Unthinkable How and Why Female Sex Offenders Elude Us A Guidebook for Those Who Work with Children and Families Laura Greenlee
How and Why Female Sex Offenders Elude Us
A Guidebook for Those Who Work with Children and Families
Laura Greenlee, PhD
Praise for Unthinkable
About the Author
By Laura Greenlee, PhD
To my adult children and grandchildren, who have motivated me to be my best self. They are proponents of justice and fairness, and not afraid to and to speak out when they believe others are being harmed.
1. If Walls Could Talk: Uncovering Child Sexual Offending by Females
2. Demographics and Subtypes of Female Sexual Offending, and Motivation for Each Subtype
3. Why Female Sexual Offenders Are Unrecognized, Underesearched, and Underreported
4. Case Studies of Female Sex Offenders
5. The Messy Paradox of Reenactment of Perpetrator’s Own Abuse
6. What Does Research, or Lack Thereof, Tell Us About Female Sex Offenders?
7. How Attachment Theory Influences the Roles of Mothers, and of Female Sex Offenders
8. How Female Child Sexual Abuse Impacts Victims Across the Lifespan
9. A Voice for Victims of Female Child Sexual Abuse
10. Can Female Sex Offenders Be Rehabilitated?
Rarely do we ever expect females to sexually abuse children. Throughout history, females have been revered as ultimate protectors and sacred caregivers. Females are individuals who are associated with provision of unconditional love, compassion, and kindness, and whose tender touch heals the hearts and minds of those in their clutches. Spiritual Teacher, Caroline Myss describes the caregiver archetype as having bottomless wells of strength and stamina, and as “a first responder” who shows up at disasters and opportunities for volunteering time and energy in times of crisis; ranging from floods and tornados, to skinned knees and caring for emotionally hurting people who seek reassurance and affection. Myss also stated that caregivers generally fall into the role of parenting with great ease, if they have been able to mature into that position without resentment, including working through their own unresolved issues from childhood.
When females are forced into the role of caregiving before they have worked through their issues, most devastatingly their own victimization of abuse that occurred during their developmental years, caregivers may find themselves in the uncomfortable quandary of resenting their parental roles, and thereby privately taking out their anger on those in their charge, often in the form of jealousy and paradoxical episodes of justice seeking which presents as narcissism and the incessant need for admiration. Regarding developmental victimization of sexual abuse, females were immorally violated, and their personal control was savagely denied during childhood or adolescence. As adults, they become indomitable forces, hoping to restore their earlier loss of control, and do so in compensatory ways; often by overcontrolling their adult environment. Paradoxically, they may reenact their own abuse to “get it right this time,” and in doing so, their own children become helpless objects of abuse reenactment and victimization, referred to as transgenerational abuse.
Often, but not always, female sex offenders are mothers, who are seen on the surface as innately warm, dependable, and affectionate, but unbeknown to the world, they may be harboring ineffable brokenness due to their own trauma, dysfunctional home and family relationships, and unrequited love during childhood. These are often individuals who hide behind the guise of perfectionism and imposter behavior, since revelation of their painful stories would be more than they could bear. A common thread among most broken women who become offenders is an incessant need for admiration and attention as well as excessive self-absorption, known clinically as narcissistic characteristics. Developmental trauma among female caregivers knows no bounds, including social, economic, educational, religious, or cultural factors. Trauma can pervade in the lives of most anyone, and more tragically, it can live vicariously through reenactment of abuse in the lives of children.
Caring for and protecting children have been historically viewed from anthropological, environmental, and even biological perspectives, and associated with characteristics such as empathy, sensitivity, gentleness, and calmness. Recent researchers influenced by the feminist movement of the late twentieth century may argue that caregiving is not a biological determinant, as much as it is learned behavior. Regardless of whether they are viewed as authentic nurturers or caregivers, we certainly don’t expect them to cause harm to children. Females are expected to be bonded to children, and are generally aware of the intimate details of the health and well-being in their lives. Males have generally been viewed as having different roles in nurturing children, including providing financial support and engaging in playful activities. Male and female roles have shifted dramatically in recent years, such that both are expected to provide equal amounts of care and financial support, despite what comes naturally to each.
The focus of this guidebook is to aid those who work with children and families in social services, the legal system, the education system, religious settings, the medical field, the public sector, and clinical mental health professionals to gain a grasp of the baffling paradox of female sexual abuse. Mental health professionals are often at the front line of potential female sexual abuse cases, and despite their intensive experience and training, a startling number of mental health professionals cannot identify potential female sex offenders, primarily since historical data and insufficient research fail to inform them about this topic. Female sexual abuse is vastly unrecognized and misunderstood in our society, when perpetrators’ powerful manipulation tactics and concealment strategies usually go undetected. Many of these manipulators are creative and resourceful, and go to great depths to present themselves as heroic caregivers, model citizens, health-conscious, and highly informed individuals. As observers, it is essential to rely on knowledge and deep intuition to inform us that something may be amiss, and these rightfully prompt us to investigate potential female sexual abuse, and seek more information than is presented on the surface. By questioning what is happening behind closed doors, and how female sexual abuse can create havoc on children, not only in childhood but throughout the lifespan, we can begin to insist on more expert examination, investigation, and oversight. Deeper scrutiny of potential female child abuse is risky business from a clinical and legal perspective, so it is crucial to understand the various forms and presentations of female sexual abuse, despite the limited amount of credible research available and the unfortunate realization of underreporting of actual cases.
If Walls Could Talk: Uncovering Child Sex Offending by Females
In our Western culture, we generally associate the intimate and private times and spaces between children and caregivers as inhabited by women. Time that women and children spent together is focused on nurture, education, healing, safekeeping, establishing rules and boundaries, and adherence to routines. Many of the activities in which women and children engage are behind closed doors and walls, and women are rarely assumed to be doing anything other than what is in the best interest of children. Unfortunately, closed doors and walls serve as protectors of secrets, and means for hiding transgressions, just as they preserve privacy. When a case of potential sexual abuse is brought to the surface it would appear likely to automatically assume that a male was the perpetrator, since this notion is in keeping with what we have learned over time, and the assumption that males perpetrate because of pervasive and deviant sexual preoccupation and compulsions. Additionally, it matches what we may have learned about sexual abuse through studies, life experience, and in the media. It may seem “unthinkable” that a woman could abuse children, but perhaps we may not have considered that there may be other motives behind such acts than sexual gratification. Perhaps the best way to process and reexamine the outmoded assumption that females do not perpetrate on children is to pay close attention to and internalize the phenomenological (lived experiences) stories of children, who, once they can express themselves, have enlightening perspectives of their lives to share once they feel it is safe to do so. Many stories of female abuse remain closed, shameful secrets, however, since children; even adult children are led to believe their stories are not credible.
