“When Mary Kay Letourneau Fualaau was forced to go public in 1997 with an affair she was having with her former sixth grade student, Vili Fualaau, after she became pregnant with his child, it was the teacher-student sex scandal heard around the world.”
This is an excerpt from a recently aired segment of the ABC News program 20/20. I watched this with interest to see how the topic of a female sex offender and a young male victim would be handled and I have to say that I am disappointed. Consider the wording in the excerpt. When did a 34-year-old woman sexually abusing a vulnerable 13-year-old boy become an “affair”? Would the words “sex scandal” have been used if this story was about a 34-year-old man who had sex with a 13-year-old girl? I think not. This is a story about the violation of boundaries, the manipulation of trust and about using a child to fulfill adult needs. It is the story of a young man who had many choices taken away from him at the age of 13.
How many of you had a crush on a teacher at some time in your education? I would venture to say most of us have. Think how different your life would be if your teacher knew you had a crush on him or her and decided to use this normal childhood rite of passage to manipulate you into a sexual relationship. There is nothing “special,” another word so often used to describe abusive relationships, about this.
Why is it so hard for society to see adolescent males as victims, particularly of females? This can make it difficult for men to see themselves as victims. I know young men who refer to being involved in a situation like this as “getting lucky.” Others feel hurt, anger and betrayal and often suffer additionally from a lack of support from family and society for what happened to them.
The most recent statistics from the Centers for Disease Control tell us that one in six men will be victimized by sexual assault before age 18. These statistics are likely low. Males tend to not report sexual abuse and may feel pressure to be proud of early sexual activity, regardless of whether it was wanted or not.
As sexual assault awareness month comes to an end, please take the time to talk prevention to the boys you love just as you would to the girls. Don’t accept the minimization of sexual assault of young men in the media or casual conversation. Hold women as accountable for being sexually inappropriate as you would men. Examine your own beliefs about teaching all youth about healthy sexuality.