Saturday, April 29, 2006
I was immensely disturbed by an Oprah show that I saw this past week. The topic of the day was on the increasing number of female teachers who have recently been apprehended for sexually molesting their pubescent (and sometimes pre-pubescent) students. The Smoking Gun lists profiles for several of these cases that are being prosecuted in the U.S. right now, and CNews has also documented some of the most recent cases. Anyway, Oprah interviewed several of these criminals, none of whom expressed any convincing remorse (as far as I'm concerned) for their despicable actions. One woman, who is currently serving her sentence, claimed that her student was flirting with her and had asked her to "be his first," to which she alleges she initially responded with, "No, you're not ready yet."
WHAT ON EARTH KIND OF SICKO RESPONSE IS THAT!?!?!?!?
Anyway, the show made a point of noting that these women often did not get the same sentences that their male counterparts would have gotten for the same crime. If a 34 year-old male teacher was caught having intercourse with his 12 year-old student, he would have received a lengthy jail sentence and been convincted of statuatory rape, aggravated sexual assault on a minor, plus a multitude of other charges. He would be labelled as a pedophile and registered in the national registry for sexual offenders. He would be shamed by society, and probably victimized in prison after being placed with the general population of inmates (sexual predators against children are considered the "lowest" of the low in the prison hierarchy). When he finally got parole, he would be banned from pretty much every public place where children might be, and would likely be court-ordered to continue to attend therapy sessions for the rest of his life. His own children would most likely be taken away. His face would be on flyers posted throughout the city, and an advisory warning in both the newspapers and TV news would be issued prior to, and immediately following his release.
However, this is apparently not the case with many female offenders. The women on Oprah's show went to jail for a very short time, relatively speaking; in general, most female offenders either do not go to jail (if they are deemed to be mentally unfit or their victims are too traumatized to testify against them), or are given suspended sentences or short jail terms. None of Oprah's "guests" were charged with rape; the official convictions were for varying levels of sexual misconduct with minors, even though most of these women had committed rape on these children. All of the featured women had conditions placed on them upon their release from custody, but they were allowed to keep their own children and have more children, and did not have to hand them over to Social Services. Many of these women also did not receive the same public shame as men typically would; some people have even argued that it is a "rite of passage" for young boys to have sex with an older female, and that this is a boy's fantasy come true. Upon release, these women were allowed to relatively anonymously rejoin society; there weren't the flyers or the media attention.
I am irked about this issue for many many reasons. One of the biggest problems I have is that it is completely unjust. A crime is a crime, no matter what gender the perpetrator happens to be. The punishment should be given consistently across the board, and if we as a society believe that it is unacceptable and despisable for an adult in a position of authority to take advantage of their power and use it to sexually harm a person under the age of 18, then this belief should apply equally to both women and men who are committing these crimes. Gender should not even be considered a factor in the sentences and the convictions. For an equal crime of equal devastation to the victims, why aren't women getting the same punishment as the men? I think that both genders deserve equally severe consequences for their criminal actions.
Anyway, that's a piece of my mind on that. What do you think about this whole deal? Grrr!