Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Female Sex Offenders

The "Cougar Movement"

Kyra Sedgwick (left) and Kim Catrall
Kyra Sedgwick (left) and Kim Catrall

Even as we're hearing more often these days about female teachers sexually accosting underage students, the New York Times ran an article on June 19, by Alexandra Stanley, that focused on the recent glamour of older (40 plus) actresses getting sexually involved with much younger men. From Kyra Sedgwick's portrayal of a scrappy police chief who enjoys sexual escapades to Kim Catrall's affair with a much younger man on Sex and the City, the phenomenon appears to be gaining steam, so to speak, in television. Its popularity will inevitably have a filter-down effect into society, replacing the sleazy, pathetic image of the predatory "cougar" into a sexier and more desirable type of person — even a role model.

While none of these fictional scenarios either suggest or support an older woman seducing a child, there's little doubt that this shift in social values will encourage some women to cross the boundary into illegal territory. To them it won't seem so bad, and might even give them a boost: who doesn't want to be like some of these gorgeous actresses? In fact, in recent months, we've seen more such incidents, but compared to TV, they're generally cruder.

Julie Miller Culbertson
Julie Miller Culbertson

In North Carolina on May 8, 2007, a 38-year-old East Henderson High School teacher, Julie Miller Culbertson, was charged with one count of felony sex with a student (whose age remained under wraps). Culbertson, a registered nurse, was a health science teacher for the upper grades and the student in question is a girl. That's a rarity even among this uncommon type of predator. Culbertson's hearing is scheduled for the end of June. She is free on bail, with the requirement that she stay away from the victim and her family. She voluntarily resigned from the school.

Sheriff Rick Davis
Sheriff Rick Davis

"This investigation is ongoing and is obviously one of a serious nature," said Sheriff Rick Davis. He called the incident "unfortunate" and stated his intention to investigate thoroughly. He was aware there could be other victims and he hoped the arrest and the fact that he was not giving out details would encourage anyone else to come forward. Thus far, that has not happened.

This was in fact the second such incident for this school system in the past five years, although the earlier one involved a male teacher, Lawrence McKisson, convicted of molesting four male students in special education.

And there have been more such arrests around the country.

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