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Double standard seen in sex cases

Jo Ciavaglia, Bucks County Courier Times, June 15, 2008

What makes a grown woman pursue a guy who gets carded at R-rated movies, 
lives with his parents who give him his pocket money and, who if your 
actions are revealed, would ruin your reputation and possibly land you 
in jail?

Theories abound. Some might surprise you. 

Like how mentally, they are about the same age.

Sexual abuse involving older women and teen boys is an underreported 
crime, one that experts say has been largely ignored by the public, 
legal system and academic researchers for reasons including sexual 
double standards and evidence suggesting teen boys often are willing 

But that attitude is changing.

Prosecutions of women for sex abuse have risen nationwide in the last 
several years, law enforcement experts say.

Locally, last week three women - two from Bucks County and another from 
South Jersey - were charged with sexual crimes involving teen-age boys.

Angela Marie Honeycutt, 38, and Lynne Long, 45, both of Lower Makefield, 
were charged Wednesday in connection with alleged indecent acts that 
took place during a teen boy sleepover in April.

Honeycutt was charged with statutory sexual assault, a second-degree 
felony, and several lesser felonies and misdemeanors. She allegedly 
engaged in sex acts with two boys, ages 14 and 15. Sleepover host Long 
was charged with endangering the welfare of children and corruption of 

On Thursday, Donna Goebel, a 44-year-old Burlington County teacher's 
aide was charged with second degree sexual assault allegedly against a 
16-year-old male student.

In the last decade, high-profile arrests involving inappropriate and 
illegal sexual contact between women and boys have captivated the nation.

Among the most infamous cases, both involving middle school teachers, 
were Debra   LaFave, 23, who had sex with a 14-year-old student, and Mary 
Kay LeTourneau
, 34, who began a sexual relationship with her 13-year-old 
student, later gave birth to two of his children, served jail time for 
abusing him and then married him in 2005.

An estimated 1,500 women are in prison for sexual abuse of children. The 
National Center for Juvenile Justice 2005 report on statutory rape found 
that 5 percent of victims were boys and adult women were overwhelmingly 
the abusers.

The report also found among children ages 7 to 11 and 15 to 17, boy 
victims outnumbered girls. On average, female molesters were nine years 
older than their male victims, compared with a six-year age gap between 
male offenders and teen girl victims.

Other research agencies like Child Trends in Washington, D.C., are 
starting to collect data that also suggest sexual relationships between 
teen boys and older women are more common than many believe.

A 2005 Child Trends research brief on the subject revealed that one in 
four males surveyed reported his first sexual experiences were with a 
woman usually a few years older.

Of more than 2,000 males, ages 15 to 24, asked, though, half who had a 
first sexual experience with an older woman reported an age gap of five 
years or more.

The abuse connection

Child molesters share some common features regardless of gender, 
according to the Center for Sex Offender Management in Maryland. Many 
show evidence of poor coping skills, relationship difficulties, 
cognitive distortions and an inability to empathize with victims.

But the center also noted some key differences between men and women 

Among them sexual victimization histories are far more common among 
female sex offenders than men, and their abuse experiences are often 
more longstanding, extensive and severe. Adult women also are more 
likely than men to commit sex offenses with a willing participant.

The largest study so far involving female sex offenders found the sexual 
abuse connection, according to its author, Susan Strickland, a 
University of Georgia professor and social worker who treats sex offenders.

For her research, Strickland surveyed 130 female prisoners, including 60 
serving time for sexual offenses.

She found that women who have sex with boys 

lack the mature relationship skills to partner with men their age. 
They are also motivated by a need for power and control, and 
they see the boy as a blank slate they can turn into the partner they want.
Women sex offenders may never have had a relationship in which they felt 
safe, Strickland added.

Others in the psychological community agree that there is evidence 
female sexual abusers who were sexually abused in childhood experience 
arrested emotional development, meaning the woman is not much older 
psychologically than the teen boy.

Women who seek sex with underage boys are also more likely than men to 
focus on one person and to profess love and loyalty and a sense of a 
particular and profound bond, psychologists say.

Emotional overload 

Philadelphia author Alan Soble has written books about sex and love. He 
believes it's difficult to generalize what motivates an older woman to 
seduce a teen boy, but that their reasons are probably not much 
different than a man's.

"Is there any reason to think the motives are different? Then you have 
to go with the standard story, but with the genders reversed," said 
Soble, a philosophy professor at Penn State University's Abington campus.

Emotions are part of why he believes women pursue teen boys.

"It's not simply why would they do it, but why do it knowing they'll be 
ostracized if they get caught, they are in trouble, and will get more 
attention than a man would get?" he said. "It's the power the emotions 
have to kill our rationality, and women seem to be as susceptible as men 
to having their rationality undermined by their emotions and passions."

What also remains unclear is the long-term impact on teen boys. 

What evidence is available - gathered through male prisoners and men in 
addiction treatment - is the experience disrupts normal adolescent 
psychological development, Strickland said.

A teen's immature brain cannot process the adult behavior they are 
engaging in, and, as a result, it skews social and sexual outlook, 
distorts thinking and hinders the ability to relate to a partner their 
own age, she explained.

"It skewed their expectations of what a relationship is all about, about 
what sex is all about, and what partnering is all about in a healthy 
give-and-take way," Strickland added.

Most teen boys involved in sexual relationships with older women don't 
feel they've been violated, a belief that Strickland says is rooted in 
society stereotypes, while girls in the same relationships are sent the 
message they've been taken advantage of, boys are congratulated and 

"Historically, while teen boys have been having sex with adult women, 
it's not been reported or we haven't asked the questions of boys," she 
said. "We allow the sexuality of boys to be much more; [as if to say] 
'that it is a good thing for boys; they are in training, they are being 
macho.' "

Characteristics of female sex offenders

Keeping in mind the limitations of the current research and the 
diversity of the population, some preliminary findings about adult women 
who commit sex offenses suggest the following.

Histories of childhood maltreatment, including 
sexual victimization; 
mental health symptoms, 
personality disorders and 
substance abuse problems
Difficulties in intimate relationships, or an absence of intimate 
Propensity to primarily victimize children and adolescents (rarely adults) 
Tendency to commit offenses against persons who are related or 
otherwise well known to them 
An increased likelihood of perpetrating sex offenses in concert 
with a male intimate partner

Source: Center for Sex Offender Management in Silver Spring, Md., 2007 report

Did you know? 

According to a 2002 National Survey of Family Growth involving 2,059 
males and 2,513 females between the ages of 15 and 24 ... 

A 2004 U.S. Department of Education study found that women made 
up 40 percent of educators reported for sexual misconduct with students.
Females account for less than 10 percent of sex crimes involving 
children, according to FBI statistics. 
13 percent of females and 5 percent of males reported a first 
sexual experience at age 15 or younger with an individual who was three 
or more years older, according to the National Survey of Family Growth 
2002. The typical age gap between young teens and older individuals who 
are sexually involved is three to four years. 
Slightly more than one in eight individuals (14 percent for 
males, and 13 percent for females) was eight or more years older than 
was the young teen at her or his first sexual experience. None of the 
teens in the sample reported sex with an individual who was over the age 
of 40. 
67 percent of young males whose first sexual relationships were 
with older females said they were going out occasionally with these 
females at the time of the first sexual encounter, compared with 29 
percent of young females involved sexually with older males. 
Males represented 26 percent of teens whose first sexual 
relationship occurred at age 15 or younger with someone three or more 
years older. The agency also found that two-thirds of males reported 
that they wanted this first sexual experience with an older female.