The number of female paedophiles has almost doubled in four years as experts warn there is a 'lack of understanding' surrounding the abuse.
While the majority of convicted paedophiles in the UK are men, there were at least 2,297 reported cases of children being abused by women in England and Wales from 2015 and 2019, according to police figures.
The shocking figure marks an 84% increase in female perpetrated child sexual abuse, from 1,249 cases in 2015 to 2,297 four years later, a Freedom of Information request by BBC Radio 4 has revealed.
Dr Andrea Darling, a criminology researcher at Durham University, told the BBC that the actual figures could be far higher as all child sexual abuse is typically underreported.
In addition, there is often a 'lack of understanding' surrounding female-perpetrated abuse.
She said: 'That means that potentially abusive behaviour that may have been picked up if the perpetrator had been a male is explained away.
'I've seen that consistently in my research.'
Campaigners also highlight that the surge in reported cases could also be in part down to victims having more confidence to come forward.
According to police reports, only 3.8% of all child sexual abusers were female between 2018 and 2019, figures from the Office of National Statistics show.
Further figures from the Ministry of Justice show of the 5,547 offenders found guilty of child sexual abuse in England and Wales in 2018, only 66 female abusers were convicted.
High profile cases of female child abusers over the years include Vanessa George.
She was dubbed Britain's worst female paedophile after sexually assaulting up to 64 children as young as two at a nursery in Plymouth.
George was jailed for a minimum of seven years in 2009 after she filmed the abuse and sent it to other paedophiles.
A police operation investigating her crimes uncovered an online paedophile ring involving several other women.
Female paedophile Angela Allen was also convicted of child sex abuse after police investigating George's case found the women had exchanged sick images online with IT worker Colin Blanchard.
Police discovered depraved Allen had not only shared images online but had also raped a three-year-old girl.
Allen, from Bulwell, near Nottingham, was sentenced in December 2009 after admitting four counts of sexual assault of a child, and one of distribution of indecent images of children.
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She was also freed from prison early last year after serving 10 years in jail.
In 2018 teenage nursery worker Sophie Elms became Britain's youngest named female convicted paedophile after admitting sixteen charges against young children.
Elms was only 17 when she committed offences against two young children aged just three and two years old.
She pleaded guilty to the charges against her during her trial at Swindon Crown Court in 2019 and was sentenced to seven years and ten months in jail.
These included penetration, sexual assault, and taking and distributing indecent photographs of children.
Sick Christine Callaghan was also jailed for 12 years and four months in August in 2019 after she admitted four counts of child sexual abuse charges.
A court heard she was paid £2,285 by another paedophile to livestream footage of herself sexually abusing a young girl over three years.
She was paid to carry out the horrific acts by Dean Petley, 30, who admitted 11 charges and was jailed for eight years.
Peltey paid Little £750 so he could watch her assault two children.
Despite the rise in reported cases of female perpetrated child sexual abuse, the Freedom of Information data obtained by BBC's File on 4 program shows the gender split between male and female victims is roughly half.
Following their investigation, a Government spokesman said: 'The government will not allow there to be any safe space for sex offenders to operate - either online or offline, male or female - and will do all we can to help survivors of abuse.
'To this end, we will soon publish a first of its kind strategy to tackle all forms of child sexual abuse, including that perpetrated by female offenders.'
This article has been adapted from its original source.
© Associated Newspapers Ltd.