“It was wrapped in a kind of normalcy”: The lived experience and consequences in adulthood of survivors of female child sexual abuse

Ortal Herzig Reingold, Limor Goldner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Survivors' surveys on the frequency of sexual offenses committed by women indicated a prevalence rate of 9.9 % to 11.6 %. Nevertheless, only a few studies have explored the long-term consequences of abuse on survivors. Objectives: Examine the lived experiences and the long-term consequences of child sexual abuse committed by women. Participants: Fifteen adult participants who experienced child sexual abuse conducted by female offenders participated in the study. Methods: The Interpretive Phenomenological Approach was applied to semi-structured interviews. Results: Three central themes emerged: types of abuse, characteristics of the perpetrator, and consequences of abuse. Most survivors experienced direct or indirect forms of sexual abuse committed by their mothers. In most cases, the offenders masked their abuse in caregiving, disciplinary or playful behavior. The survivors perceived their mothers as narcissistic, controlling, hostile, and having tremendous difficulties with separation. The survivors reported the need to engage in extensive negative long-lasting psychopathologies, which they attributed partly to having been invalidated and silenced by society. Many participants expressed fears of re-enacting the survivor or perpetrator role, which has led to difficulties in various relationships. They described an altered perception of their bodies as shameful and repulsive, manifesting in self-harm, eating disorders, and the elimination of signs of femininity. Conclusion: This complex form of sexual abuse hampers the internalization and the construction of positive feminine, masculine, and parental identities.

Original languageEnglish
Article number106125
JournalChild Abuse and Neglect
StatePublished - May 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Elsevier Ltd


  • Child sexual abuse
  • Dissociation
  • Female child sexual offenders
  • Female child sexual offenses
  • Psychopathology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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