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There is also the idea that the child will not be believed, and the idea that a child (or even an adult) might tell this humiliating and painful story only to be laughed at, ignored, or turned away, is too much for many of these victims to bear (Denov, 2003).
b. DSM-IV AND SEX OFFENDING
Paraphilias appear to be presented as a primarily male problem. An addendum to the section of Paraphilias reads: "Except for Sexual Masochism...Paraphilias are almost never diagnosed in females" (APA, 1994: 524). While the DSM criteria for many different issues and problems have changed throughout the years, it still appears to be very stereotypical when it comes to the idea of sexual abuse and sexual offense, which seems to relate to the training and socialization that many people have about this particular issue and the way that it makes them feel.
Even though the DSM-IV term 'almost never' indicates that it is not impossible for paraphilias to be diagnosed in females, it also sounds as though such events are so extremely rare that they really should not be assumed, expected, or looked for. This is, again, part of the training and socialization of society, since the belief that females do not commit sexual offenses is still so strong in those that have no first-hand experience with this issue. Only those that have been abused or have a family member that has been abused (and believe them) would see anything wrong with the DSM-IV statement and the negative and dismissive connotations that it provides when it comes to considering whether females might be sexual aggressors or commit sexual offenses.
B. INFORMAL CULTURES
While the formal culture provides an important source of occupational knowledge, informal talk and banter has long been considered a crucial component for understanding organizational cultures (Crank, 1998). The occupational culture is said to live through jokes and storytelling (Holdaway, 1997). In their routine activities, employees use informal verbal exchanges as critical sources of information about customs, procedures, and departmental lore and to create a way of seeing and being. In the constant telling of tales, values are cited and shared which instruct on how to see the world and act within it (Chan, 1996).
This is another way that individuals are trained and socialized, and it is sometimes considered to be more important, because much of formal culture and education is not always taken seriously or believed. What someone that is trusted has said through gossip or storytelling, however, often carries much more weight, especially to the younger individuals (Denov, 2003). Because of this, the informal culture that deals with information regarding sexual offenses committed by females is much more relaxed than what might be said in public.
For example, Nelson (1994) writes of a woman who complained that her 5-year-old son was molested by a female that was assigned to babysit him. She was frustrated and angry at the inaction of the police in charging the woman with a crime. When Nelson (1994) asked the male officer for comment later the officer responded "I wish that someone that looked like her (the babysitter) had sexually abused me when I was a kid... The kid's mother is overreacting because someone popped her kid's cherry. Hell, it's every guy's dream" (Nelson, 1994: 74). As can be seen from that, the male officer in question obviously did not see the 'crime' as a problem at all, and appeared to believe that every male would wish for 'sexual abuse' as a child from an attractive woman. This is termed by some researchers as the "fantasy model" and continues the idea of socialization, and the idea that women do not commit sexual offenses, presumably because the male victim of the sexual offense would not be expected to object to any type of sexual activity.
C. CULTURE OF DENIAL
Despite available evidence pointing to sexual aggression by females, professionals frequently portray female sex offenders as harmless, benign women incapable of sexual aggression. There appears to be three common techniques use to render the female sex offender harmless (Allen, 1987). First, although professionals recognize that a sexual offense has taken place, the female offender's acts are absolved by affirming that there was no malicious intent to her actions. Second, despite her sexually aggressive acts, she is portrayed as posing no threat or danger to the community. Finally, the circumstances surrounding the sexual offense are reconstructed and the victim, rather than the female perpetrator, is held responsible for the incident.
By employing these techniques, the female sex offender is transformed into the innocuous offender. Her sexually aggressive acts are manipulated, sometimes neutralized, and ultimately denied. This allows the professional culture of denial with regard to female sex offending to be upheld, and is something that continues today, despite the knowledge and understanding through various research studies that female sexual offenses are on the rise, and that many individuals who are willing to discuss this type of issue will admit to being molested at some point by a female perpetrator.
Another issue that is important to look at where denial is concerned is that there are many victims that are out there and are traumatized very severely by what has happened to them, but that feel unable to speak up and discuss what they have been through, even at rape support groups and other groups that are designed for victims. Those that are female and have been abused by females have an especially hard time with this problem because they often do not feel comfortable admitting to others that they have been raped by another female (Denov, 2003). This is part of the reason that many of the sexual offences committed by female perpetrators go unreported.
The victim is often in denial over what really happened, and the culture that the victim lives in is also in denial, so it makes it very difficult to break away from the traditional mold that one is in and stand up and admit, with courage and conviction, what really happened. Too often, the denial of society makes the victim feel that he or she 'asked for it' or somehow provoked the attack and is therefore responsible or at least partially responsible for what took place during the sexual offense.
The culture of denial within the organizational context may not only exonerate the female sex offender, depreciate the seriousness of the harm inflicted on the victim, or affect sentencing patterns. It is also likely to have an impact on the official recognition of female sex offending. As such, the low rates of female sex offending in official sources need to be understood within this context. There are, as has been seen, many reasons why female sex offenders are not punished as severely as their male counterparts. From underreporting to denial by the victim, to denial by law enforcement and society, to less severe sentencing for female offenders, there are dozens of ways that female sexual offenders can avoid punishment. Those that are punished are very often not punished as strongly as male offenders.
It appears that society believes that only males can commit sexual offences, even in the face of all of the evidence to the contrary. Many believe that women are incapable of rape, not only because of obvious physical differences and issues, but also because they lack the aggressive and sometimes violent nature that males appear to have. While this lack of aggression may be true for the majority of women, there are also many non-aggressive males in society as well that would never even consider sexually abusing anyone, either male or female, young or old.
If it can be believed that there are these type of men out there, then it is also logical to believe and accept that there are sexually aggressive females as well. Some of these women have likely been abused in their past and simply do not know any other way. Others have mental deficiencies and difficulties that are not apparent until an offense has been committed. Whatever reason they have for committing sexual offenses, however, the victims of these crimes often do not have a voice. They rarely speak up, and when they do many of them are shunned or ignored by those that should be the most willing to help them. It is easy to see, when this happens, why many people end up in denial over the incident or manage to convince themselves to some degree that it was their fault. More research is clearly needed into the issue of female sexual offenders, simply because little has already been done and because the numbers of females that are being reported for sexual offenses are rising. Society may be in denial now, but the…[continue]
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