Female Sexual Predators: The Veiled Epidemic
Female Sexual Predators: The Veiled Epidemic
From the increasing frequency with which reports of female teachers having sex with their pupils are appearing in the print and electronic media to Lauren Book’s article “My Nanny Molested Me” in the February issue of Seventeen magazine, concerned citizens have every right to be asking themselves: “What is going on here?” And, perhaps most critically: “Is this the tip of the iceberg?”
Basically, the answer is “yes, it is the tip of the iceberg.” It also is fair to ask: “How do we know?” It is difficult to know with precision because female sexual predators have been a politically incorrect topic and thus hidden from public view. However, we do know that the few professionals who have worked in the area universally acknowledge massive under reporting by the boy and girl victims of female sexual predators and, even when reports of female sexual molestation emerge, they are met with disbelief by parents and police.
Critically, we now have sufficient preliminary research evidence and well documented case reports to know that we do have a serious social problem which requires immediate public, Congressional, and Judicial attention. Consider first the research.
A 2004 U. S. Department of Education report titled “Educator Sexual Misconduct: A Synthesis of Existing Literature” cites two large sample surveys in which students report that 43% of their molesters were female sexual predators while smaller studies reported lower rates. A second summary of studies and media reports can be found on the web site of The Canadian Children’s Rights Council (http://www.canadiancrc.com/…).
This second group estimates that 25% of sexual predators are female but also cite studies where the female predator rates range from 1% to 82% with six studies reporting female predator rates over 50%.
Taken together, these research studies substantiate the reality that we currently are experiencing an epidemic of female sexual predators. These reported rates are high by any standard and require immediate attention and corrective action.
The most emotionally traumatic and moving evidence, however, comes not from statistical studies but from heart rending individual case reports. The best of this evidence can be found in a groundbreaking documentary aired by the British Broadcasting Corporation on October 6, 1997, titled “The Ultimate Taboo: Child Sexual abuse by women.” The transcript of this documentary is available on the web site of The Canadian Children’s Rights Council which notes: “This was a vivid and horrific programme in which the victims of sexual abuse by women told disturbing stories of emotional and physical damage.” (http://www.canadiancrc.com/…).
As the evidence continues to mount—the daily media reports, the BBC documentary, the empirical research studies—it becomes increasingly clear that the veiled epidemic of female sexual predators no longer can be hidden and must be brought to full public light and serve as a call for social change. As asociety we require a massive change in our social attitudes to begin to address the fact that the people to whom we have most entrusted our children for centuries—mothers, babysitters, nuns, nannies, child care workers, and teachers– include female sexual predators.
In my view, Child Abuse Prevention Month—April 2006 — provides a unique opportunity to face squarely the politically incorrect reality that female sexual predators do exist, do prey, and do so in substantial numbers. It also provides an opportunity to create a paradigm shift wherein we reframe the sexual abuse debate and acknowledge the existence of both male and female sexual predators.
Continuing to deny that female sexual predators exist, prey, and do so insubstantial numbers not only continues to endanger our children but also damages them—physically, emotionally, and in their subsequent relationships with others.
Denial serves only the best interests of practicing female sexual predators.
Gordon E. Finley is Professor ofPsychology at Florida International University in Miami.
THE CASE AGAINST FEMALE SEXUAL PREDATORS
By Gordon E. Finley, Ph.D.
March 26, 2006
Debra Lafave’s case was over on March21, 2006, and she immediately moved on to a new man, a national interview on CNN, and a new book to write. What an exciting and empowering outcome to this sordid event for her.
But, what of the 14 year old schoolboy she sexually molested and — by all media accounts — whose life never will be the same again? Will the male victim also move on to a new woman, a book, and a CNN interview. I think not.
I suspect, rather, that his life has been irreparably damaged and I shudder to think how this experience will shape his future relationships not only with his peers and parents but above all –his adult relationships with women and perhaps even his role as a father – if ever he becomes one.
Ironically, April is Child Abuse Prevention Month. Tragically, I find nothing in this story that even remotely hints that any female sexual predator ever will be deterred by the legal outcome of the Lafave case. If anything, I would expect the legal resolution to encourage female sexual predators since they now know that they need not fear prosecution. Of perhaps greater concern, there already is evidence that Debra Lafave is not alone.
Evidence that she represents but the tip of the iceberg can be found in a 2004 U. S. Department of Education report titled “Educator Sexual Misconduct: A Synthesis of Existing Literature.” This report includes data from two large scale surveys wherein students report that 43% of their molesters were female. Such a proportion of female sexual predators is high by any measure and demands action.
So, you may ask: “what is to be done?”
In my view, as a society we must come to face squarely the politically incorrect reality that female sexual predators do exist, do prey, and do so in substantial numbers. We need to create a paradigm shift wherein we reframe the sexual abuse debate to acknowledge the existence of both male and female sexual predators.
I believe that every state legislature needs to create and fund a Female Sexual Predator Act. As the Debra Lafave case makes clear – we need an Act to protect our sons and daughters from female sexual predators just as existing laws protect them from male sexual predators.
A Female Sexual Predator Act will serve two urgent purposes: First, and foremost, such an Act would provide immediate services and shelter to the victims of female sexual predators. By all media accounts, the victim in this tragic case clearly needs protective, therapeutic, and rehabilitative services.
Second, the Act should mandate and require equal treatment and equal punishment under the law for both male and female sexual predators. The double-standard in this case is blatant. Debra Lafave has made not only Tampa but also Florida synonymous worldwide with a reeking double-standard in the punishment of female and male sexual predators– jail for males and fame and fortune for females.
Required changes in thinking and feeling are something that society is not going to find easy to make. First, we must acknowledge that the victims of female sexual predators are harmed just as the victims of male sexual predators are harmed. Second, for centuries it is females to whom we have entrusted our children for nurturance, care, and emotional support – not sexual abuse. As a society, we must open our hearts and minds to the reality that females can be sexual predators and that children can be victimized by these female sexual predators. However difficult these changes of heart and mind may be, they are nonetheless necessary for the sexual safety of our children.
Delay in passing a Female Sexual Predator Act only continues to leave our children at risk from further female sexual predation.