ELSE WHERE


Colin never knew innocence as a child. His earliest memories are of his mother sexually abusing him. In the bath, in his bed and in the night. Until he was 13. Twenty years later, after a young life derailed by truancy, drugs and violence, he is still deeply affected by what he says happened.

"It's only now that I realise the impact it has had on me. From the age of 14, as soon as it got dark I would have panic attacks and that fuelled my drug-taking because doing it, I felt safe again. "I couldn't sleep at night and I'd get flashbacks of my mum on top of me. I couldn't hold down a job and I was scared of girls."

The fact the perpetrator was the person who gave birth to him made it harder for him to identify and accept it as abuse, he believes. "I found it hard to even say it was sexual abuse because of the way society views mothers, and quite rightly — 99 percent are loving but I was just unlucky to get one that wasn't.

That's what stopped me from getting help for a long time. I couldn't even acknowledge it myself and there was a worry about being believed and speaking out against my mother. I felt like I was doing something wrong."

It's a comment on how society views paedophilia today that the most shocking aspect of Colin's story is not the sexual abuse itself, but the fact the perpetrator was female. Yet Colin is not alone in experiencing this particular kind of trauma, says Steve Bevan, who for nearly two decades has run a support group for male victims of all forms of sexual abuse. Of 18 men currently getting individual and group support, five say they were abused by women, three of them exclusively so.

"Over the years we've had lots of men abused by mothers, sisters, aunties and baby sitters," says Mr Bevan.

"It's hard enough for adult men to admit abuse but to admit to abuse by a woman is even harder because it challenges their masculinity, it challenges their sexuality." Women can commit a wide range of sexual offences, he says, including rape. And their victims commonly experience sexual confusion and a fear of intimacy. Anger can manifest itself as violence towards a wife or girlfriend in later life.

By its very nature the true picture of child abuse is unclear. But with women perpetrators it's even more so. Convictions are thin on the ground and some believe the issue is an unhelpful distraction from the bigger problem.

Experts agree that women commit only a fraction of child sexual abuse but so much is hidden that it's difficult to be accurate. An influential study in the US in the 1980s suggested 20 percent of all offences against boys and 5 percent against girls were by women.

 

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