Ex-teacher may not see anything wrong with abuse, expert says
Psychologist: Female abusers view boys as soul mates
Travis Loller; The Tennessean / Dickson Herald; April 14, 2006
The ex-Warren County teacher who could go to prison over Internet
postings about a former student - a teenager with whom she was convicted
of having sex - may not see anything wrong with her relationship with
the boy, said a local psychologist who treats sex offenders.
Pamela Rogers, 28, gained international attention and had to give up her
career in teaching last year when she pleaded no contest to having sex
with a 13-year-old former student at Centertown Elementary. Released
from jail early two months ago, she faces up to seven years in prison
after being charged with posting messages to and about the boy on her
MySpace.com Web site.
Older women who get involved with teenage boys often "see the
relationship with the teen as a romantic relationship, rather than
abusive," said Donna Moore, who oversees the sex offender program for
Centerstone, a nonprofit community mental health service.
Moore also directs the sex offender treatment program for the Lois M.
DeBerry Special Needs Facility, a state prison facility in Nashville.
She was speaking in general and not specifically about Rogers, but her
words offer a possible explanation for why someone with as much to lose
as Rogers would take the sort of risks she was accused of this week.
On the site, Rogers referred to an unnamed male as her "hero," and
prosecutors say she was speaking of her victim. She also addressed
someone by a number, which prosecutors say is the boy's basketball
" 'My Plans are Your Plans....' ", said the Web site, which was taken down Wednesday afternoon. " 'Nothing's Changed.?' 'Say
it.....say it....' Always is the word, Baby, always. Listen to Far Away
by Nickleback.... that's for you."
Rogers also said on the site that she would wait three years to fall in
love, which prosecutors said would be the time at which the boy she
abused would reach the legal age of consent.
"Often (female offenders) describe the teens as soul mates," Moore said.
"It often takes six months to a year (of counseling) before sex
offenders appreciate the wrongfulness of their actions."
Rogers pleaded no contest to four counts of sexual battery by an
authority figure in the case and served six months of an eight-year
sentence. As part of her plea agreement, the physical education teacher
had to give up her state teaching certificate for life.
She was released from jail in February for good behavior and had been
living in her hometown of Clarkrange, where her father is a legendary
high school basketball coach. She was arrested again on Tuesday and
charged with violating the terms of her probation through her Internet
Rogers pleaded not guilty to the new charges at a hearing Wednesday. She
faces a July court date. If she is found to have violated her probation,
she could be required to serve the remainder of her sentence in prison.
A number of cases of sexual abuse of teenage boys by older women,
especially teachers, have made the news recently, most notably Mary Kay
Letourneau, a former Seattle teacher who had two children by a student.
But experts said they were not convinced that female sexual offenders
have become more numerous.
In recent years, there has been more awareness of the problem, said
Julia Hislop, a Virginia-based psychologist who works with victims and
is the author of the book Female Sex Offenders: What Therapists, Law
Enforcement and Child Protective Services Need to Know.
"Twenty years ago, people could scarcely believe that grownups would
molest children at all," she said.
The terms of Rogers' plea agreement required her to register as a sex
offender, which she did, and to undergo sex offender treatment. Her
Community Corrections program manager said Rogers has been attending the
required classes but could not say for how long.
The reasons women sexually abuse teenagers vary, Hislop said, but
"common threads" are mental health problems such as anxiety and
depression - not serious mental illness - and often the abusers are
victims of sexual abuse themselves.
Rogers has not said, publicly or in court documents, that she has ever
been the victim of sex abuse. She was going through marital problems at
the time of her relationship with the boy, and she has since divorced.
Media exposure of a few cases may have made more victims come forward,
said Jacqueline Page, a clinical psychologist and associate professor at
the University of Tennessee's Health Science Center in Memphis.
"Maybe more teenagers are speaking up now because they realize that what
is happening to them is abuse," she said.
Still, there is a lot of public denial when it comes to abuse by women,
"People like to dismiss it, and they dismiss it more if it's a male
victim and a female teacher, especially if it's a good-looking female
Hislop said teen victims are at risk for a variety of emotional problems
including anxiety, stress, depression, relationship problems and a lack
of trust in adults.
Also, the media attention this case has drawn might be hard on the
victim, Moore said.
One reason Rogers was offered a plea agreement was because the victim's
family did not want him to testify, Warren County District Attorney Dale
Potter told The Associated Press.
"All the media attention might make it more difficult for the victim to
heal," Moore said. "Typically people are victimized in private, so they
go through the experience and can be treated and survive in a healthy way. That's hard to do in cases that get so much attention."