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Sharp rise reported in child abuse by women

The number of children reporting sexual abuse by women to ChildLine has more than doubled over the past five years, it was revealed today.

New figures show a 132 per cent rise in complaints of female sexual assaults to the helpline service in this period, compared with a 27 per cent increase in reports of abuse by men.

Some 2,142 children told ChildLine last year they had been sexually abused by a woman - nearly a quarter of all calls where the offender's gender could be identified.

The disturbing statistics follow the recent high-profile case of nursery worker Vanessa George, who was a member of an internet paedophile ring along with another woman.

Last year ChildLine heard from 1,311 children who said they had been sexually assaulted by their own mother, representing 61 per cent of all calls about abuse by females.

Research for the helpline found that boys were more likely to say they had been abused by a woman (1,722 cases) than by a man (1,651).

In contrast, girls were over 10 times likelier to report being abused by a male (4,972) than by a female (420).

A total of 2,972 children complained that they had been sexually assaulted by their father, 45 per cent of all calls about abuse by men.

Previous research by the NSPCC suggested that women may be responsible for about one in 20 sex offences committed against children.

The analysis found that most children who disclosed sexual abuse to ChildLine last year were aged between 12 and 15, and most said they knew their abuser.

Esther Rantzen, president of the helpline, said: "This report reveals that ChildLine, by listening to the direct and authentic voices of abused children, has shattered common myths about sexual abuse.

"It does not only happen to girls, as many people believe. It happens to boys too.

"Mothers can sometimes sexually abuse their sons. And the report found that when girls are sexually abused, by far the most common perpetrator is not a stepfather, as many believe, but the biological father."

George, 39, Angela Allen, also 39, and Colin Blanchard, 38, pleaded guilty at Bristol Crown Court last month to a string of offences of assault and making and distributing indecent images.

They will be sentenced in December.