Why The Fox News Headline Referring To A Florida Teacher Molesting A Middle School Boy As A 'Sex Romp' Is So Deeply Disturbing

Women Who Commit Statutory Rape Like Middle School Teacher Stephanie Peterson Are Sex Offenders
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Sorry, Fox News, but there are no acceptable "sex romps" to be had with minors.

Stephanie Peterson, 26, a married (now former) middle school teacher in New Smyrna, Florida, was arrested this week and is currently in jail with bail set at $12,500 after being charged with two counts of lewd or lascivious battery on a minor and one count of transmission of harmful materials to a minor. Her arrest followed accusations reported to the police after one of her former students, a 14-year-old male, told his parents he'd been involved in a sexual relationship with Peterson since November of 2017.

If the allegations are proven to be true, Peterson (also known by the name Stephanie Ferri), while a woman, fits the definitions of both a sexual predator and a sex offender. While the details have not been made clear, she may also have committed statutory rape.

But unfortunately, that's not how it's being reported by certain media outlets.

 

RELATED: How Childhood Abuse Affects A Man's Sexual Orientation For The Rest Of His Life

 

The boy, who is in 8th grade, said it all began with Peterson texting him her nude selfies. Eventually, the abuse (and yes, that is abuse) escalated. Peterson allegedly drove to the student's house at night, where she would pick him up around 11 p.m. under the cover of dark. She would then return him to his home around 1 or 2 a.m., all without his parents' knowledge. 

He also alleges that Peterson provided him with marijuana and the bowls for smoking it. Unsurprisingly, his grades began to slip as their relationship progressed.

Sheriff Mike Chitwood of the Volusia County Sheriff's Office told Click Orlando the boy had been "a student of hers last year and this year was her teacher's aide."

A news release notes that "the victim told his parents about the relationship after [a male] teacher called the victim's mother because the boy had asked if he would mentor him... The 14-year-old asked his mother, jokingly, if she was worried the male teacher would molest him, according to the report. The boy started crying and said 'anyone could molest you.' The boy's mother said she immediately thought of Peterson, because her son would often visit her classroom and she bought him McDonald's often." 

"After a few minutes," the press release states, "the boy disclosed that he and Peterson had a sexual relationship and he had been sneaking out at night to meet her."

"The parents got wind of it, and they confronted the teacher about breaking off the relationship," the Sheriff explained further. "We believe sometime in January, they either resumed or continued the relationship. At that point, the family came to the police."

According to other local reports, when the police were called to the family's home, "The victim told detectives that Peterson told him they couldn't tell anyone about their relationship or they’d get in trouble."

Peterson resigned from her position one day prior to her arrest. Her bail was originally at $25,000, but has been conditionally reduced to $12,500. From the looks of things, she will post that bond and be free until further notice shortly.

That's all we know of the story so far, and, as far as I can see, there's nothing remotely "sexy" about it.

And yet, it's being covered with sensational headlines like this one from Fox News:  "Science teacher, 26, sent nudes, had sex romps with teen boy student, cops say."

When you use the phrase "sex romp," you're implying that fun, pleasurable, sex was had. Fun and pleasurable sex must — by legal, moral and ethical standards — be consensual sex. Consensual sex is something that cannot take place between an adult and a minor.

 

RELATED: The Actual Definitions Of Sexual Abuse & Sexual Harassment For People Who Think The Rules Have Changed

 

What is alleged to have happened between Peterson and her student was the sexual assault and of a minor, possibly statutory rape, and just because Peterson is a woman that doesn't make her any less of a predator. Period. That's it. 

How many more times do we have to spell it out?

The fact that you possess breasts and long hair does not give you some kind of all-access pass to every single person's pants regardless of their age, legal status, or preference.

I like to think that this is something we all know to be true, yet here is another case of a female teacher assaulting an underage male student, and here is more media coverage that makes it sound like a letter to Penthouse instead of what it actually is: a violation, an act of abuse, and an experience that is just as damaging for a young boy as it would be for a young girl.

Can you imagine the outrage if the genders were reversed and the headlines read the same way?

People would be outraged at the implication that a man and an underaged girl whom he had groomed for, and manipulated into, a sexual relationship had enjoyed a "romp" together of any kind.

These same thoughts were expressed by Sheriff Chitwood during a press conference held regarding the case.

The Sheriff cut straight to the chase when a reporter asked him, "What are your thoughts that she's still in jail?"

"I think it's a good place for her to be, I mean, honestly," he said. "When you look at that, you got a 27-year-old grooming a 13-year-old. I mean, it's just reversed. What would be the difference if it was a male teacher who was grooming [a female student]. It's the same exact thing. You know, you earn their trust and confidence. You know, you ply them with drugs. You're in a position of power. 'Don't tell anybody, I'm going to get in trouble.' 'I'm going to make you the teacher's aide.' And then, you know, all these things happen. And basically, that young man, you know, I only say his childhood was stolen." 

Boys and men can and do become victims of sexual abuse.

Because of the culture we live in, many of these boys and men never feel safe or comfortable enough to come forward to anyone about the horrible things that were done to them, and news coverage like this is a significant part of the reason why they don't.

They receive a message from society at-large that they should consider themselves "lucky" to be on the receiving end of this behavior, and that it's something every boy dreams of. Frankly, even if that were the case, what an adolescent dreams of and what they can handle physically and emotionally are quite different.

Assault is assault is assault. Abuse is abuse is abuse.

A teacher using their position of power to engage sexually with a student is a criminal, and the child they preyed upon is just that — a child — regardless of the accident that is the gender to which they happened to be born. 

 

RELATED: There's Nothing OK About A Grown Woman Raping A 13-Year-Old Boy

 

Rebecca Jane Stokes is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York with her cat, Batman. She hosts the love and dating advice show, Becca After Dark on YourTango's Facebook Page every Tuesday and Thursday at 10:15 pm Eastern. For more of her work, check out her Tumblr.

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