In Oklahoma, there are at least four current cases in the media headlines involving sex between adult women and teenagers. In three of these cases, the woman accused of being a sex offender is a teacher; the third case involves a drug rehab counselor. It seems as if female sex offenders--and in particular, female teachers who have sexual relationships with students, are on the rise. However, is this really happening more often, or are we as a public just more aware of the cases?
A Recent Case in Oklahoma
Last week, a former Oklahoma City Public Schools high school English teacher was charged with two counts of second degree rape and one count of soliciting a minor after she was accused of having sex with two students, aged 17 and 18. In Oklahoma, the age of consent is 16 (read more here), so if the accused teacher had been in almost any other profession, consensual sex with the teen boys would have been legal. In fact, the 18 year old is legally an adult; however, state law forbids sex between a student under the age of 20 and any employee aged 18 or older of the same district the student attends. If convicted of statutory rape, the teacher will have to register for life as a sex offender, even though her crime is apparently consensual sex with a person old enough to provide that consent, but precluded from doing so by student status.
Also last week, a former drug rehab counselor in Yukon was arrested on complaints of having sex with a 15 year old boy. In that case, besides being under the supervision of the rehab facility, the boy was younger than the age of legal consent. Typically, if an adult over 18 has sex with a willing partner aged 14 or 15, the adult would be charged with statutory rape. However, in this case, the counselor is accused of providing alcohol to the teen and having sex with him after he became intoxicated. Under Oklahoma law, one of the defining situations of first degree rape is "rape accomplished where the victim is intoxicated by a narcotic or anesthetic agent, administered by or with the privity of the accused as a means of forcing the victim to submit." If convicted of first degree rape, the former counselor faces a maximum of life in prison and lifetime sex offender registration.
Earlier this summer, a former Hollis Middle School teacher was arrested after she drove to Mississippi to have sex with a 15-year-old boy who had been her student. In that case, the boy allegedly told police that he and his teacher had sex in a classroom three days before she quit her job at the school. He says that they had sex multiple times since then. Last week, she was charged in Harmon County District Court with with three counts of second-degree rape, two counts of enticing a child, and one count of forcible sodomy. Second degree rape has a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison. Forcible sodomy is punished by a maximum of 20 years. Both crimes mandate lifetime sex offender registration.
Late last month, a former Tipton High School teacher was arrested and charged with three counts of second degree rape after allegedly having sex with two students. Reports say that both the teacher and the students admitted to the sexual relationships.
Are female sex offenders on the rise? Are they really getting lighter sentences than their male counterparts? What is the motivation for women to have sex with minors?
Female Sex Offender Research
Researchers have particular interest in understanding the motives of female sex offenders, in large part because they are so rare. Only about 3-4 percent of single-perpetrator rapes or sexual assaults are committed by women, and despite the seeming increase in the number of female teacher sex offenses, the percentage has remained relatively unchanged since 1996. The scarcity of female sex offenders holds true even in teaching, where jobs are predominantly held by women. In cases involving sex offenses in schools, 80-96 percent are committed by males.
So what motivates women to commit sex crimes against minors? Some research shows that female sex offenders fall into one of three categories:
- Women who sexually abuse their own children
- Women who sexually abuse children with whom they work (teachers, counselors, etc.)
- Women who are coerced or manipulated into sexually molesting children by an abusive male partner
Although there is public outcry whenever a female teacher gets a seemingly shorter sentence for sex with students than a male counterpart would get, statistics indicate that these women do not, in fact, receive more leniency. A 1991 report indicated that 30 percent of female offenders surveyed received jail terms compared to 25 percent of the male sex offenders studied.
More recent reports show that male sex offenders, on average, receive a prison term of 11 years, compared to less than two years served by female sex offenders. However, that statistic looks only at the gender of the offender and not the offense itself. Men were far more likely to have victims younger than 15 than women and they were also more likely to have multiple victims. Younger and more victims would obviously lead to longer sentences.
With an increased awareness and the seemingly skyrocketing numbers of female teachers accused of second degree rape for sexual relationships with students, it seems reasonable to take a closer look at understanding female sex offenders, their methods, and their motives to reduce sexual abuse in schools.