Currently, a story pervades the news about a female Sunday School teacher who allegedly murdered and raped a young girl. Typically when we hear these stories in the news, the perpetrator is male. That the alleged perpetrator in this case is a woman makes the story seem incredible - a woman could never do such a thing! We can imagine women committing murder, but a Sunday School teacher? And rape?!
Because plenty of research and attention has focused on murder, I want to focus here on the sexual assualt. The statistics of female sexual assault and rape have been quoted in research, but the statistics aren't very good. Sexual assault and rape often go unreported so that the existing statistics are likely highly underestimated. One thing is certain: there is little research on how sexual abuse by a female perpetrator affects children later in life (Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 19, 10, 1137-1156).
Most of the studies focus on male perpetrators, so more attention must be paid to who these females are who commit these acts and how the abuse affects the children - the same or different as compared to abuse by men?
Until such research is done, we must focus on the here-and-now. If you have young children, understand that both women and men are capable of sexually assualting your child. Trust your instincts when you have a bad feeling about someone and don't leave your child with that person - no matter how upstanding they seem in society. In addition, when you must leave your children in the care of someone else, opt for environments in which there is more than one adult - sometimes an extra set of protective eyes can make all the difference.