I often write about the double standard in sex abuse cases. When women commit the same sex offense as men, women often receive lighter sentences and social praise for their actions. Prosecutors, judges, and juries tend to take female-perpetrated sexual violence less seriously, and one need only watch late-night talk shows to see how the public regards the issue.
Since Mary Kay Letourneau made national news for being convicted of raping her 13-year-old student, female sex offenders no longer remain hidden. There has been more research and discussion about women who commit sexual violence. However, we do not see what the situation is like for prosecutors. We do not get to see the double-bind they are in, and that ignorance may make some more cynical about prosecutors’ attitudes (see the previous paragraph). A recent article provides an insight into what prosecutors go through:
[Kenton County Commonwealth’s Attorney Rob Sanders] tried his first female defendant sexual abuse case in 2000 when such cases were still almost unheard of. He said he took a very principled approach to the case and made the same plea offer he would have offered to a male defendant.
“After a three-day trial that included a confession, the case promptly went down in flames when the jury came back not guilty,” Sanders said.
“Afterward, jurors told me they believed the defendant was guilty but didn’t want her to go to prison.
“The victim, then about 15, was devastated because he thought no one believed him.”
With that child in mind, Sanders said he offered the next female defendant a probated sentence in a case that wasn’t nearly as strong. She pleaded guilty, and Sanders said he was accused in the press of having a double standard.
“So as a prosecutor, it’s a no-win situation,” he said.
“You can be principled and take a substantial risk of no justice, or account for society’s bias and get accused of bias yourself.”
Sanders later stated about the double standard towards female offenders, “By contrast, our juries have no problem sending male sex offenders to prison for long periods of time. We often get lengthier sentences from juries in male defendant sex cases than we do in murder cases.”
None of that is astounding. As a society, we view women as victims rather than abusers. We view them as innocent rather than responsible. Even feminism, with all its talk about equality, still presents women as completely at the mercy of men. No woman who commits a crime is solely responsible for her actions, nor should she be punished the same as any man.
When one looks at how jurors responded to the women Sanders prosecuted, it becomes clear that the issue is never the pain caused to the victims, but rather the potential “pain” caused to the woman. Our social narrative that women must be protected and sheltered, along a heavy dose of feminism’s “only women can be raped” nonsense, creates this dynamic, and it is a hard one to change.
In the case that sparked the article, the prosecutor gave former Bengals cheerleader Sarah Jones a deal that allowed her to walk out of court with no jail time because the victim reportedly would not cooperate with the prosecutors. According to a CBS article, the boy and his family now side with Jones.
Unfortunately, Sara Farmer, the Louisville prosecutor in the Jones’ case, sends the message that these cases simply will not be taken seriously. While Sanders gave an explanation for why prosecutors make these decisions, I cannot help but notice that even the plea deals are lighter for women than they are for men. If Jones were male and received the deal, what are the chances that Jones would not serve any jail time? What are the chances that the charges would be reduced from first-degree sexual abuse and unlawful use of electronic means to induce a minor to engage in sexual or other prohibited activities to felony custodial interference and misdemeanor sexual misconduct?
Farmer had a choice in the matter, and decided to choose the lowest amount of punishment possible. These are the decisions that prompt people like me to believe prosecutors like Farmer have a double standard.
The attitude is changing, but it is not changing fast enough to counteract cases like Jones’. There are far more cases like Jones’ than there are where women who prey on children, even small children, face real or any jail time. There is also this element:
[Terri Miller, president of Stop Educator Sexual Abuse, Misconduct and Exploitation] who leads the victims support group in Las Vegas, said boys molested by women may be further damaged by unhealthy coping behavior.
Boys who are abused are more likely to anesthetize with alcohol and drugs, drop out of school and commit suicide, she said.
Male victims overcompensate for being dominated by a woman at a very young age by becoming violent toward women as adults.
That lie that male victims will become abusers comes from someone who supposedly advocates on behalf of male victims. How can you possibly help abused men and boys if you tell the public that the only reason we should care about them is because they will become abusers?
We need to take female-perpetrated sexual crimes seriously, and we need to stop making excusing for women who offend and treating their victims like abusers. That is the way to make things change.