As a feminist, I have spent the better part of my life working towards women's rights and freedoms both from the trenches, the sidelines, and head on. Of late, actions within the women's community have devastated me.
Imagine: a celebrated male sports coach being questioned about allegations of inappropriate touching. He insists the kid is making it up. The coach's male colleague vouches for him. The employer dismisses the allegations and it is the victim who leaves the team. Women’s organizations have fought this type of Old Boy’s Networking for decades. We have demanded that men confront their fellowman and have criticized them for not doing so fast enough or well enough. And yet, organizations like WAVAW (Women Against Violence Against Women/Vancouver), who are focused on male violence, are reluctant to do that very thing when it comes to the female perpetrator.
A "major 2004 study commissioned by the US Dept of Education [showed that]… 57.2% of all students reported a male offender and 42.4 % a female offender." These have been replicated. (Educator Sexual Misconduct: A Synthesis of Existing Literature, US Dept of Education. 20, by Carol Shakeshaft. Pg 24)
- · In twenty years of study, 30 to 57% of lesbian respondents experienced sexual assault or rape by another woman." (Girshick, Lori B, Woman to Woman Sexual Violence, date unknown http://tinyurl.com/ztoojkf)
- · More women (58%) than men (42%) are perpetrators of ALL forms of child maltreatment. (Social Work in the 21st Century: An Introduction to Social Welfare, Social Issues, and the Profession, Glicken, Morley D., 2011, Sage Publications. Pg 135)
- · O’Brien (1989) found that 93.3 % of the male adolescent sexual offenders who had been sexually victimized by only a female perpetrator then chose only female victims. (Female Sexual Offenders: Theory, Assessment and Treatment edited by Theresa A. Gannon, Franca Cortoni, 2010, Wiley-Blackwell Publications. Pg 17)
- · Here are some examples of the stats around the prevalence of female perpetrators amongst victims: (1981) Fritz et al 60%;” Fromuth and Burkhart (1987, 1989) 78% and 72%; Seidner and Calhoun (1984) 82%; Olson (1990) 61.5%; Groth (1979) 66% (rapists) and 33% (child molestors); Risin and Koss (1987) 47%. (from Mendel, Matthew Parynik, The Male Survivor: The Impact of Sexual Abuse, 1995, Sage Publications.)
- 1.5% of female psychologists, psychiatrists, and counsellors, have had a sexual relationship with AT LEAST ONE of their clients. (Pope, Kenneth S. Sex Between Therapists and Clients, http://www.kspope.com/sexiss/sexencyc.php).
- (2013) After age 18, males and females commit sexual violence at comparable rates: 52% male and 48% female. (Ybarra, ML & Mitchell, KJ, Prevalence rates of male and female sexual violence perpetrators in a national sample of adolescents. Jama Pediatrics,167 (12), 1125-1134.
Belief is a powerful thing. It builds people into icons, topples governments, and fuels propaganda. For decades, we have been told that rape culture is about male violence and that the nominal percentage of female perpetrators allows us to ignore them or present them as secondary victims of the patriarchy and, thus, requiring our sympathy. Consequently, the female victim of FSPs ends up inadvertently challenging this solely because of what someone else did to her.
Denial is a powerful tool. Lori B Girshick, PhD said,
"Denial … that women might be sexual perpetrators or batterers is not the only problem.… An additional factor is the insular nature of our [women’s] community and subcommunities. Who will hold the abuser accountable? She might be an advocate in an anti-violence agency or a leader in the community." (http://tinyurl.com/ztoojkf)
What better position would a female perpetrator take but in alliance with an organization which focuses on male violence? We now witness the Good Ole Girl's Network in action. We know offenders choose professions where they can access their victim-of-choice: daycares, school institutions, juvenile detention centres, and sports programs. If one is a FSP attracted to women one is going to go where there are vulnerable women. Where better than working with sexual abuse survivors? Case in point:
"On Jan. 11 (’93] the state Examining Board of Psychology filed a statement of charges against Seattle psychologist Mary Lee Holscher for (among other things) admittedly nursing an adult patient, allegedly masturbating before the patient, and using the client to care for her child and her dog, clean the house, and do yardwork and other tasks." (http://tinyurl.com/gn5rrzy)
The feminist therapist mentioned above, Pamela Sleeth, was well known within the women’s community. She, also, not only engaged in sexual activities with at least one of her clients, she had them (there is a group of us) care for her dog, build and paint her cabin, paint her home and office, do yard, legal, and clerical work, haul materials, shop and cook for her, and perform massage therapy (nude) among other violations. Like the male offender's social network, Pam's was ripe with several seemingly "accepted" incidents of boundary infractions.
Recent research demonstrates that the binary understanding of the male offender/female victim is fictional. Nothing more clearly demonstrates the ineffectiveness of our sexual assault centres to recognize and deal with the FSP than WAVAW knowingly honouring an offender as a role model for feminist therapy while simultaneously silencing her victims. Their actions are reminiscent of and no different than:
- churches protecting their ministers and priests who molested children and parishioners,
- social attitudes that allowed residential schools to exist or its apathy as 1,017+ aboriginal women and girls have gone missing and/or turned up murdered,
- an entertainment industry that silenced victims of Bill Cosby (50 girls) and Jian Ghomeshi for decades, public schools who addressed allegations by simply transferring pedophiles to a new district, and
- the indifference of authorities that gave Robert Pickton freedom to murder about 49 women.
While WAVAW claims they support all survivors, my recent experience alone defies that. The default position of most women’s organizations remains on a model of male violence within rape culture. They fear that, by acknowledging the female perpetrator, society will somehow revert back to holding women responsible for how men violate them. It may not be an unwarranted concern. However, the answer to that problem must not be to deny female victims of female perpetrators services. To do so constitutes a deliberate indifference to certain victims not because of something they have done but because of the gender of their perpetrator.
Related Post: The Transgressions of Pamela Sleeth
A Cautionary Tale...