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Old 03-24-2006, 07:32 AM   #1
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Attorney: Female Child Molester "Too Pretty For Prison"

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"Too Pretty For Prison"

Suzanne Goldenberg
Guardian.co.uk, March 24, 2006


She is, for the moment, America's most famous sex offender: young, blonde, and in the words of her lawyer, "too pretty for prison." When the prosecution in Florida this week dropped charges against Debra Lafave, a former teacher who admitted having sex with a boy who was then 14 years old, they reignited a debate about whether society is willing to tolerate sexual misconduct if the aggressor is female and, as in Lafave's case, attractive.

Lafave is the most recent in a series of high-octane cases of sexual abuse involving female teachers and their pupils, and the leniency of her treatment in America's legal system has provoked accusations of a double standard--not least from her ex-husband, Owen Lafave, who is producing a documentary film on such relationships.

In Lafave's case, charges were dismissed because the victim's mother did not want to put her son through a trial that, given America's current fascination with sexual abuse, was bound to become a staple of tabloid television. "I'm his mom and I couldn't protect him when it came time to what she did to him. I can protect him now," she told a Tampa television station. She said she was relieved her son would be spared from testifying. "Every word that came out of his mouth, every detail that was presented, would have been terrible for him."

Lafave, a former reading teacher, had already been sentenced by another Florida court to three years' house arrest followed by seven years' probation after she admitted having sex with the boy in a school classroom, her home, and the back of a car--with the boy's teenage cousin in the driving seat. But this week's decision means she will be spared jail--an outrage for some, who say the courts fail to acknowledge the gravity of child abuse when a woman is to blame. "Any adult who sexually abuses a child deserves a punishment that fits the crime. It should make no difference whether the offender is a scraggly, bearded bogeyman or a leggy blonde in flawless makeup," said a leader in the local paper, the Orlando Sentinel.

But in Lafave's case, it inevitably did make a difference. Soon after her arrest in 2004, pictures emerged from her modelling days showing her straddling a motorcyle in a blue bikini, an iconic image of seduction. "To place Debbie into a Florida state women's penitentiary, to place an attractive young woman in that kind of hellhole, is like putting a piece of raw meat in with the lions," her lawyer, John Fitzgibbons, told a Florida court last year. Many Americans evidently agreed. Her victim was turned into a running joke on late-night television. Didn't every teenage boy fantasize about having sex with his hot blonde teacher? It left his mother determined to avoid a trial--even if that meant a lesser punishment for Lafave.

The past five years has seen an intense focus in America on the sexual abuse of children, from the Catholic church, which has been trying to atone for the damage inflicted by pedophile priests, to local governments, which face increasing pressure to keep track of known pedophiles. In particular, America seems transfixed by the notion of sex between teachers and their pupils. A day after charges were dropped against Lafave, a former elementary school teacher in West Virginia was sentenced to 20 years in prison for sexually assaulting students. "I was the monster these families think I am," said Toni Lyn Woods, 37, who shared neither Lafave's good looks nor youth. Other high-profile cases include Sandra Beth Geisel, 42, a former Catholic school teacher, who was sentenced late last year to six months prison in New York for her affair with a 16-year-old student. Then, in one of America's most notorious cases, Mary Kay Letourneau was sentenced to seven years in prison for her affair with pupil Vili Fualaau, which began when he was 12 and she was 34. The couple married last year after Letourneau served a truncated sentence. The union produced two children. "She's not a pedophile; she's a 'Vili-phile'," a family friend told a Seattle newspaper.

But such attitudes infuriate those who say that society is failing to protect its male children from predators. "Society just doesn't view a boy having sex with an adult female as rape although legally it is. Our society just doesn't see it as a child being harmed," says Robert Shoop, a law professor at Kansas State University and author of Sexual Exploitation in Schools. "The idea that society has historically said that women are to be protected from sex, but boys are supposed to enjoy it and look for the opportunity; I think is wrongheaded and is a vestige of our past inequalities."

