When sexual assault victim is a boy, there can be a double standard

Sara Domres, 28, a New Berlin West High School teacher was charged with two counts of sexual assault of a student.

Sara Domres, 28, a New Berlin West High School teacher was charged with two counts of sexual assault of a student.
James E. Causey
In My Opinion
April 22, 2016

Sexual assault is sexual assault, but sometimes there is a double standard in how these crimes are viewed.

Since December, there have been at least six cases of teachers
sexually assaulting students in Wisconsin. The alleged perpetrators have
been both men and women. But based on the comments I’ve seen on social
media, I sense that if a boy is the victim of a female perpetrator, the
allegations will be seen by some people in a different light.

“We need to stop saying that boys are always looking to have sex so
it’s all right if a woman does it to them,” said Jennifer Marsh, vice
president of the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN)
in Washington, D.C. Until recently, she said, it wasn’t uncommon for
news reports to refer to a female teacher having “sex” with a male
student but a male perpetrator “sexually assaulting” his female victim.

That kind of attitude can send a powerful message to other victims, who may not want to come forward.

When I posted news of some of the recent allegations to my Facebook
page, several men even commented that they wished their female teachers
had had relationships with them. I wonder what these same men would say
if their child was the victim?

Assault is assault.

The accessibility of technology and social media have made it easier
for people to have inappropriate conversations, Marsh said. Everyone has
a smartphone and it’s easy to text, use FaceTime, send email or
Snapchat a student.

Boundaries need to be clear. The rule should be: Would a teacher be
comfortable with a parent, colleague or principal seeing the
conversation? If not, the conversation shouldn’t be taking place. Marsh
said she didn’t see any reason for a school official to be texting or
sending messages to a student through apps such as Snapchat. I don’t,

Many of the cases in Wisconsin began with a text message, and grew from there:

Jermaine A. Evans,
32, dean of students at HOPE Christian School was charged Monday with
sexually assaulting a girl over the past several years. According to the
criminal complaint: Police became aware of the assaults through a
series of text messages Evans allegedly sent to the girl, who is now 16.
She told investigators that she first had sex with Evans when she was
11 or 12 after he purchased a phone for her. He allegedly had sex with
the student 35 times in five years.


■On April 16, Jason D. Price, 31,
a teacher’s aide at Holy Redeemer Christian Academy was charged with
sexually assaulting a 16-year-old girl in a locker room and on a bus.
Three other victims, all teens, told authorities that Price sent them
sexually explicit images and inappropriate messages through Facebook,
according to the criminal complaint.

■On April 15, Elizabeth Dillett,
31, a kindergarten teacher and St. Peter-Immanuel Lutheran School’s
athletic director was charged with having sex with a teenage boy. She
allegedly met the boy through sports. According to a criminal complaint,
the two first had sex at the woman’s home in February and then again
inside the school in March.

■On April 8, Sara Domres,
28, a New Berlin West High School teacher was charged with two counts
of sexual assault of a student. According to court documents, the
English teacher and the boy exchanged more than 1,100 text messages. The
two allegedly had sex in October after the boy turned 17. The two had
sex at a park and ride lot and at the Motel 6, “the same day (her
husband) had his bachelor party.”

■In March, a Brown County piano teacher was charged with sexually assaulting two girls while giving them private lessons. James Widiger,
62, who also is a village trustee in Howard, was charged with
second-degree sexual assault of a child under 16, two counts of repeated
sexual assault of a child and disorderly conduct.

■In December, April Novak,
30, a former Menomonee Falls High School reading specialist was charged
with 12 counts of sexual assault of a student. A criminal complaint
says Novak and the 16-year-old student had engaged in sexual intercourse
and oral sex more than a dozen times in her classroom from October to
December. She told investigators that she knew that the boy was
underage, but that the two had “very strong feelings for each other.”

The number of teachers and students having sex is increasing.
In 2014 , there were 781 reported cases of teachers and other school
employees accused or convicted of sexual relationships with students,
the U.S. Department of Education reports. Each week, about 15 young
people are victimized by a person charged with teaching them, according
to Terry Abbott, chairman of Drive West Communications and a former
chief of staff at the U.S. Department of Education.

And sadly, the true number of assaults may be much higher because rape is one of the most underreported crimes in the country.

Here’s a fact: Kids can’t give consent to adults. It’s wrong for a
male teacher to steal the innocence of an 11-year-old girl, and it’s
equally wrong for a female teacher to sexually assault a teenage boy.

We should never minimize the anguish or the criminality of sexual assault simply because of the victim’s gender.

James E. Causey is a Journal Sentinel columnist and blogger. Email james.causey@jrn.com. Facebook: fb.me/jamescausey.12 Twitter: jecausey

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