Many disagree on whether in fact children, particularly young children, are sexual beings, and how their sexuality manifests. Sigmund Freud, Father of Psychoanalysis, was an early pioneer in child sexuality, as he formulated the Psychosexual Stages of Development. Freud’s theory of psychosexual development is not without controversy, but it is still widely used or referenced today in the field of psychology. Freud believed that children as young as infants go through various psychosexual stages that must be resolved or worked through before successfully moving on to the next developmental stage. If the dilemmas are not successfully resolved, neurosis or anxiety can occur. Masturbation has traditionally been one objective way of understanding that children do have sexual feelings, and throughout history children were shamed and punished severely when evidence of masturbation was revealed. Today, we generally take a more open-minded stance on this topic, and sexuality is discussed more freely in many, but not all families. However, in more progressive and liberal home environments there remains somewhat of a taboo or mystique that surrounds sexuality in children. Children tend to feel that their sexuality is something they keep to themselves, and they generally feel discomfort in talking about their feelings, even with those closest to them. Even when children try to tell someone about their confusing experiences with caregivers, they are often met with doubt, but by disbelief and dismissal. This may be partly due to children’s’ developmental struggle with recall and focus, and often due to inconsistency, nonspecificity, and tentativeness, which are inherent to childhood explanations.
In the nineteenth century, women were assumed to be asexual, since needs of their children were expected to be their priority, even over their own needs. Ideal mothers were deemed as passive, nurturing, patient, and diligent, and certainly not active pursuers of sexual pleasure. Women who were overtly sexual were almost always prostitutes, and the belief of that time was that if a woman was not a prostitute, she would not be sexual. Over the past few decades, responses to child sexual abuse and early social interventions almost always preserved the admirable model of motherhood, and little emphasis was placed on regulating fathers’ behavior with children. This created what is now seen as a “blind spot” for child protection and forensic evaluators, who tended to recommend removal of the most obvious and prevalent risks for children, generally the adult male. This was based on their own established beliefs and core values of sexual abuse, guiding their assumption that the adult male was the most likely abuser. Women are rarely subjected to the same scrutiny as men during the investigation phase, when abuse is suspected.
Sexual abuse of children is generally described as a violation of boundaries, a serious transgression, and an intrusive, violent act committed by someone outside of a child’s private space. When boundaries are crossed in obvious ways, the behavior is more easily detected, and generally the act is deemed most heinous and treated with the most vehement of reaction. The more subtle and covert experiences often go unrecognized at the time of occurrence, but due to their betraying nature, they fester deeply within the minds and bodies of victims throughout the lifespan. Sexual abuse is often disguised as something other than what the caregiver says it is; including something benign and necessary for child rearing. According to Julie Brand, MA, author of A Mother’s Touch: Surviving Mother-Daughter Sexual Abuse, explains what female sexual abuse entails, based on her own experience, as well as experience of those who have followed her and have shared their lived experiences. Brand stated that what is uniquely devastating about mother daughter-incest is the betrayal of the mother-daughter relationship. She said it was not just what was done to the child but who the perpetrator was. She said many survivors of mother-daughter incest experience the profound grief of essentially being motherless children.
Brand describes female perpetrators of child sexual abuse as narcissistic. She said not all narcissists are child molesters, but she believes all mothers who molest their own children have characteristics of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), as seen in the Diagnostic and Statistically Manual of Mental Disorders. Among the NPD characteristics she encountered in her lifelong work on this topic, these mothers (a) are interpersonally exploitative, and take advantage of others to achieve their own ends and disregards the hurt this causes, and (b) lack empathy, and (c) are unwilling or unable to identify with or recognize the feelings or needs of others, and they have no genuine compassion for others. Brand described a continuum of sexual abuse behaviors she has either experienced herself or she has learned about from others, including but not limited to: interference of privacy during bathing, toileting, voyeurism (watching unnecessarily), fondling, masturbation, excessive enemas, exhibitionism (flaunting naked body), oral sex, bizarre cleansing rituals, penetration (anal or vaginal), torture, and fixation on menstrual cycles.
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In terms of the psychological damage that children face in homes with female sex offenders, Brand stated that healthy boundaries do not exist. She said that in her experience, mothers and daughters are enmeshed, and the mother views her daughter as a part of her. She said the mother does not care about or respect her daughter’s feelings since she does not perceive her as a separate person with rights and needs of her own. Brand stated that daughters are often objectified, or seen as an object of the mother’s obsession. She has seen multiple cases of overly controlling mothers, who rule “a land of a thousand rules and regulations.” Brand said compliance and obedience are paramount for female perpetrators, and this begins early in childhood. She said daughters are “groomed since birth” never to say no to Mommy. Brand shared such tactics as manipulation, isolation, and intimidation and threats as common experiences in the incest relationship. Brand stated that many female abusers are not unlike her own mother was; active in the PTA, known in the community as an avid church goer, a member of the bridge club, and a seemingly involved mother. She said her father lived in the home, but he placed trust in his wife as a competent mother, so her sexual abuse tactics flew under his radar. He may have assumed that since she was “in charge,” he would take a more hands-off approach, and he may have normalized her narcissistic personality as “just the way she was.”
When victims have not yet come to realize that abuse occurred, bystanders, medical personnel, teachers, or child protection workers may assume, accept, or rationalize that what they have experienced or witnessed was a component of a caregiving routine, which involved physical closeness such as bathing, washing, giving enemas, and massaging, all of which are viewed as promoting good health practices. In an article written by Eileen Munro, entitled, Common Errors of Reasoning in Child Protection Work, Munro explained that when investigations are made, many workers take for granted their deeply rooted beliefs that women do not engage in sexual abuse of children, so therefore dismiss or ignore evidence that such acts are occurring. Additionally, many female caregivers are quite convincing to those who scrutinize them, reassuring that they are stellar mothers who always engage in healthy practices, which serve the best interests of the children in their care.
In subsequent chapters of this book, I presented in-depth discussions on how female sexual abuse is unrecognized and underreported, the prevalence rates, case studies, how victims can be supported, and possible treatment and eventual amelioration of female sexual abuse.
