Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Female Sex Offenders

Her Side

Debra Lafave
Debra Lafave

The stated reason for the program was so that Dateline journalists could discover how and why a 23-year-old woman would seduce a 14-year-old boy and whether or not, in this case, an offender had paid the price of committing what society has deemed a crime. It's a trick to get such a person on these programs, to let them believe they will have the opportunity to tell their side of the story while also giving the public what it wants — satisfaction... and a bit of voyeurism. Dateline seemed to pull it off, as they showcased Lafave's immaturity.

Lafave began by admitting that she's recognized in public and often gets snickers and stares. It bothers her. She understood that her case got so much attention because she's pretty and "sex sells." But the intensity of the media interest seemed daunting. She admitted that she's troubled and that the long string of problems she had experienced over her lifetime influenced poor decision-making. Lefave revealed that she had experienced anxiety disorders ranging from panic attacks to obsessions. A boyfriend had also raped her when she was in eighth grade. "I kind of developed this idea that it was my role," she said in response to the question of why she did not report it or ask for help. "In order to make a man, guy, boy happy, I had to do my part."

Over the next couple of years, she developed a substance abuse problem and eating disorder. She tried to kill herself as well, but when she turned 18, she acquired a modeling job. It lasted a short time before she went to college, majoring in English. She hoped to become a teacher. Yet at school, she developed depression and then her beloved older sister was killed in a car accident by a drunk driver.

Finally, Lafave graduated and became an eighth grade teacher at Greco Middle School outside Tampa, Florida. According to what she said in her interview, she wanted to educate children about rape. Lauer pointed out the grim irony, but she side-stepped it. They went into the fact that she got married in 2003 to Owen Lafave. However, Lafave says she associated sex with sin and filth, and had a difficult time being a wife. Nevertheless, she appreciated the friendship, especially during recurring periods of bipolar disorder, with stretches of deep depression and periods of exuberant mania. Her energy apparently caught the attention of many of the boys in her class: she was considered "hot."

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