Call for female child sex offenders to go on programme

By Linsey Smith
BBC Look North

image caption'Kelly' said she felt female abusers should undergo the same treatment as many male sex offenders

A woman from Hull who was sexually abused as a child is calling on authorities to allow female paedophiles to undergo the same treatment programme as some male sex offenders.

Many men who are convicted of child abuse go through the Sex Offender Treatment Programme. But the course is not available to women, despite some high-profile cases.

These include Carol Clark from Grimsby, who abused children in public toilets over 30 years.

Melanie Gunn from Alford in Lincolnshire was jailed for possessing hundreds of extreme images.

'Complex needs'

And Vanessa George made news around the world after taking pictures of herself abusing toddlers at a nursery in Plymouth.

Kelly - whose name we have changed to protect her identity - was 11 years old when she was first abused by a female carer in the children's home where she lived.

She told BBC Look North: "She used to say 'come to mummy' a lot. That was her favourite phrase, 'come to mummy'.

"I can remember her hand over my mouth. I can remember [her] pinning me to the mattress. She had very long nails, so I ended up with a lot of scratches.

"She just made it seem normal. Like we had no other use. We were kids in care, we were valueless."

Kelly was abused for three years. Her attacker was eventually convicted.

If her abuser had been a man, it is likely he would have been placed on the Sex Offenders Treatment Programme.

The course aims to teach self-control mechanisms and stop offenders abusing again.

But it does not accept women.

The Ministry of Justice says reoffending rates among female sex offenders are low. But it is not unheard of.

'Cope with situation'

So why are women not taken on the course?

One of the most common reasons given to BBC Look North during its research was that when women abuse children it is different.

Not so according to Michele Elliot, author and founder of the charity Kidscape.

She has interviewed hundreds of paedophiles for her work.

Dr Elliot said: "It makes me really angry when we excuse women who are abusing children by saying somehow they are influenced by men, or they are not doing this for any real sexual motive.

"They are. They are abusing children."

David Greenwood, a solicitor specialising in sexual abuse cases, said he had known male offenders desperate to be accepted on the course and had seen it work.

'Really wrong'

"Some of the people I have dealt with have been quite bad sex offenders, they have been put on to intensive courses and have been helped to cope with their situation and move to lower risk categorisations through going on the intensive courses."

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice said: "Female sex offenders make up about 2% of all convictions for sexual offences... they may have complex needs and are better managed on an individual case basis rather than through group treatment programmes.

"Significant work is currently being undertaken to develop a female sex offender management strategy."

But Kelly feels that is too little, too late.

"I think it's really, really wrong that men should have to go through the programmes and women shouldn't because women do just as much damage, if not more."

"Because of the mother figure, the nurturer figure... you take that away... what do you look for, for the rest of your life?"

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