Demographics and Subtypes of Female Sex Offenders, and Motivation for Each Subtype
According to Andrea Josipovic, a former senior advisor in child protection in Australia, some authors have suggested that female child sex offending might occur more often than has been acknowledged, and statistical research on this mode of abuse does not provide much consistency in terms of comparability. The private and secretive nature of female abuse, in combination with questionable credibility of victim explanation creates limitations in accuracy of recognition and reporting, resulting in dubious data collection and reporting. In 2005, the Australian Bureau of Statistics estimated that around 1.7% of sexual cases involved females, while a 2011 study by Cortoni and Gannon revealed that a more up-to-date figure may be 4-5% of all sexual cases involved female perpetrators. Craig, Browne and Beech reported in 2008 that female sex offenders estimated by the Home Office in England and Wales from 2004-05 fall within a wide range of between 5 and 20 %. They also stated that only 25 females were incarcerated, while 4480 males were incarcerated for sex related crimes. Elliot, Saradjan and Harris (cited in Boroughs 2004) stated that a more accurate statistic for female sexual abuse is as high as 25% of all sexual abuse cases.
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It is imperative to note that female sexual offending should not be viewed in the same light as male sex offending. Male sexual abuse is often viewed as more violent, more aggressive, and is generally a control tactic driven by a need for sexual gratification. Assumptions that males are the perpetrators are usually the first and sometimes the only assumptions made by investigators when they seek answers in sexual abuse cases. When investigators can put aside their inherent biases of the typical perpetrator profile, they can hold space for a novel and unfamiliar paradigm of female offending, which presents in various subtypes.
Regarding characteristics of female sex offenders, Wijkman, Bijleved, and Hendriks of the Netherlands reported in 2010 that the average age of offenders is between 26 and 32 years of age, 85% are Caucasian, and more than a third is married. The authors claimed all offenders reported getting married to escape the family home. Another feature of female offenders is drug and/or alcohol use starting in early adolescence. There were mixed findings of intellectual ability, with some researchers finding average IQ among female offenders, while others reported lower intelligence and history of low school performance. Around 40% were determined to be unemployed or having unstable work history. The clear majority of female sex offenders had problematic youth experiences with physical abuse, neglect, sexual abuse, and alcohol abuse by parents. They also reported experiencing aversive parenting styles such as negative interactions between mother and children, being frequently criticized by the parent, and developing feelings of worthlessness as humans. Over 60% claim to be from broken and dysfunctional families, and they identify as socially isolated or having few friends or family support.
Depression, suicidal thoughts, posttraumatic stress disorder, anxiety disorder, cognitive disorders, and personality disorders were reported among many female sex offenders. Psychotic disorders are rarely reported, in congruence with psychotic disorder in the general population, although psychotic disorders were seen more frequently seen as distinctive features in older female sexual abuse literature. All studies report that 60 to 100% of female offenders were sexually abused in their own childhood, and 50-95% female sex offenders experienced nonsexual physical abuse. One study found that 80% of female sex offenders experienced physical abuse later in life by a male sexual partner, or had been threatened with this. Overall, female sex offenders are largely portrayed as traumatized individuals who have mental disorders, are socially isolated, and moderate performers in school and work. The high rate of sexual victimization as physical abuse and neglect last well into adulthood. To reiterate, however, these statistics are based on low sample sizes and fluctuating clinical methodology, and should be interpreted with caution. It should also be noted that many female abusers are not treated for mental disorders prior to being named as sexual abusers, since they were either unaware of them, or for other reasons, did not seek mental health treatment.
Regarding victims, more than 75% of cases of female sexual abuse involve relatives or acquaintances. Reports of strangers being victimized less common, according to research. The acts of reported overt sexual abuse behaviors include genital fondling oral sex, sexual penetration of the body. Victims are usually between 6-12 years of age, and most abusers choose females as victims at a ratio of 60 females, and 40 males, although one researcher found most victims to be male. A high percentage of female victims is assumed to be related to females co-offending with males, and males generally prefer female victims, and most perpetrators identified as heterosexual.
Several researchers have identified distinct subtypes of female sex offenders, some of which have overlapping qualities, but largely they are different, and driven by different motives. Once laypeople understand the various types of abusers it may be easier to accept that female sexual abuse does occur, and the rates of occurrence may be grossly underestimated. One of the most commonly known type of abuser, and the one that has the richest data and gives the most insight into the world of female sexual abuse is the teacher-lover type. This type involves a woman who abuses an adolescent while denying the abuse, and she herself feels she is simply having a love affair with her victim. The victim is deemed as young and immature, and generally goes along with her beliefs. In recent years, this subtype has shown up in schools, with young adult teachers and adolescent boys, but this type is not restricted to teachers and students. The case of Mary Kay Letourneau and her 12-year-old student, Vili Fualaau in the 1990s was the most noteworthy example of this subtype. Letourneau served a short prison stint but eventually married Fualaau who was then over 18, and to date they are still married. Most cases such as this are perceived as child abuse cases, despite those involved stating that they are truly and justifiably in love. In many teacher lover cases, the female abuser has a history of personal trauma, possibly sexual abuse, which may have emotionally stunted her during her own adolescent years, coinciding with the age of her victim. Additionally, she may be married, but is seeking attention and affection that she believes can only be provided by her young lover, and she and her lover may be at equivalent emotional levels.
A second subtype of female sex offenders is the intergenerationally predisposed type. This type involves a woman who has a history of sexual or physical (or both) abuse herself, often untreated or resolved, and as a result she on her own, abuses her own child or child acquaintance. This type may be more difficult to accept and understand, as it would seem these women would strive to avoid inflicting the same painful experience they experienced. However, paradoxically, like in other types of reenactment situations, these women develop personality issues and compulsions that drive them into perpetration for reasons thought to be based on emotional instability. Often these women have co-existing mental health issues. One theory posits that intergenerational abusers had no control over their bodies when abuse occurred originally, but since they finally have control over their bodies and their victim’s bodies later in life, they reenact the abuse in those who are as vulnerable as they once were.
A third subtype of female sex offenders is the male-coerced type. In these cases, the woman is generally highly dependent on her male counterpart, and she has experienced sexual abuse herself. This woman generally forcedly participates in the abuse of a child or children, initiated by her husband her intimate partner. There is speculation that many of these women are lower in terms of intellectual functioning and adaptive functioning, or they may fear that failing to acquiesce to their partner’s request may lead to the end of their relationship. Some courts grant leniency to accomplices in this type of abuse, but rarely are they let off the hook.
