Sexual abuse by women is clearly on the rise -- but denial persists.
Have you followed the latest reports of sex scandals involving teachers and students? You may have noticed something new: Many of the “perps” are women — and many of their victims are teenage boys.
Some of these boys are quite young, barely into puberty. These are no mere “initiations” into adult sex, courtesy of a sympathetic “older” woman — the kind of romantic “rite of passage” quietly celebrated in our culture. They are part of an increasingly visible – and well documented — pattern of female sex abuse.
The phenomenon seems to be growing and it’s forcing criminologists and psychologists to re-examine some of their deeply held assumptions about who abuses sexually and why.
The profile of these abusers is surprisingly similar: Typically, they are young, white and married, and sometimes with children at home. In a California case two years ago, Mary Faith McCormick, a 27-year old married school teacher with a young daughter was charged with rape after she enticed one of her 6th grade students, who was just 13, into visiting her home to have sex. The boy complied. Soon afterward, his 12-year old female friend noticed a picture of the nude teacher on his cell phone and reported it to his mother, who called police.
McCormick, who pleaded guilty, was sentenced to eight years in prison — with an additional 12 years suspended — and is now a registered sex offender.
How is this possible? Normally, when people talk about “pervs” in the classroom, they mean male not female teachers, and the best statistics still seem to suggest that the vast majority of school-based sex abusers are men.
But no one knows the actual percentage of female abusers. Some say it is as little as 4% of all abusers, but others place the figure at 20% — and growing. Most of these statistics are based on actual reported cases, and under-reporting of abuse by women could be much higher than among men, experts say.
That’s because the taboo against it is so strong and public awareness still so low that many abusers can operate covertly, but with relative impunity – until they get reckless and are caught.