Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Female Sex Offenders

Illness or Love?

Mary Kay Letourneau
Mary Kay Letourneau

Although Letourneau's fairy tale ended the way she hoped, despite the parenthesis of prison, we can question the nature of an obsessive love that exploits immaturity and vulnerability, as well as a position of authority and trust. Letourneau appears to have been concerned largely with her own needs, even violating the court's order as soon as she possibly could. Vili admitted in a televised interview that the situation probably should not have been allowed to get out of control. While he and his wife have now published a book on the subject, published in France, one can only wonder what will become of a 20-something young man with a 40-something wife who has manifested such extreme need. That remains to be seen.

There is also a theory that Letourneau suffers from a mental disorder and thus had no control over her actions. Psychiatrist Julie Moore examined Mary Kay for the defense and diagnosed her as having bipolar disorder (the disorder most commonly claimed among these cases). In other words, she showed periods of intense energy and activity — including hypersexuality — coupled with short periods of depression. That can induce inappropriate behaviors, impulsivity, and impaired judgment. She might find reward in high-risk behavior and remain unaware of the consequences.

A psychologist who treats sex offenders, Susan Moores, was quoted in an article about this disorder as saying that Letourneau showed a deviant sexual arousal pattern. Moores resisted the notion that a bipolar disorder caused the act; she placed the responsibility squarely on Letourneau's shoulders. The female teacher had made a decision that she knew was wrong.

Nevertheless, her behavior was different when on medication than when off, and she admitted to having stopped her medication once she was out of prison. She did not accept that she's bipolar and she insisted that she and Vili would spend the rest of their lives together.

Letourneau is just one among many female teachers in recent years who committed sexual abuse on a pupil. A few of them have received an abundance of media attention because they were quite pretty, young, and sexy.