The three models mentioned above are deemed as the most commonly known subtypes of sexual abuse, but other researchers have designed models to describe female sexual abuse in different lenses. In 2004, Vandiver and Kercher studied types of offenses committed, and then identified six abuser types, including first, the heterosexual nurturer resembling the teacher lover type, but not restricted to teachers. Second was the noncriminal homosexual offender, who is a woman who abuses young female victims, often without a history of delinquency or relapse. This appears to resemble the male-coerced type, except that victims are of the same sex. A third type is the female sexual predator, a woman of around 30 or older who abuses a young male victim, often around 11 years of age. Although it is not clear from the studies, these may be the mothers of victims. A fourth type was the young adult exploiter, a young woman who assaults young children, both males and females. The fifth was the homosexual criminal, who is an older woman with a high risk of relapse for any offense, who, according to studies, forces young children and adolescent children into sexual acts, and worse, into prostitution for her own monetary gain. A sixth type was the aggressive homosexual offender, like the homosexual criminal, albeit her victims are primarily adult women.
Not mentioned in the studies above is a unique type of abuse that commonly appears in current research; mother-son sexual abuse. Mother- son sexual abuse cases have gained recent notoriety, and some report the rates are on the rise, likely due to more young adult males opening about their devastating experiences with their mothers, and finding acceptance and support for their revelations.
Since female child abuse research is still unfolding in the US and around the world, and victims are just now finding that their voices are supported with compassion and acceptance, there are still many unanswered questions about the demographics, the prevalence rates, and the reasons behind the behavior. Over time, as more concrete data is derived, and investigators find ways to get to the truth behind female sexual abuse, more accurate and comprehensive statistics will emerge, and more accurate classifications of types of female sexual abuse will be made.
Even though female sexual abuse is largely underreported and underresearched, it is incumbent upon us to find ways to get to the truth about the prevalence, types of abuse, and additional data. In a recent article, Cucula and Perlin stated that when judicial decisions were examined, courts rely improperly on inaccurate and underdeveloped statistics as well as unverified and outdated information, which could result in significant sanctions and loss of liberty for sex offenders. They found that continuation of the testimonial script that all sex offenders are high recidivists, dangerous, compulsive and untreatable, perpetuates to shame and humiliation, and is not therapeutic. This results in isolation, seclusion, lack of dignity of offenders and creates questions about credibility of the judicial process. The authors reported that a recent handful of court decisions have shown deeper evaluation based on relevant research that cites overall low recidivism and reveals failures and harm of offender registration laws. The authors further state, “These rogue courts and published court decisions have effectively revived the stagnant debate on the constitutionality of sexual offender containment laws. It is only through continued judicial recognition of improper reliance on controversial, outdated and incorrect information, that the constitutional wrongs of sex offender legislation can finally be rectified.”
Although some global statistics are available on female sexual offenders and sex abuse, all investigators report their research is limited by the low number of reported cases, resulting in lack of continuity between research studies. Although progress is being made regarding victims beginning to disclose their abuse, there is a long way to go to obtain a full understanding of the gravity of this topic. In the next chapter, we will explore reasons for lack of female sex offense recognition, research, and reporting.
Why Female Sexual Offenders Are Unrecognized, Underesearched, and Underreported
Although we are making strides in reporting child abuse and neglect in general, in part due to mandatory reporting laws in most states, female child abuse continues to elude most of us. There are many reasons for this, including lack of recognition of this problem, and lack of credible research to inform policy and regulations on recognition of the problem and for reporting of female child sexual abuse. But beyond mandates for required reporting there are many other barriers to bringing female child sexual abuse to the forefront, and making it visible to all who should understand it. We may believe that female child abuse rarely happens, or it only happens in lower socioeconomic or lower cultural class families; therefore, it is deemed as not important. We tend to want to avoid or set aside topics that are unpleasant to consider, because having to think about and deal with female sexual abuse places us in states of cognitive dissonance, and we simply overtly change our attitudes or behaviors to more positive thoughts or minimization of problems to maintain cognitive balance. We may turn blind eyes to the stories of victims who valiantly attempt to inform others about the reality of female child sexual abuse, with hope that not giving them an audience will quell their testimonials.
Those of us who have ever been falsely accused of certain actions or behaviors, know how hurtful and emotionally damaging it can be to be targeted, ridiculed, or even suspected of wrongdoing. Being in this position wears down innocent souls, and in some cases false accusations can lead to legal consequences. We tend to err on the side of caution, and rightfully so, to ensure others are not humiliated unjustly, since we empathically recall how it felt for us when that occurred in the past. Today, a healthy trend in societal thought is to honor and respect the privacy of others, particularly children, as we want to avoid causing undue harm of scrutiny and exposure if they could be avoided. Even though statistics reveal that around 80% of all child abuse perpetrators are parents of the victims, we tend to place high value on respecting family privacy.
Female child sexual abuse eludes us since most people think that sexual abusers are only males, and therefore prevention, educational, and advocacy initiatives are generally targeted to victims of male sexual abuse, not female sexual abuse. We may naively believe that child sexual abuse will occur around us no matter what efforts we make to prevent it, so we put our hands over our ears, eyes, and mouths, and adopt attitudes of complacency, perhaps with hope that a bigger and brighter social issue will come to light, and the notion of female child sexual abuse will eventually fall by the wayside. Today we know that there are two major sources of information about the victims of child abuse and their perpetrators, including government statistics, which only document cases reported to and investigated by social service agencies, and the statistics are thought to be much lower than there are actual cases, and research studies in which adults complete surveys, including female sexual abuse behaviors that were experienced during childhood and adolescence, and identification of the perpetrators. Based on the scant and limited research available, Finkelhor informed us over the past two decades that approximately 20% of females and 5-10% of males are sexually abused with or without physical contact, by age 18. These numbers reveal that one of five girls, and one in every ten to twenty boys will have experienced sexual abuse in their childhood. And sadly, those who have been abused tend to falter in the academic and social realm, which may signal us that there may be a substandard, or violent life within the walls of home.
Even those who are mandatory reporters of child abuse tend to turn blind eyes and there are many reasons for this. Guttman revealed a variety of potential reasons mandatory reporters of both male and female abuse shirk responsibility and opt to “play it safe.” The famous Bystander Effect Experiment performed by social psychologists, Latane and Darley in 1964 revealed that an alarming majority of people avoid assisting others or acting to promote safety when they believe there are other witnesses who observed the same dangerous situation or crisis, or when there are many people among a group of people who observed the same potentially problematic situation. Essentially, the complacent bystander fails to act because he/she believes others either already reported or should have, or perhaps someone else will do it.
