Thursday, March 29, 2012

Treatment of woman on trial for alleged sexual exploitation of male minor raises concerns to COTWA

A former female teacher is on trial in Canada for allegedly sexually exploiting one of her teenage male students nearly a decade ago. Newspapers have published a summary of the trial testimony of the alleged victim, who claims that between the ages of 15 and 17, he had sex with his married high school gym teacher hundreds of times. The alleged trysts, which supposedly occurred in the former teacher's office as well as in her master bedroom, ended eight years ago.  The presumptively innocent woman is named in the story and her picture is shown. The accuser's identity is not disclosed.  (See here).

The coverage of the alleged crime, and the treatment of the woman on trial, raise serious concerns to COTWA.  Viewing the comments under the story, there is an assumption that the alleged sexual encounters definitely occurred, and there is scarcely a suggestion that the presumptively innocent woman might, in fact, be innocent. It is not surprising that readers believe the accuser given the way stories like this are written. Sexual dramas sell, and reporters happily turn incidents like this into mini-romance novels about forbidden love. If reporters continually reminded readers that the only evidence for most, or all, of the allegations is the uncorroborated testimony of the accuser, and that the accused denies them, that would disrupt the flow of the narrative and make for a less compelling tale, but it would make for a more accurate news report.

Other problems are evident. The accuser recounted alleged incidents that occurred eight to ten years ago. How many of us are able to recollect with specificity incidents that old?  Imagine the ordeal for the former teacher in trying to figure out where she was on given days from 2002-2004.  Much, if not all, of the evidence that might prove the accuser is lying on material points is likely lost due to the passage of time. 

The woman's reputation has been destroyed, and that's an especially serious concern if it turns out she's not guilty. Some might suggest that there is less stigma attached to female sex offenders than to male sex offenders. That is true, but it is a matter of degree: it is fair to conclude that this woman's reputation has been permanently damaged and likely destroyed, regardless of the outcome of this trial, because of the heinous nature of the allegations. She will be forever known as a "sicko" who likes bedding boys.

The cases raises other concerns, too. Chief among them is the double-standard in the way female and male sex offenders, and female and male sex victims, are treated. Those double-standards are both undeniable and indefensible, but they are beyond the scope of this blog.  Those are issues discussed here:

Our concern at COTWA is that the details of an alleged love affair between an adult and a child, with multiple instances of alleged sexual criminality, are being splashed all over the newspapers for the titillation of a public whose appetite for lurid romance novels is insatiable, with no concern about their effect on a presumptively innocent woman. That is wrong no matter how you look at it.