His research shows that male teachers convicted of abusing female children receive far harsher punishment--an average of 11 years jail--than female teachers who are more likely to get probation. However, Shoop acknowledges that abuses are far more likely to be male than female, and that there are differences of pattern of abuse. Women tend to select a victim, and cultivate the relationship over time. "There are almost no female predators who say: 'I went into teaching or coaching because that is where I am going to find the victims.' There are only a couple of cases I know about of female teachers who had more than one victim."

In Lafave's case, it appears that she tried to persuade her victim that she was as much a teenager as he was. Tape-recordings of conversations released by police reveal Lafave asking her victim to make a "pinky promise". When he raises concerns that he might have made her pregnant, she chides him for being "weird". Lafave's lawyer says that she was suffering from bipolar disorder. In court proceedings, he said that he hoped that the story of the platinum-blonde teacher and her student would gradually fade away.

Lafave--like her former husband, who with his documentary film has become a newly minted expert on sexual abuse--apparently has other ideas. Calm and composed in an elegant black outfit, she read a statement on the difficulties of life with mood disorders. She talked about the pains of having her private life dragged through the press. Then she told reporters that though her real "passion"--teaching--was closed to her now, she had found a new outlet: she plans to become a television journalist.
I find it astonishing that anyone would cite the fact that teenage boys may fantasize about sex with attractive teachers as some sort of justification for her behavior being less criminal. The main question here is the inability of a child to meaningfully consent to sex with an adult authority figure, not whether or not said child is already capable of arousal and desire. (And do folks who snicker about Lafave, but express outrage towards male teacher-molesters, actually believe that their 14-year-old daughters *don't* ever fantasize about sex with attractive teachers?)

Adults have responsibilities towards children, and not abusing the particular kinds of authority we enjoy over them to better pursue our own sexual interests is among them. I can appreciate to a point the argument that the case gets murkier with mid-to-older-teens--though personally, as a college professor, I've always felt very uncomfortable with colleagues who I know "dally" with some of their undergraduate students occasionally. Injurious or not, and regardless of the student's previous experience or eagerness, to me there just is something fundamentally exploitative to the dynamic there that compromises the integrity of their professional obligations towards their students.
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Old 03-24-2006, 08:14 AM   #2
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Well unfortunately that's nothing new, attractive women like her can and do get away with quite a bit because of their looks-some not all of course.Combine that with the attitude that it's something boys want or should be somehow proud of and you get that. The boy's family didn't want him to testify, but that doesn't negate the issue that the article described.

It's a complete double standard and it's not right. And adult certainly DOES have responsibility for children, no adult in that position has any right to be involved in any sexual or romantic way with a child/student/employee, etc. I don't think it's appropriate in college either, the power issue is always there.

You even have male lawyers who publicly state that the boy should be "proud" of it or whatever- Mark Geragos did on Larry King last night. Not that he's some sort of barometer for the legal profession, he's a complete scumbag in my opinion.

She claims she has mental health problems, that she's bipolar-I don't think that excuses her behavior in any way. She has probably gotten so much and gotten away with so much in her life because of her looks, she will probably have a TV career. Maybe she could replace Katie Couric..
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Old 03-24-2006, 10:12 AM   #3
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she should be behind bars.

I feel sorry for the boy's mom...but I think he should be up there testifying.

as teachers I think they have to draw the line and then stay on thier side...teachers need to be respected and act responsibly
They need to be professionals...even if they have a mood swing....thats no excuse /./....i think in jails youll find alot of pretty women and alot of ugly ones of course.....shed be a piece of meat in the lions cage if she went to a mens prison..

I dont know where people come up with such tripe...she broke the law ...he should testify
and she needs to serve some fuckin' time!
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Old 03-24-2006, 01:56 PM   #4
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i completely agree with the boy's mom on her decission. And i hate it

While I am also inclined to be not shocked about teacher/ boy stories... I do think it should handled just like teacher/ girl cases.

