Last month a 39-year-old Gadsden woman was convicted of having a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old boy. This was the third trial in the last six years in Calhoun County where the abuser was a woman, according to the district attorney’s office. Alabama law states a no one under the age of 16 can consent to a sexual relationship.
Trace Fleming-Smith, a sexual assault advocate with 2nd Chance in Anniston and member of the Alabama Coalition Against Sexual Violence, said in her experiences female offenders are few and far between. However, Fleming-Smith said, crime reports from the Alabama Criminal Justice Information Center do not include male victims in its rape data.
“We absolutely know that we have male victims. That’s an absolute fact. So that to me is very frustrating,” she said.
Steve LePore, executive director of 1 in 6, a California-based nonprofit that works with adult men who were victims of childhood sexual abuse, said considering men as victims of sexual abuse has started to get traction. LePore said his organization was named 1 in 6 because it’s believed that at least 1 in 6 men were sexually abused as children.
LePore said a lot of data has been produced throughout the years regarding women and children as abuse victims, but a stigma still remains that men can’t be abused.
“The taboo for men makes it even more difficult to come forward,” LePore said.
Teen boys, especially, have the feeling “they scored” if they were abused by an older woman, he said.
LePore described the cultural belief as an “enormous hurdle” because teens could be excited by the fact that they’re in a relationship with an older woman and believe they’re having fun.
“Nonetheless power was abused and they’ll become a man and realize that wasn’t something that had positive effects, but was harmful,” he said.
Fleming-Smith agreed there is a double standard when it comes to teens and sex.
She said many teen boys would be congratulated by their peers and even adult men for having a sexual relationship with their teacher.
“That’s not OK. They’re not able to give consent, they’re children. There is a standard where men are expected to be sexual and that it’s normal. It’s not. It’s not a healthy sexuality,” Fleming-Smith said.
An estimated 10 percent to 30 percent of men who were sexually abused as boys were abused by women, LePore said.
Most abusers know the child they’re abusing, LePore said, and they usually find them through school, youth activities or even at home. However, he said, there’s not a primary venue where abuse takes place and it knows no socioeconomic or ethnic bounds.
It’s important for parents to create an environment where children feel comfortable talking about anything, Fleming-Smith said.
“It’s every parent’s nightmare to hear that their kids have been victimized in this way,” she said.
It takes a lot of courage for minor victims to tell their parents, but it’s easier if they feel a parent will do anything to make sure they are safe. For example, parents shouldn’t force children to hug or kiss someone when they feel uncomfortable, Fleming-Smith said. Doing so, she said, perpetuates the mindset that even if children are uncomfortable, if an adult says to do something they must do it.
Parents should also look for drastic behavior changes in their children or teens, Fleming-Smith said, and if a child mentions an odd relationship with an adult, it should be reported.
Fleming-Smith said supporting a victim is important, especially a male, because they’re “very uncomfortable and they feel they won’t be believed.”
Men who were victims of sexual abuse can reach LePore’s organization at www.1in6.org.
Staff Writer Rachael Brown: 256-235-3562. On Twitter @RBrown_Star.