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A trusted, even respected or beloved teacher is accused of having a sexual relationship with a student. What used to shock us, but is now much too commonplace, is that the teacher is a woman.

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The decade-long wave of sexual offenses committed by women — teachers in particular have exposed a cultural double standard: The public is more willing to accept the female abuser’s claim that she had a “relationship” with the victim. And in cases in which the male is a teenager, the sexual abuse is more likely to be dismissed as a rite of passage. The questionable, yet overriding assumption, is that women predators are somehow different from men.

The traits women predators exhibit — seeing themselves as a victim, low self-esteem, a sense of inadequacy, needing to be the center of attention, putting their own need for a connection before anything and everything else. What would drive a woman to sexually abuse a child? Experts say it’s not just sex. According to the Justice Department’s most recent statistics, sex offenses are still very much a man’s crime. Female sex offenders are very rare: 96 percent of the sex assaults reported in 1999 involved male perpetrators.

Women were most commonly involved in sex abuse cases involving victims under age 6, making up 12 percent of those offenders. Women were involved in 3 percent of the sex cases involving victims age 6 through 12, and 3 percent for victims ages 13 through 17.

Male victims, some experts believe, can be more confused than females because of the myths. Adults can manipulate their victims into thinking they were equal and willing participants in sexual acts. Males can also believe that they allowed themselves to be abused and therefore are “sissies” or that they must be gay. Male victims may also believe they will be “turned gay,” especially if the abuser is male. Because of these various myths, male victims may not admit or even realize they’ve been abused until they reach adulthood.

Are you shocked by the increase in female sex offenders?

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