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Surprised by Teacher Sex Abuse Stories? Female Sexual Predators Are More Common Than People Think


The past few years have seen a rash of a particularly scandalous kind of news story: female teachers sleeping with their underage students.

In 2014, two Louisiana teachers made headlines for cornering a 16-year-old student after a football game and coercing him taking part in a three-way.

Thirty-three-year-old mother of three Shelley Dufresne and 23-year-old Rachel Respess were English teachers at Destrehan High School in St. Charles Parish who apparently had more in mind for some of their students than teaching them Moby Dick.

They were caught when the student they'd had their tryst with actually bragged to other students about having had sex with two teachers.

teachers feature pic
Image Credit: St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office

Last year, 35-year-old Utah teacher Brianne Altice was out on parole while awaiting trial on multiple charges of rape, forcible sodomy, and forcible sexual abuse of students when she was caught in the act again with an underage teenage boy.

Image Credit: YouTube
Image Credit: Screenshot/YouTube

For reasons unknown, Altice had been allowed to post bail twice before, which allowed her to continue committing the acts she had been charged for.

In perhaps the most shocking case of all, earlier this year a 24-year-old Texas teacher named Alexandria Vera was charged for having sex with a 14-year-old student—and getting pregnant as a result.

Incredibly, she told police that the boy's parents not only knew about the relationship, they encouraged it, even letting him sleep overnight at her house and taking him to the bus stop for school in the morning.

Image Credit: Screenshot/KPRC
Image Credit: Screenshot/KPRC

The list of such incidences in recent years goes on and on.

But does it show that a certain stereotype about women and sexual abuse may need reexamination?

A recent study says yes.

Andrew Flores and Ilan Meyer recently published their study, entitled “Sexual Victimization Perpetrated by Women: Federal Data Reveal Surprising Prevalence” in the journal “Aggression and Violent Behavior.”

In it, the authors claim to have found that the data on women as perpetrators of sexual violence doesn't match up to popular expectations; namely that women are far less likely than man to be sex abusers.

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Image Credit: Mobile County Sheriff’s Department

Flores and Meyer note in the introduction the somewhat shocking conclusion their research brought them to:

"These surveys have reached many tens of thousands of people, and each has shown internally consistent results over time.

We therefore believe that this article provides more definitive estimates about the prevalence of female sexual perpetration than has been provided in the literature to date.

Taken as a whole, the reports we examine document surprisingly significant prevalence of female-perpetrated sexual victimization, mostly against men and occasionally against women."

The data that Flores and Meyer studied for their report was culled from a survey conducted by the Centers of Disease Control called the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, a yearly national survey which measures both victimization over the course of a lifetime and victimization within the 12 months prior to survey.

Though only the CDC's 2010 report contains gender data, its findings are interesting and surprising—showing that over their lifetime, women were much more likely to experience abuse involving penetration.

But the study shows something different when other factors are considered. Flores and Meyer write:

“....But among men reporting other forms of sexual victimization, 68.6% reported female perpetrators.”

They continue, detailing the numbers on a kind of sexual victimization generally exclusive to men:

“[Being forced to penetrate,] the form of nonconsensual sex that men are much more likely to experience in their lifetime ... 79.2% of victimized men reported female perpetrators.”

The authors then move on to their findings from the National Crime Victimization Surveya survey conducted by Bureau of Justice Statistics, which focused on violent offenses.

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Image Credit: Port St. Lucie Police Department

Culling all the data from the survey collected between 2010 and 2013, the authors learned that 28% of female perpetrators who committed violent sexual crimes against men did so without a male co-perpetrator, but that only 4.1% of such crimes against women involved a male co-perpetrator.

In total, write Flores and Meyer, 34.7% of violent sex crimes involving male victims were committed by women—but only 4.2% of such crimes were committed by women against women.

The findings on sexual abuse on college campuses were also surprising.

The authors made note of a 2011 survey of 302 male college students, in which 51.2% reported “at least one sexual victimization experience since age 16”—about half of them committed by women.

They also add that cases of “sexual coercion” against male students—defined as verbal pressure such as nagging and begging—considerably increase the gender ratios:

“.A 2014 study of 284 men and boys in college and high school found that 43 percent reported being sexually coerced, with the majority of coercive incidents resulting in unwanted sexual intercourse. Of them, 95 percent reported only female perpetrators.

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 23: A student walks near Royce Hall on the campus of UCLA on April 23, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. According to reports, half of recent college graduates with bachelor's degrees are finding themselves underemployed or jobless. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Image Credit: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

So what does it all mean?

Even the data analyzed by the authors may not provide a sufficient answer, since Flores and Meyers also write that sexual abuse by female perpetrators on male victims may be extremely under-reported:

“Tellingly, researchers have found that victims who experience childhood sexual abuse at the hands of both women and men are more reluctant to disclose the victimization perpetrated by women (Sgroi & Sargent, 1993). Indeed the discomfort of reporting child sexual victimization by a female perpetrator can be so acute that a victim may instead inaccurately report that his or her abuser was male (Longdon, 1993).”

Nevertheless, the study's authors conclude that stigmas about male victims of sexual abuse and stereotypes about women being far less capable of sexual predation than men are harmful for everyone.

For the sake of preventing future victimization, more research on the subject must go hand in hand with a deconstruction of the stereotypes that may be skewing sexual abuse statistics.

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