... And sadly, the number is only growing at a disturbing rate.
There has been a series of news stories about female teachers having sex with their students over the decades, from Mary Kay Letourneau to the most recent (publicized case). Almost every state in the United States is reporting similar cases, and everyone is asking the same question: Why? The United States Department of Education's most recent study (in 2004) on sexual predators, revealed that 40 percent of perpetrators of unwanted sexual attention toward children were women and that number has steadily risen over the past nine years.
To understand why a female teacher would become sexually involved with one of her students, you have to understand what is going on in her head. Most of these women seem as though they're vibrant, normal, healthy adult women, but they, themselves, may feel like teenagers inside. Many of them have arrested emotional development; they giggle and carry on very much as a teenager. What's strange is that they choose one aspect of the student they focus on and they idealize that aspect into being one of honesty, integrity, and innocence — separate from the jaded views of the adult world.
Soon they see this teenager as being their age ... like a peer. In psychology, this is frequently seen and typically referred to as "counter-transference." The teacher focuses on one aspect of the child and idealizes it romantically; she then projects that onto her distorted reality. No one else realistically sees what the teacher has created in her mind. It becomes so bizarre that soon the teacher is planning her married life, with kids, after her student finishes high school.
One thing to consider is that we — as the public — tend to focus on the sex part of this relationship because that's what ultimately leads to the arrest of the teacher. However, an emotional relationship usually develops long before sex take places. That is, the grooming, the meeting up, the numerous texts, the cute hand-written love letters, and the sleepless nights. If you create a safe environment for an intervention now, you can end the relationship before sex takes place — getting help for the child and taking legal action against the teacher.
The emotional part isn't usually caught and the reasons are many. First of all, the child usually doesn't say anything. Perhaps he's afraid of a poor grade, he may like the extra attention or he may feel guilty and/or fearful. Secondly, parents aren't usually immediately (if ever) alert to it, because they may brush it off with thoughts that the teacher's extra attention is an effort to help their child. Lastly, if other kids do hear about it, they usually feel confused, concerned with who to tell and, often times, say they didn't believe it.
Our teens' lives revolve around school. For the most part, females working in the school are mentors for our children and help them become successful well-adjusted adults. When sexual abuse happens to any child the experience is a horrendous one, but when it happens at school with a teacher, the end result is sometimes tragic. As parents, there are signs that can alert you to something going on with your child. As with all things, it begins with open discussion, both, talking and listening to your child. You cannot begin a conversation about sexual boundaries if you aren't engaged with your child on a day-to-day basis. Keep communication open and talk frequently to your child about their school life.
Most abuse begins with a process called "grooming." If you notice your child engaged with any of these activities and you feel uncomfortable, it's time to talk to your child:
- Your child's teacher wants a friendship with your child, including outings.
- Your child's teacher begins giving your child gifts that seem odd to you.
- Your child's teacher begins complimenting them on specific shirts or clothes.
- Your child's teacher begins to work at getting unusually close to you (the parent).
- Your child's teacher begins eroding boundaries, such as hugging, touching or rubbing your child's back.
- Your child's teacher begins telling your child confidential, secretive or personal things.
As a parent, if you notice these behaviors, begin limiting your child's time with their teacher. Talk to your child in a safe and supportive environment about their relationship with their teacher. Sexual abuse is a crime and if it is happening to your child, they are (without a doubt) being victimized.
You can expect them to feel afraid, evasive, and nervous. Reassuring them that it is NOT their fault and that you will help them is the most important thing to convey.
For more information or your free monthly relationship tips reach Mary Jo Rapini @ www.maryjorapini.com or join her weekday mornings for "Mind, Body, Soul with Mary Jo" on Fox 26 Houston at 9 A.M, by podcasts, Facebook, or Twitter @ MaryJoRapini.