The phenomenon of failing to report child abuse is like the bystander model in that many mandatory reporters believe that abuse situations may have already been reported, or the situation has already been resolved, particularly if the victim has reached the age of majority. Other reasons for failing to report may be when individuals “cannot see it, due to not being able to imagine it could happen.” Some may deem the suspicions they have or facts that have been presented to them as not serious enough. Some may conclude there is insufficient evidence to support the notion of child abuse, and opt to avoid further investigation. Other reasons for failing to report child abuse include certain mandatory reporters believing they can better ameliorate the matter on their own, or they believe child protective services are not known to do enough about abuse when reported, or they tend to overreact and place children and families in precarious situations. Some may believe that the justice and social service systems are too harsh and insensitive, and those who have been potentially abused deserve to be treated with warmth, compassion and kindness. Some may personalize the problem and reflect on their own personal experience by believing, “I was abused myself, and bad things happened to me in the system, so I am not going to subject anyone to what I went through.” Or more concerning, “I experienced abuse and worked through on my own and I turned out okay.”
New and inexperienced mandatory reporters may lack the courage to report potential abuse, as doing so for the first time can be frightening. There may be concern about making an error, causing undue harm, or putting oneself in a position of potential danger, due to retaliation of the suspected perpetrator. There may be situations in which potential perpetrators of abuse may be a part of a diverse, marginalized or poorly understood culture, and the mandatory reporter may believe he/she has no right to impose his/her beliefs about raising children on them. Some may wrongfully believe they may be subject to legal ramifications if potential abuse is reported, even though all states have provisions in place to protect mandatory reporters from civil liability for making a good faith report in which knowledge or reasonable suspicion exists by the investigator. There are still many other reasons mandatory reporters fail to report potential abuse, including, concern that making any mistakes in the process of reporting could lead to loss of job, or they may assume that someone higher on the hierarchical agency ladder is obligated to report potential abuse. Some mandatory reporters of potential abuse may believe they will be subject to public humiliation by those who support the potential abuser, and this could be a devastating experience. Finally, many licensed clinicians may avoid reporting suspected abuse due to concerns of licensing board complaints that could devastate their practices and livelihoods. They realize that reporting suspected abuse is a risky endeavor, and could include career damaging court involvement, as those whom are reported may well become retaliative.
It is not uncommon for women to be covertly aware of their partner’s abusive behavior or suspected abusive behavior, but they fail to listen to, protect, or validate victims, who are often their children, out of fear of devastation of the family, financial loss, loss of security, fear of danger due to retaliation by male partner, and even if the family is largely broken and dysfunctional. Female partners are the front line of defense against child abuse, as they are almost always in-tune with their children’s deviant day-to-day behaviors and emotions, which are often in response to the trauma of abuse, and they are also aware of virtually all actions of their compulsive and wayward partners. Nevertheless, these mothers have psychological blind spots, which are largely deemed as psychological defense mechanisms such as denial and repression, which emerge for allowing avoidance of confrontation. Adult survivors of male sexual abuse are coming forward in large numbers, telling chilling stories of maternal betrayal, explaining that the treachery of the mother in cases of sexual abuse brings forth much more excruciating thoughts and emotions than the act of abuse by the male partner. Often these betrayals pervade throughout the lifespan of victims, even if victims have not become transparent, and often explain broken bonds between adult mothers and children. Equally as troubling as mothers who turn blind eyes regarding sexual abuse behaviors of their male partner in the home are situations when mothers act as co-participants or accomplices of abuse, under the perverse and vile assumption that her participation will keep her in the good graces of the primary abuser, no matter how demented his behavior is.
Males who turn blind eyes on their female partners who are engaged in sexual abuse with children have similar issues regarding dissociation of circumstances, emotional disconnection with their partner and their children, often preoccupied with career and other external interests, lack of understanding of the warning signs and possibility of female sexual abuse, and fear of loss of family if problems are confronted and exposed. In many of the studies of husbands of abusers, many male partners of female abusers endured hardships in their family of origin, and are on a life path of overcompensation, leaving little room for emotional closeness and family connection, and use their high personal drive as a means of coping with covert fragile emotions or deeply hidden wounds that if exposed, would further damage the core self. A troublesome facet of some nonoffending males is that they do know, or at least suspect that abuse is going on, and they realize there are serious problems in the relationship between their partner and their child or children, but they go into a deep, avoidant mode, out of fear that they must act, and they are terrified of the consequences.
Reporting potential child abuse, particularly female sexual abuse, requires self-confidence, conviction and courage. Almost always, those who are the subject of sexual abuse reports feel discomfort, anger, and sometimes rage, all of which tend to find ways back to the assumed reporter, in some form or another. Expressing truth, or informing powers-that-be of concerns of danger are acts of bravery and integrity. But based on the bystander experiment, most people prefer to turn blind eyes on suspected dangerous situations, since the possible consequences and ramifications far outweigh the benefits of disclosure. Today, more and more victims of sexual abuse, particularly female sexual abuse, are getting involved in public forums, support groups, social media sites, blogs, and writing books. This open disclosure is leading other victims to feel empowered to speak their truths too, and as a result, we are learning more about the common elemental profile of female sex offenders, more so than we learned from the scant research studies of recent decades.
Phenomenological studies, which are studies of lived experiences in narrative form, classified by common themes of those who shared similar occurrences reveal that one of the most glaring commonalities of female sex offenders is narcissistic personality, which includes, grandiosity, sense of entitlement, and lacking in empathy. Paradoxically, narcissistic personality is an overt presentation that is often deemed as a protective mask for debilitating inferiority, and lack of self-love. Julie Brand stated that from her research experience on female sexual abuse, she determined that not all of those with narcissistic personality are female sex offenders, but all female sex offenders have narcissistic personalities. Other common personality characteristics of female sex offenders include incessant need for admiration, manipulation, deceitfulness, criticism of others, backstabbing of acquaintances, controllingness, deep obsession with body parts of children and body functioning, externally involved with others while internally isolated, perception of children as objects or extensions of themselves, exaggeration of accomplishments, obsession with material possessions including designer clothing and products, giving public impression of having more wealth and prestige than situation warrants, poor judgement regarding appropriateness of sexual topics for children, exhibitionistic behavior (exposing naked body to children), voyeuristic behavior (incessantly watching children as they are naked), poor emotional regulation, blaming others and failing to accept responsibility for wrongdoing, giving a public impression of deep care and involvement with children, immature emotional development, and covert insecure attachment with children.
