Female-Perpetrated Child Sexual Abuse: Prevalence Rates in Germany

J Child Sex Abus. 2020 Apr;29(3):263-277. doi: 10.1080/10538712.2019.1685616. Epub 2019 Nov 21.


Research on female-perpetrated child sexual abuse, especially maternal sexual abuse, is scarce. Prevalences are assumed to be lower compared to male-perpetrated abuse; however, representative studies including female perpetrators are rare. Experiences of male- and female-perpetrated child sexual abuse were examined in a representative German sample. Questions included experiences of hands-on and penetrative sexual abuse. The perpetrator-victim relationship was assessed to calculate prevalences of maternal sexual abuse. A total of 2516 participants (54.53% female, 14-91 years) were questioned and prevalences, as well as group differences between victims of male perpetrators compared to female perpetrators, were calculated. Overall, 10.5% of all participants reported experiences of child sexual abuse. Female perpetrators were involved in 9.9% of the cases, i.e. 1.0% of all participants. Victims of female perpetrators were significantly more often male. A quarter of the adult female perpetrators were the mother figure of the child. The findings suggest that the share of female perpetrators in cases of child sexual abuse is rather small; concurrently, female perpetration is insufficiently recognized. Especially male victims seem to be at risk for sexual abuse by female perpetrators. Contacts for children especially within the professional support system need to be aware of the existence of female perpetrators.

Keywords: Child sexual abuse; female perpetrator; gender; prevalences; representative study.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Child Abuse, Sexual / statistics & numerical data*
  • Criminals / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Germany / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Mothers / statistics & numerical data*
  • Young Adult