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The following vignette is an amalgamation of several different cases described by the media.1 It highlights several characteristics common among women who sexually abuse their students.
Questions to consider when reading the case
1. In treating a female who sexually abuses a minor, what should the clinician keep in mind?
2. Is the treatment plan different for a female offender than a male?
3. How might you counsel Joe's upset mother?
4. If Joe were to inform you that he believes he and Mrs Smith are "truly in love" - how might you counsel him?
Mrs Smith was a 28-year-old, high school biology teacher in a small town. She was well liked by students, parents, and colleagues. Students easily identified with her because of her youthful appearance. Soon after she started teaching, rumors surfaced that photos of her wearing seductive attire were available on the Internet. Although this caused a stir within the school, the administration did not become involved. Mrs Smith admitted that these pictures were of her, appeared contrite, and explained that they were taken some time ago; the incident was forgotten relatively quickly.
During the fall of the next school year, Mrs Smith began attending many high school football games. Unbeknownst to others, she started paying close attention to one of the players, who was also one of her students. Joe was a 14-year-old varsity linebacker who was unusually tall for his age. He did not often socialize with his teammates and was considered a loner.
Mrs Smith initially contacted Joe by e-mail, offering to assist him with his homework after school in her classroom. He accepted, flattered by the attention from an attractive, young female teacher. These tutorial sessions then moved to her home on Thursday evenings. Mrs Smith began asking him increasingly personal questions during these sessions. Initially, she inquired how he felt about various female classmates, and then eventually about his past sexual activities.
After 6 months, she encouraged him to take an overnight trip with her to a museum located a few hours away. She told him that his parents might be uncomfortable with the idea, so she encouraged him to tell them that he was spending the night at a friend’s house. It was during this trip that Mrs Smith and Joe first engaged in sexual activity, which both later described as consensual. Following the initial encounter, their meetings took place with increasing frequency: at first limited to hotels, then in her car, and finally in her classroom during her free period.
Joe’s parents noticed that his school performance was slipping and his few friends denied any recent contact with him. Concerned, his parents searched his room. Under his bed, they found a number of love letters from Mrs Smith, and they discovered on his computer a file containing photos of Mrs Smith and their son engaging in sexual activity. Joe’s parents approached the school board and the police with their findings.
We invite your comments below. The authors will review your responses and give their feedback in coming weeks. See the next page for key teaching points.
For further reading, see the earlier published article, “Lessons to Learn: Female Educators Who Sexually Abuse Their Students,” on which this case is based.
The big list: female teachers with students. WorldNetDaily Web site. http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=53859. Accessed April 10, 2012.