There are many striking commonalities between Factitious Disorder Imposed on Another, formerly Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy, and Female Sexual Abuse. Researchers of these two issues generally agree that there are clear delineations between them. Specifically, those afflicted with Factitious Disorder Imposed on Another are deemed as purposefully and deceptively causing injury to children or feigning illness in them, while sexual abusers do not see their sexual encounters as injurious, but instead are fulfilling their deep compulsions through inappropriate sexual contact which is not always physically painful and does not cause physical illness. Although most those who have Factitious Disorder Imposed on Another are female, while most those who engage in sexual abuse are male, there are marked characterological correlations between the smaller population of female offenders of sexual abuse and those with Factitious Disorder. According to Kathy Artingstall, a police detective investigator and author of Practical Aspects of Munchausen by Proxy and Munchausen Syndrome Investigation, these include (a) being dependent upon secrecy to protect the perpetrator and allow for continued access to victim, (b) non-offending parents generally avoid discussion about the abuse and tend to deny its existence, (c) the injuries to children are direct results of offender’s inappropriateness of behavior, and (d) parents of victims overtly demonstrate hypervigilance and exert overprotection of children. The primary driving motives of Female sex offenders include a self-focused need for admiration and attention, and personal sexual gratification to quell deep, hidden feelings of inferiority, while those with Factitious Disorder Imposed on Another are generally desperately seeking attention and admiration from others, particularly those within the healthcare profession. Characterological aspects of female sex offenders and those with Factitious Disorder Imposed on Another are also similar, and include possible mixed personality disorder characteristics, (particularly a combination of histrionic, borderline, antisocial, and narcissistic), socio-emotional disconnectedness, lack of empathy, emotional immaturity, blaming others for causing problems in their lives, their victims are considered inanimate objects which are designed to serve their needs, and going to great lengths to hide to present themselves as competent, attractive, and/or perfect in the eyes of the public. There are also many commonalities between those with sexual abuse disorders, Factitious Disorder Imposed on Another, and eating disorders, including feeling a sense of personal emptiness, and feeling alone or isolated in their struggles. The primary difference is that those with eating disorders view food as their “inanimate object” which is utilized for specifically desired outcomes, while female sex offenders and those with Factitious Disorder Imposed on Another use their human victims to achieve their desired outcomes. Those with these disorders use punishment OR a need to maintain control over oneself or situation as a motivation to perpetrate a seemingly infinite cycle of abuse.
Case Studies of Female Sex Offenders
Throughout my career as a psychotherapist, I encountered several cases of female child abuse, from adult clients. Before I understood how prevalent and devastating female child abuse was, I mistakenly assumed each case I heard about was an anomaly, and that it would be unlikely I would hear a similar story from future clients. The cases were quite different, but clearly each fell into one of the subtypes spelled out in Chapter Two. The first few cases I heard about, I felt the pain of the client whose life was turned upside down, but doing their best to live in the present, despite the messy and agonizing stories they revealed. The names of clients have been eliminated to protect privacy, and some of the circumstances have been changed to preserve the integrity and confidentiality of the clients.
Early in my practice, I encountered a court ordered female sex offender in her mid-forties, with mild cognitive impairment, who was charged with a sex offense toward her daughter, who was in her early teens. The daughter reported the sex offense of her mother and father fondling her and father asking her to perform oral sex on her to her school counselor. Once the daughter disclosed, an investigation ensued, and the mother and her husband were charged with co-abusing the child. The husband was incarcerated. The woman was not incarcerated, but she instead was ordered to partake in sex offender therapy as well as to be a part of an intensive team therapy program in which she engaged several times per week, to assist her in improving her overall functioning, finding employment, and living successfully on her own. I learned that the team members of this therapy program were all very inexperienced, and did not have a solid grasp of how to help the woman, so the therapy I provided was crucial. This woman reported that her husband was not employed, he was much older than she was, and he was violent toward her on a regular basis. When asked if she wanted to leave him, she said she did not, since she had no place to go, and she loved him. The woman said the child was living in a foster home, and she was unable to see her. She did not seem to be overly concerned about getting her daughter back with her, possibly assuming this would not happen. This woman did not justify her participation as a sex offender, other than to say she went along with it because she felt her husband wanted her to. She lacked the insight to understand that sexual acts were harmful to her daughter. I worked with this woman for a few months, and was unable to determine how the case ended, other than the fact that she never reunited with her daughter, and she continued to receive financial support from the state to help her live on her own. This case clearly fit into the Male Coerced Type of Offender subtype.
I worked with a female client in her early 50s, who was living in a beautiful location with her male partner, who was in his early 60s. The couple had been together for approximately 15 years. He was an affluent business man, and she was a teacher. This client reported that her father was an accomplished doctor and her mother was a stay-at-home mother, who had bipolar disorder and possibly other severe mental health issues. While the client was in her 20s, her father left her mother for another woman and remarried, leaving her mother alone and depressed. This client had several older sisters who were all married, but despite having successful careers, they all had emotional issues which led to problematic and unstable home situations. This client reported that her greatest pain, and most vivid memory of her childhood was when her mother had bouts of mental illness, and would parade around the home naked and unashamed. This client reported her mother would often force her to stay in the bathroom with her, asking her to rub her back, and requiring her to help her with grooming tasks. The client said her mother would intrude upon the client’s privacy by touching her private areas and talk constantly about sexual topics and behaviors. This client was a “pleaser, “so felt it was her responsibility to comply with her mother’s requests, even though it made her very uncomfortable. In adult life, this client never married, but had several failed relationships. She had difficulty asserting herself to others, and often felt others were not meeting her emotional needs regarding reciprocation of kindness and friendship. She claimed to have several good friends, but she always felt empty. Her relationship with family members was often tumultuous, but she perceived herself as the one who always compromised. She felt like an underachiever. She believed her male partner was not as attentive to her as he should have been, and was very self-centered. Throughout her adult life, she was largely depressed, despite seeking therapy on a regular basis, and engaging in co-dependency groups, reading self-help books, and living a holistic lifestyle which helped to bolster her emotionally. This client said she would never have children since she believed it would be tragic to risk the possibility of a child inheriting mental illness such as that which plagued her mother. This client’s greatest fear was that somehow, she herself would “become her mother. “It is unclear which category of female abuse the mother belongs, but she was never charged, and it was not until adulthood that the victim opened up about her negative experiences with her mother, and this may be in part since mother child abuse was generally discussed or reported during this client’s early years of life.
