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October 23, 2007
Contact: Mark Rosenthal, <>

Associated Press Under Fire for Biased Sex Abuse Study

WASHINGTON, October 23, 2007 – A recent Associated Press investigation on sex abuse in schools is being criticized as biased and harmful to abuse victims. Experts say the study used flawed methods and reached faulty conclusions.

"When a female teacher becomes sexually involved with a student, the child's complaint is often not believed and the woman's misconduct is less likely to incur criminal sanctions," explains Gordon Finley, psychology professor at Florida International University.

"By ignoring that gender double standard, the Associated Press has done a tremendous disservice both to victims and to female teachers who need treatment," Finley concludes.

Evidence shows that the consequences to victims of female sexual predators fall within the same range as for male sexual predators.

An American Association of University Women student survey found that 43% of sexual abusers were female. But the Associated Press study, which only looked at school district disciplinary actions, reported that one in 10 sexual abusers were female.

Dale Bespalec, psychologist at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility, notes that boys are less likely to report abuse than girls.

Even when a complaint is filed, "86% of the victims of female sexual predators aren't believed, so the crimes go unreported and don't get prosecuted," according to the Canadian Children's Rights Council.[i] "Unfortunately they look at it as the 'Mrs. Robinson syndrome' and think everything is OK," according to Dale Potter, a Tennessee district attorney.[ii]

The double standard extends into the courtroom. District attorney Tony Rackauckas of California has observed that female sex offenders are not sentenced "to the same kind of lengthy prison sentences that the men get," according to a 2006 CBS News report on female sex offenders.[iii]

CNN's Nancy Grace has asked, "Why is it when a man rapes a little girl, he goes to jail, but when a woman rapes a boy, she had a breakdown?"

"The misconduct of Debra Lafave, Mary Kay Letourneau, and countless other female sexual predators has been widely publicized. So why did the AP choose to focus only on school disciplinary actions?" asks David Heleniak, Esq., RADAR spokesman. "We urge the Associated Press to do a follow-up story that addresses the long hidden problem of female sexual abusers."

R.A.D.A.R. – Respecting Accuracy in Domestic Abuse Reporting – is a non-profit, non-partisan organization of men and women working to improve the effectiveness of our nation's approach to solving domestic violence. http://www.mediaradar.org.

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