Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Female Sex Offenders

Forgotten Victims

Whether or not anyone can prove that the young boys who got involved with their teachers were harmed, immediately or at some later developmental point, there are nevertheless real victims in these stories. The boys all came from families who were horrified that their children were not safe in school and who were often subjected to legal and media scrutiny. Their trust in the community institutions has been damaged, and their relationship with their sons might have changed negatively, especially if the boy resented being forced to stop.

In addition, most of the women were married and were mothers. Often, the families fell apart with divorce, but if the offender's last name was distinct, that stigma went with the humiliated and outraged husband. (Notes on a Scandal depicts the scene between husband and wife when he learns what she has been doing; he feels terrible about himself, as if he's been inadequate, and he cannot tolerate being around her. To him, she feels corrupted. She realizes how she has damaged her relationship with him and her children, knowing she will never retrieve her former happiness.) Often what the family once had cannot be recaptured.

The community, too, is harmed. School officials who hired women who make such bad judgments are called on the carpet, and communities often feel wounded by someone in their midst whom they trusted. It takes a while to get past this kind of incident.

Then if the woman and boy actually end up together (extremely rare), as Mary Kay Letourneau and Vili did, one can only wonder what he will experience as he gradually realizes the implications of how the women with whom he is involved violated a sacred trust with her first husband and children. It's difficult to have real intimacy with people who repeatedly gave their word and then went against it. While it once worked in his favor, he might one day fear that his wife is not so trustworthy. That, too, is a form of residual harm from such relationships.

No matter how one might argue that boys cannot be harmed the way girls can be, because they're not physically penetrated, there are more parts to a person than his or her genitalia. We do not yet have studies confirming either the harm or lack of it. In that case, neither side can make a definitive statement about the repercussions of female teacher sex offenders. Yet given how many have been revealed over the past decade, it's clear that studies of some kind are in order, for all participants. That some studies do suggest that harm is done, especially influence on future sexual violence, we, as a society, ought to refrain from jokes about hot teachers and eager boys and more seriously consider the potential implications.

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