I worked with a young woman in her twenties who was charged with sexual abuse of a thirteen-year-old cousin of her husband, who lived in their home during a time when the young teen was having trouble with his own family. This young woman claimed to be sexually abused by her own father when she was around the age of her victim, but her father was never charged or incarcerated. She stated that her own husband was tough, arrogant, very opinionated, and did not treat her well. This woman claimed her husband’s cousin was warm, affectionate, and kind, and she felt empathy toward him since his own parents were detached and had addiction problems. This woman had two young children, whom she reportedly nurtured well, and cared deeply about, given their father did not appear to be well bonded with them. She stated her husband was quite punitive and harsh, and had “old school disciplinary values.” She believed her husband retaliated against her due to jealousy that she became intimate with his cousin, since the two had slept together on several occasions. This woman was only able to see her young children in supervised visits, and this was devastating to her. She was soft-spoken, of average intelligence, and somewhat insightful about her legal matter. She cooperated willingly with the legal system, and did not attempt to defy the court requirements in any way. She was concerned that her controlling husband had the upper hand with the children, and she was concerned that the children were not getting the warmth and affection they needed. She was required to work through several years of sex offender treatment, and could never have contact with her victim again. Her victim was reportedly doing well in his foster home, and had no ill will against her, despite him being exploited. It is unclear how he will feel once he is old enough to fully understand the situation, and whether he will have any lasting effects of the abuse. This case clearly fits into the category of heterosexual nurturer type of sexual abuse.
I worked with a young late woman in her early twenties who was charged with sexual abuse of a 12-year-old male with whom she became involved during a rebellious period when she was 19 years of age. She said her parents were quite religious and strict, and she was not in alignment with what she perceived as their dogmatic Christian values. She reported that her father was a pastor of the local church, but he had a dark and secretive side which many, including her mother, knew about, but ignored. This woman claimed her father came into her room late at night on several occasions, and forced her to have sex with him from age 12 to 15. She reported that he swore to secrecy and warned her that if she told her mother, he would have her sent out of the home. This woman said the 12-year-old boy with whom she became involved shared her views that her father was a pedophile and a hypocrite, and his own parents who were formerly members of his church, spoke about him negatively. She said this boy was the only one who seemed to understand her point of view, and as a result she became intimate with him. She said it seemed he enjoyed being with her as well, since he was just beginning to blossom in terms of his own sexuality. This young woman knew at one level that she was behaving inappropriately with the 12-year-old, but she justified it in her mind since she was violated herself. She said in her own mind, she felt she behaved as she did as a cry to help and justice, which she claims she never got. This case appears to fit within the categories of intergenerationally exposed and possibly teacher lover type, even though she was not a teacher, and she was not clearly in love with her victim. It appears her emotionality and insight were stunted in her early adolescent years, likely due to her own experience with paternal incest.
I worked with a man of 28 years, who was struggling with sex addiction, compulsive lying, and relational strife with his wife, whom he claims rightfully called him out for his “stuff.” This man reported that when he was a young adolescent, his “self-absorbed and narcissistic mother” forced herself on him on multiple occasions, sometimes while drinking, and sometimes when fully sober. He said she spoke with him about sexual things that mothers should not be discussing with their sons, and she often fondled him and asked her to touch her private areas. He said he was the type of child who complied with his mother, and he felt empathy for her during that time since his father left the home for another woman. This man said his wife required him to seek therapy since he struggled with his own sexual compulsions throughout his adult life, including hooking up with prostitutes (male and female), and masturbating excessively. It was unclear during the six months of therapy whether he was being fully transparent, since he admitted that lying and withholding information was a compulsive problem for him, and he did not understand why he did this. This man had a great cathartic experience in therapy and he finally decided to attend sex addiction treatment. Once he agreed to attend, he felt a major load was lifted off his shoulders. He has a neutral, disconnected relationship with both of his parents, and he noted that his mother does not even know the names of two of her step grandchildren. This man seems realizes he will likely be struggling with his own issues throughout his life, but he has finally come to accept that his incestuous relationship with his mother was the culprit of his own adult addictions. This case appears to fall into the category of mother-son sexual abuse, although the crime was never reported, and the mother has received no legal consequences.
I worked with a six-year-old girl who reported that while at her father’s home, her father touched her vagina inappropriately, and inserted a paper flower into it after bathing her. She said she not have negative feelings about her father, but she told her doctor that he did this, so the doctor was required to report it to social services. This girl appeared to be closely enmeshed with her forty-eight-year-old mother, who treated her like a doll. The mother was reported to have friends gather around to look at her “baby’s cute vagina” while she changed her. The ex-husband said the mother was obsessed with the child’s body and health, and always took her to the doctor for “insignificant or nonexistent” ailments. The mother was quite self-centered, vain, and focused on material wealth, status, body image, and had compulsive stealing behaviors. She did not have a meaningful career of her own. The mother reported that she herself was sexually abused around age six by a family teenage friend, and possibly her father, although she does not recall. Her former husband, with whom she shared joint custody, was assessed by a specialized sex abuse evaluator and had several polygraphs, and no abuse was found. Not accepting these findings, the mother left the state with the child and went to another state, violating the court order for joint custody. Pending the new state investigation, the father now has supervised visits with the child, even though there was no evidence that he had abused the child. The mother insisted her ex-husband abused the child, and that someday the truth will come out. It appears that there may be concern of intergenerational sexual abuse, although it is unclear whether the mother has sexually abused her child. There may be other confounding issues in this case, including a possible variation of Factitious Disorder Imposed on Another, which requires more investigation.
Finally, I worked with a woman in her late 50s, who struggled with bipolar disorder and other mood issues, which often become so debilitating for her that she had to give up her work and seek disability compensation. She reported that in her childhood, her father came into her room at night when her mother was working or sleeping, and he would have intercourse with her. She recalls vividly hearing his footsteps each night, and his horrid smell of alcohol, memories of which she cannot erase from her memory. She said she endured the abuse for several years during her adolescent years, and she had nobody to talk to about it, since she believed that nobody at school would believe her. She said when she finally mustered the courage to tell her mother about the abuse, her mother told her that her father would never do such things, and she needed to stop lying. Devastated and humiliated, this woman retreated into herself and decided that the best way to live her life was to focus on her animals, her religion and work hard to please others. She had two failed marriages due to getting involved with manipulative men. This woman is highly industrious and resourceful, despite having learning disabilities, which she attributes to not being able to focus on school since she was extremely unhappy and emotionally disconnected during her school years. Although her father has passed, this woman has a tumultuous relationship with her strong-willed mother, whom she perceives as self-centered, eccentric, and concerned only about her own financial well-being. Her mother is elderly and lives in another state, but visitations are always stressful. This woman said that the only thing she ever hopes for in her life is that her mother will one day validate her, and stop denying that she was sexually abused by her father. She said she does not hold deep hope that she will ever be vindicated, but in the meantime, this woman continues to engage in religion, and self-healing activities. Even though the mother of this victim did not directly sexually abuse her daughter, she could be considered an accomplice for not listening to, validating, or supporting the victim, and for turning a blind eye. Even if the mother was unsure whether the abuse occurred, she should have ensured that the case was investigated thoroughly, and that the victim received therapy services. In many cases, when mothers fail to understand and validate sexual abuse that was perpetrated by males, the resulting emotions and loss of trust of victims are more devastating than the actual act of male sexual abuse, as mothers are expected to be gatekeepers, nurturers, and unconditional protectors.
