Letter to the Editor
February 4, 2008
Westchester-Putnam letters for 2/4.
Dispelling myths about sexual abuse
As national president of MaleSurvivor: NOMSV (www.malesurvivor.org), I commend The Journal News for its compassionate and comprehensive Thursday article, "Child abuse cases stun community." One of our most important missions is to dispel myths and educate the public about the facts regarding sexual abuse of boys, and I applaud The Journal News for publicly recognizing these boys are not "lucky," but are victims.
I would like to further clarify two important issues: Statistics show that 87 percent of child-abuse victims do not go on to be offenders themselves. While many offenders may have been abused as children, it is this "vampire myth" that often stigmatizes survivors and keeps them from seeking help.
It is certainly true that sexual-abuse survivors will have issues as they grow into adults (anger, alcohol, relationship problems); however, the real challenge is most do not associate these problems with the abuse they have suffered. Many men, even those abused by males, say, "Yeah, that happened when I was a kid, but I'm fine." But our society's outdated views on male sexuality are skewed, and when the media calls these boys "lucky," survivors will never even consider the abuse by a female to be the root cause of their issues.
As a survivor myself, I am aware of the aftermath survivors face, and many of us may always feel we are alone. Yet it is important to know there is hope, help and recovery, and with hard work and a good therapist, any survivor has a chance to become the person he was meant to be.
Curtis St. John
Somers Experts say it's not sex, but power, that drives inappropriate acts between adults and children
January 31, 2008
Experts say it's not sex, but power, that drives inappropriate acts between adults and children
Randi Weiner and Steve Lieberman
The Journal News
American slang has a few words for them: cougars, hot mommas or Mrs. Robinsons come to mind.
The American criminal justice system considers them child abusers, rapists and pedophiles.
Older women who have sex with adolescent boys both fascinate and disgust people. Some in society still regard a near-adult male's sexual act with an older woman as a positive thing, experts said, while child advocates are adamant that sex between adults and youngsters is never positive.
In general, public reaction to last week's arrest of attorney Beth Modica, a Sloatsburg mother of four and a former PTA president, has been stunned surprise.
"My first thought as a mother was, 'Yuck.' How could anyone do this?" said Emily Feiner, a licensed clinical social worker who works with rape victims as well as adolescents and adults with a history of child sexual abuse.
"She's innocent until proven guilty, of course, but it's such a violation of the trust that children should have in adults. And adolescent boys are still children," Feiner said.
National criminal justice statistics are not available for the number of women who are charged with sex crimes against children, but experts say their numbers are growing as the number of women being charged with all crimes is growing.
In New York, 8,133 people were charged with felony sexual contact with minors between Jan. 1, 2002, and Dec. 7, 2007. Of those, 348, or about 4 percent, were alleged sex assaults committed by women.
Perhaps the two most notorious cases of the past two decades involved Pamela Smart of New Hampshire and Mary Kay Letourneau of Washington.
Smart, now serving a life sentence in the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility, made headlines after her 16-year-old lover and three of his friends killed Smart's husband - at her behest, it was alleged - in 1990. She continues to insist on her innocence in the murder. The teen lover, now 33, has requested an early release from prison, where he is serving a 28 years to life sentence. Smart was transferred to Bedford from a New Hampshire prison in 1993.
In 1998, it was Mary Kay Letourneau's story that grabbed the public's attention after she was accused and eventually convicted of having sex with a 13-year-old boy she had first met when she was his second-grade teacher. After having his daughter, she was sent to prison on rape and molestation charges, getting out of prison long enough to have sex with him again. After the child from that union was born, she finished her sentence and married her young lover, who was 21 by then.
More recently, former private school English teacher Sandra "Beth" Geisel of Latham was indicted by an Albany County grand jury in 2005, accused of having sex with a 16-year-old student in her home, at his home and once in the press box on the school campus. In a plea bargain, she pleaded guilty to a single count of rape and was sentenced to six months in jail.
The Lower Hudson Valley is not without its own additions to the list of women charged with sex crimes against children.
Hendrick Hudson High School teacher Marci Stein was found guilty of felony charges of having sex with a 16-year-old student and two others during tutoring sessions at her Montrose home between April 1999 and January 2000. She was sentenced to four to 12 years in state prison in 2001 for sodomy and rape, but her conviction was overturned after she had served three years. She pleaded guilty to endangering the welfare of a minor, a misdemeanor, in 2005, but denied any sexual contact with the three boys. She was sentenced to a year in jail, which was not served because Stein already had served prison time.