Female Child Rapists Generate Less Outrage

Letourneau has said her marriage with her husband was crumbling when she first became involved with Fualaau, who was 12 years old at the time. Debra Lafave, the Florida teacher charged with lewd and lascivious conduct with a minor, was still a newlywed but was having trouble in her marriage when she allegedly had sex with a 14-year-old student.

"In their minds, both Lafave and Letourneau believed that they were in relationships. They were talking to their alleged victims like girl would talk to her boyfriend," said Durkin. "According to court papers, Lafave drove her alleged victim to McDonald's, they went to a Smoothie King, she told him how she was buying an iPod with a credit card her husband had given her. She was talking to him about the kind of things that couples would talk about.

"One thing both male and female sex offenders have in common is they have no sense of boundaries. They're often isolated. They don't often have a lot of meaningful age-appropriate relationships, friends that could rein them in," Durkin continued. "Or they don't have any age-appropriate relationships at all."

Still, some experts say, abuse cases involving male victims and female perpetrators may be underreported because of the societal attitudes and myths surrounding boys' sexual development. A sexual assault on a boy by an older female may be misconstrued as a "rite of passage."

"In society, it used to be that with a 13- or 14-year-old male, if his first sexual experience involved a 25-year-old girl who may well have taken advantage of him, his male counterparts may say, 'Hey, you lucked out,' " said Dr. Richard Gartner, who has treated male sex-abuse victims, in a past interview. "It was almost seen as a rite of passage.

"That's the only group that later recalls such experiences as 'lucking out,' " said Gartner. "You don't find that in females."

The Shadow of Notoriety

As for Letourneau and Fualaau, they are moving on with their lives. Letourneau has said she is trying to launch a new career, perhaps in legal research. Both Letourneau and Fualaau have said they hope people will be able to accept their relationship — and maybe the public has, since they've been involved for eight years and are now both adults.

"They're now both seen as adults in a consenting relationship and perhaps people have grown to accept their relationship and moved on," said Driscoll, the Wheeling Jesuit professor.

But lack of public outrage aside, the relationship between Letourneau and Fualaau may never escape its scandalous origins, and skeptics will wonder how consensual it really is.

"Yes, he [Fualaau] is an adult legally," said Durkin. "But you wonder whether his view of Letourneau was colored by his experience of her as a child."

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