I find it unfair that males do not get the same protection as females. She should get the same punishment as any male teacher would have gotten
mutual consens or not.. it is still illegal underage sex. I wanna see the male teacher who sleeps with a girl student (while they both agreed) no-one would count that as being not so bad. It is not like girls do not dream about hot teacher - but this sort of reasoning would be unheard of course

has anyone ever heard of a case where a pretty guy got spared from prison?
I am pretty sure that would also be a case of "raw meat"
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Old 03-24-2006, 03:27 PM   #5
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"Too pretty for jail"?
Nonsense. She committed a crime, and she should have to pay for it.
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Old 03-24-2006, 08:46 PM   #6
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Lock 'er up

I got my hand-cuffs ready
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Old 03-25-2006, 08:55 AM   #7
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I agree with the boy's mother as well. Purely because it was already a joke trial and he would have been subjugated to the worst mockery from the defense, who knows if he could have handled it.

But i do hate the double standard, one because it assumes all boys want it, which if some do its still wrong. I'm sure some underage girls like the attnetion and sex as well but it still wouldnt stop their male teacher being locked up over it.
But secondly, i dont like the presumption that females can't be predators like males. Of course they bloody well can, just because they forge a friendship doesn't mean they actually "love" the boy or dont realise what they are doing is wrong. It disgusts me that females are allowed to get away with it, sending a message out there to all bored and horny school teachers to have a go at some grown up 14 yr old if they want. And thats just sick.
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Old 03-25-2006, 02:12 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally posted by dazzlingamy
But i do hate the double standard, one because it assumes all boys want it, which if some do its still wrong. I'm sure some underage girls like the attnetion and sex as well but it still wouldnt stop their male teacher being locked up over it.
But secondly, i dont like the presumption that females can't be predators like males. Of course they bloody well can, just because they forge a friendship doesn't mean they actually "love" the boy or dont realise what they are doing is wrong. It disgusts me that females are allowed to get away with it, sending a message out there to all bored and horny school teachers to have a go at some grown up 14 yr old if they want. And thats just sick.
It is sick. Doesn't matter if the perp is male or female, doesn't matter what gender the victim is, sexual abuse of a minor is wrong, wrong, wrong, and everybody knows it.

Worse, the perps play mind games with their victims, trying to get them to think that they "really wanted it".

She's a predator and a pedophile. I don't care how "pretty" she is, she deserves to be locked up. And I sure hope that kid gets some counseling.
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Old 03-25-2006, 07:08 PM   #9
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We are deeply rooted with a double standard regarding sexual activity. I overheard a conversation regarding the concept of consent and alcohol.

If both parties are drunk, and both say they don't recall giving consent, the tendancy is to believe the male committed a crime.
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Old 03-25-2006, 09:07 PM   #10
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http://theync.com/h032306dad.shtml

The victim's dad offers his perspective.
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Old 03-25-2006, 10:54 PM   #11
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That is fucking PATHETIC!!!!!

ARGH! it makes me so MAD!!!! How dare they make jokes about something like that. I mean im all up for making fun of something but not when an injustice has happened.... I dunno...

anyway Fox News is a dirty arse licking masturabating over pics of GWB channel anyway. I dont believe, listen to or think about any shit that spews from its 24 hour propangda schedule
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Old 03-26-2006, 10:38 AM   #12
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What is consent? Are there any contexts when a teenager can consent to sex with someone older?

What about the case of the 18-year-old Georgia football player and his younger girlfriend?

He went to jail for alleged child molestation while critics realize that the real problem was that he was black and his lover white.

I'm lucky that when I was in college and my sweetheart was still in high school, her parents never thought of throwing me in jail.

My wife is 14 years older than me, and I couldn't be happier.

If I'd met her when I was 15 or 16 instead of 31, it appears some of you would have had her locked up!

I have a daughter and two step sons, too, and I will trust the decisions they make, even if I don't agree with them.

It's dangerous to make such generalized remarks when we only see a certain side of the story.

Certainly, there's a double standard socially on this topic, but I don't think male TV personalities should be allowed to be our barometer for counter-argument in cases like this, really.

There's always more than 2 sides.
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Old 03-27-2006, 02:07 AM   #13
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i still think that it is a problematic
fine.. it workes with you two. but that woman was the boys teacher... there is quite a power relation there. Combined it with his young age and i am very skeptical towards the whole thing.
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Old 03-27-2006, 02:14 AM   #14
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With all the real problems in the world, titillating tabloid news stories like this aren't worth getting worked up over.
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Old 03-27-2006, 11:35 AM   #15
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Child abuse isn't a "real problem"?
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