on female sex offenders and tells me that though there is an overlap in the way male and female child abusers think, there can be specific motivations for women to offend.
We do know there are women who are motivated by sexual interest in children but they are only a tiny proportion of female sex offenders, she explains. Most women are motivated by an intimacy need. They want to feel close to someone.
Some of those women will choose an adolescent victim such as recent cases of teachers having sex with teenage boys and grooming them. These women are more into the idea of a relationship, explains Cortoni. They just choose an adolescent instead of an adult partner because they re less threatening, and they can be in charge.
Women offending with male partners
But when it comes to women who chooses a prepubescent child as their victim, she says: I think they have a different type of need. It s no longer that relationship need. They want to feel close to someone who can t reciprocate in that context. They want to feel totally in charge.
Another key difference between male and female sex offenders is that a third of women do it alongside someone else typically a male partner.
This is a common feature in the most high-profile cases of female offenders, such as Rosemary West, who helped her husband Fred to rape, torture and murder children and women, and Myra Hindley, who murdered and sexually assaulted five children alongside Ian Brady.
Myra Hindley Photo: PA
It s also a crucial part in the Black case, where her two former partners were part of the sex abuse ring.
Cortoni says: There s definitely a very tiny indication that for some of these women, it s because they ve been coerced. That doesn t mean physical violence. It could be very much emotional or psychological. They re akin to women who are victims of domestic violence.
This was part of Black s defence from her lawyers, who said she had suffered domestic violence at the hands of Adams and that he was a very manipulative man who exploited her. But barristers representing Adams and Rogers rejected this notion saying: She is the common denominator between all the offences.
Male coercion of female abusers
But there have been cases where this coercion is clearer. Paedophile and former Lostprophets singer Ian Watkins was jailed in 2013 for child sex offences including the attempted rape of a baby. But as well as committing the crimes himself, he also encouraged a female fan to abuse her child during a webcam chat, as well as enticing another to join him on his paedophilic mission.
The judge sentencing him at the time, Mr Justice Royce, said: You had many fawning fans. That gave you power. You knew you could use that power to induce young female fans to help satisfy your insatiable lust and take part in the sexual abuse of their own children.
Paedophile Ian Watkins has been sentenced to 35 years Photo: PA
Cortoni explains more about these kinds of female sex offenders: They ll do whatever he says in that context because they lose who they are. Some believe it will bring them closer to their partner. Often it s to do with their own background and whatever happened when they were raised.
People think they re mentally ill but they re not always. I prefer to say they re predominantly dysfunctional.
Serial sex offenders
While some of the most high-profile cases of female sex offenders show them committing repeated crimes against children, such as Black and West, it isn’t a typical pattern. Instead Cortoni explains that serial female child abusers are rare:
The make-up of women is different to men. I think in terms of sexuality and preferences, women as a group tend to require more affiliation and closeness with their sexual partner. When serial sexual offending occurs, it s normally from deviant sexual arousal.
They [typically men] are either strongly attracted to children and want more variety or they re aroused by violence, like serial rapists. Women s sexual patterns don t work quite the same way.
The only worry is that this could change. Tony Beech, criminological psychology professor at the University of Birmingham says that women don t commit as many crimes as men but they might, very gradually, start catching up.
Women seem to be more like men these days, he explains, referencing a recent rise in drinking and violence. That wouldn t necessarily affect their chances of becoming paedophiles, which is based on sexual attraction to children, but it could mean an increase in women being sexually violent towards children.
It s why, as Burrowes says, society needs to start recognising and believing that women can be child sex abusers too: “It s something we really need to open our eyes and ears to.
If you’ve been affected by any issues discussed in this article, contact NSPCC on 0808 800 5000 or Rape Crisis on 0808 802 9999