This disturbing story both highlights the prevalence of female sex offenders and illustrates, once again, the extent to which the internet can facilitate sex crimes. This particular case involves one man and four women, all of whom have been jailed. The ringleader was the man, Colin Blanchard, and it was on his hard drive that police found 16,014 images of infant and child sex abuse, perpetrated by the four women. Blanchard was sentenced to indefinite life in prison, and the women were jailed for between four and nine years.
The officials investigating the case seem a little shocked by the setup: essentially, four middle-aged women, whom the Guardian describes as “divorcees or women who were alienated from their partners, and were suffering from low self-esteem,” would abuse young children and babies, and then sent Blanchard the photos. Only one of the women ever met Blanchard (she was in a year-long relationship with him), and even more horrifyingly, one of the women worked in a nursery.
The case is highlighting the role of women as sex abusers, which is far more common than most people assume. “Every year hundreds of children call ChildLine to say they have been sexually abused by a female. Research also shows that many reported victims are extremely young,” a spokesperson for the British National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children said.
The Guardian claims that Blanchard was the real mastermind behind the ring, describing him as a “serial abuser who transfixed vulnerable women with access to children.” And this seems to fit the pattern for female sex offenders, who are sometimes driven by deviant sexual urges, according to the BBC, but also “offended where they were alongside a man, either because he had egged them on or because they were coerced into taking part.”
The profile of Blanchard in the Guardian blames the internet for enabling Blanchard’s behavior, calling this an essentially “modern crime.” Blanchard could “win control of others and direct them to commit heinous acts on his behalf in order to double his pleasure while halving the risk. Real friends and relationships were hard work. They were unpredictable and required constant attention. But Facebook pals could be quashed when he grew bored, and revived when he was in the mood.”
This is certainly part of the story. But the internet can’t be blamed for creating these coercive relationships, and if anything, this case most compellingly shows the ways that people can be convinced to commit horrible crimes. The women’s relationship to Blanchard is incredibly complex, and while the Guardian’s in-depth piece on Blanchard was both sordid and illuminating, we need to hear more about them.
Photo from Flickr.