A disturbing revelation was made by an RN client who worked in a psychiatric children’s unit. She said a ten-year-old male child who was hospitalized for a multitude of psychiatric issues and behavioral problems that rendered him untreatable at the outpatient level was being treated for trauma related to sexual abuse by his grandmother, with whom he resided. She reported that the grandmother taped tongue depressors around his penis along with gauze padding, and lubricated the padding. She then placed the child on top of her and forced him to have vaginal sex with her. The RN client experienced secondary trauma due to being highly disturbed by this incident and required brief therapy to help her work through it. She reported that the child was threatened that he must “do as grandma said, and never tell anyone about it,” or she would punish him severely. After a few months, the boy told his teacher, who promptly reported the incident to protective services. The child was placed in a foster home, to which he did not adjust well, since there were many other older children there, and they picked on him mercilessly for being small, weak, and timid. The RN client reported she did all she could to support and comfort the male child while in her care, even though he seemed to not trust her initially, likely due to her age (close to the age of his grandmother). The RN client said she had no idea that female sexual abuse occurred until she worked with this young child, and she was fearful that there are many more cases like this case, about which the public is not aware. This case falls in line with the mother-son type of abuse, albeit the primary caregiver was the grandmother rather than mother. No information was available about whether the grandmother had been sexually abused in her own childhood. If so, this may also be considered an intergenerational type of female sexual abuse.
The Messy Paradox of Reenactment of Perpetrator’s Own Abuse
Research reveals there are many more male sex abusers than female sex abusers, but even at the rate of 80% male offenders to 20% female offenders, how can we ensure these statistics are accurate? In studying the shame and humiliation of victims’ discussing their abuse, a phenomenological study of various female sex offenders as well as victims of female sexual abuse reveals that there are many factors that play into why and how abusers fly consistently under the radar of detection, why victims’ shame, embarrassment, and fear of not being believed creates the perfect storm of secrecy.
A large majority of studies find that both male and female victims of sexual abuse have told nobody, and are unwilling to tell anyone in the future. Girls generally believe they would be unable to convince anyone that females in their lives are capable of abusing, and they believe society cannot accept that touching between females can be sexually driven. By and large, males are not socialized to expose the vulnerability that is part and parcel of being victimized sexually, by males or females; and especially not if the abuser was their mother. Many potential victims of sexual abuse who would otherwise reveal their experiences are unable to do so because they are hiding behind the shame of having physiological responses to the abuse, thereby rendering themselves as participants, rather than victims. For example, males who became aroused during abuse and displayed erections may believe they were willing participants, when in fact, the body cannot determine whether sexual arousal is appropriate or not. Therefore, males may remember their physiological responses, and opt to remain silent, while their emotions reveal they had been exploited.
Female sex offenders hide behind deep shrouds of secrecy, and are not easily identified or recognized. They do not fit expected stereotypes of male criminal offenders; they rarely stalk others or offend against strangers, as is more commonly seen in men. They don’t generally hoard pornography and become triggered by sexual objects, as do men. And women don’t have an exclusive sexual preference for children, as male abusers commonly do. They are not always like teachers we have watched in recent decades in the media; young, attractive teachers who have sexual relationships with their adolescent students, who fantasize with their friends about their escapes with their older mentors. Although it is unthinkable, and often unfathomable, women through the years have committed sexual acts with infants, children, teenagers, and adults, using secretive tactics of coercion, and even violence. Even grandmothers and prepubescent girls have been found to engage in sexual offenses. Traditionally the law has protected females who sexually abuse others. Depending on the state codes, rape is defined differently and as such females may be excluded from legal ramifications, particularly if state codes are specific to wording that includes vaginal intercourse, so in some states, females are deemed incapable of committing rape. Likewise, when violence occurs in intimate relationships, laws that specify males attacking females preclude lesbian couples, and therefore female victims of lesbian domestic violence risk the possibility of being shut down in the courtroom.
What Does Research, or Lack Thereof, Tell Us About Female Sex Offenders?
How Attachment Theory Influences the Roles of Mothers, and of Female Sex Offenders
Through intensive studies of Rhesus mother and infant monkeys in the 70s, experimental psychologist Harry Harlow convinced the world that mothers’ love is scientifically based, and that attachment theory is real. Among his most memorable studies, Harlow showed us that infant rhesus monkeys form affectional bonds with soft, cloth surrogate mothers that offered no food but not with wire surrogate mothers that provided a food source but are less pleasant to touch. Additionally, he showed that infant monkeys sought the warmth of their mother monkeys when they were afraid, sensing that mothers would shield them from harm Likewise, we know that mother bears and other mammals vehemently protect their babies from harm, becoming dangerously aggressive toward those whom they deem as threatening. Animals are not intellectual beings, but somehow nature provides them with knowledge of how and why it is their duty to protect and nurture their young. Psychologist and Anthropologist Margaret Mead of the 20th Century advised us,
Female animals defending their young are notoriously ferocious and lack the playful delight in combat which characterizes the mock combats of males of the same species. There seems very little ground for claiming that the mother of young children is more peaceful, more reasonable, and more thoughtful for the welfare of the human race than is her husband or brother.
Similar in theory, but studying under the model of attachment, John Bowlby, pioneer of attachment theory, shared his views of mother bonding with the following statement,
A securely attached child will store an internal working model of a responsive, loving, reliable care-giver, and of a self that is worthy of love and attention and will bring these assumptions to bear on all other relationships. Conversely, an insecurely attached child may view the world as a dangerous place in which other people are to be treated with great caution, and see himself as ineffective and unworthy of love. These assumptions are relatively stable and enduring: those built up in the early years of life are particularly persistent and unlikely to be modified by subsequent experience.