The reader may recall that I previously posted on the Rolf Harris case – a post which I quickly withdrew. The reason I took the post down was that I was challenged regarding my presentation of the evidence, specifically whether the account was balanced. On being challenged I realised that, since my knowledge of the court case relied entirely on newspaper reports, I could hardly claim that great reliability would be consistent with my general lack of esteem for journalism at the present time. Whilst newspaper reports will be accurate as regards purely factual issues, such as the charges faced and the outcome of the trial, the issue of balance is too nuanced a matter for confidence.
However, Harris’s guilt or innocence was never, in fact, the main point of my article. Its main purpose was to contrast the extreme difference between the treatment of Harris, if his guilt be assumed, and that of female sex offenders against children. Consequently I am re-posting the piece but with the deconstruction of the Harris trial evidence omitted. Here I just flat-footedly present the charges and outcome of the trial. Personally I am far from convinced that the case against Harris was proved beyond reasonable doubt, but I am not privy to what transpired in court and hence have decided to remain silent on the matter. Readers can find critiques of the evidence here and here and, in particular, here. I have taken the opportunity to greatly expand on the number of examples of female abusers discussed.
In case there is any doubt about my motivation, my purpose is to contrast the public attitude, and the attitude of the courts, to male and female sex offenders. The concentration on female offenders is not intended to deny or disguise the prevalence of male offenders. The issue addressed here is the perception of the offence and how this differs according to the sex of perpetrator. Nor am I arguing, necessarily, for harsher treatment of female offenders – or for more lenient treatment of male offenders. I am arguing only that in an equitable society the treatment of both should be the same, and independent also of the sex of the victim. What punishment – or treatment – is appropriate does not fall to me to decide, thankfully.
In June 2014 Rolf Harris was found guilty of 12 counts of indecently assaulting four girls between 1969 and 1983. Harris denied all 12 charges on which he was found guilty. They were,
- Count one: A woman said Harris touched her inappropriately when she was just seven or eight while he was signing autographs in 1969.
- Count two: Harris was accused of fondling a teenager’s bottom at a charity event in Cambridge in 1975.
- Counts three to nine: A childhood friend of Mr Harris’ daughter, Bindi, said he repeatedly indecently assaulted her from the age of 13, starting in 1978, including once when his daughter was asleep in the same room.
- Counts 10 to 12: Australian woman Tonya Lee, who waived her right to anonymity, said Harris touched her inappropriately one day while she was on a theatre group trip to the UK at the age of 15.
In Count One the woman claimed Harris touched her intimately when she was seven or eight after she queued to get his autograph at a community centre near Portsmouth in 1969.
[Note added 17/11/17: The Court of Appeal yesterday cleared Harris of this charge. You can read the account of how insecure was the original conviction here. The Court of Appeal upheld the guilty verdicts on the other 11 charges. After this blog piece was published, in May 2017, Harris was tried on charges relating to three other women and released after the jury could not reach a verdict].
In Count Two the complainant, then aged 14, claimed that Harris fondled her bottom outside a Celebrity It’s a Knock Out event in Cambridge.
In Counts 10-12 Tonya Lee, then 15, claimed that Harris asked her to sit on his lap before moving his hand up her leg and thigh. “He was moving back and forth rubbing against me,” she said. “It was very subtle, it wasn’t big movements.” She told the jury that Harris had then patted her on the thigh and moved his hand upwards. She said she had “started to panic” and rushed to the toilet. When she came out, she said, Harris was waiting for her and gave her “a big bear hug” before putting his hand down her top and then down her skirt. Harris denied ever meeting Ms Lee.
So far all the charges have involved claims of one-off incidents of inappropriate touching. Counts 3-9 were potentially more serious, involving alleged grooming and actual sexual congress with a minor. The complainant was a childhood friend of Harris’s daughter, Bindi. The burden of the complainant’s testimony was as follows,
Harris took his daughter’s friend with them on a holiday to Canada, Hawaii and Australia in 1978 when she was 13. As she came out of the shower wearing only a towel, she said that Harris put her hands over her and touched her intimately. She claimed that two days later Harris touched her again as she emerged from the sea, just feet from his sunbathing wife and daughter. He wrapped a towel round her and fondled her crotch, she said. She claimed that similar incidents happened throughout the holiday. On one occasion two years later, when she was 15, she said that Harris performed a sex act on her in Bindi’s bedroom while his daughter slept in a single bed beside them. During another sleepover, he was said to have sexually abused her in Bindi’s bedroom after Bindi had left the room. She claimed the abuse continued throughout her teenage years. On one occasion, when she was 19, she said that Harris sexually assaulted her in his swimming pool at his home in Bray, Berkshire. From this point, she started to go along with his demands. She said he went on to take advantage of her at his home, her family home, in his Mercedes while driving along the M4 and in his dressing room just before he was due to perform in Cinderella at Wimbledon Theatre in 1994. In 1987, when aged 22, she performed a sex act on Harris in his red Mercedes car on the M4. She said she was drunk at the time.
Harris admitted having a relationship with the woman, but said it began after she turned 18. It was not disputed that Harris and the complainant had a consensual sexual relationship from when she was 18 or 19 in 1983 until it was ended in 1994 when she was 29. They therefore had an adult, consensual sexual relationship for 10 or 11 years following the claimed period of abuse whilst the complainant was underage. It was not disputed that the affair ended acrimoniously. It was not disputed that the alleged victim had asked Harris for $45,000 although she disputes it was an attempt at blackmail as Harris claimed.
Rolf Harris was found guilty on all 12 charges. He was sentenced to prison for five years and nine months. There were 150 complaints that the sentence was too lenient.
But imprisonment is only part of the punishment. The public demands that Rolf Harris be absolutely destroyed. All his achievements will be void, his reputation turned to dross. It is obligatory in our times that his name be synonymous with utter evil, with no hope of redemption. His punishment will continue when he is released from prison (if he survives) in the form of being a social pariah with no reprieve being possible. He has been stripped of his Bafta fellowship. He has been stripped of his CBE. He has been stripped of his honorary degree from the University of East London. Galleries are reputed to have destroyed his art (or, at least, have removed it from public view). His portrait of the Queen has been quietly disappeared.
Harris’s 11 million pound fortune is expected to be exhausted on legal costs as well as compensation claims. There have been no shortage of other complainants coming forward. If and when he is released from prison he will be broke, in his late 80s, and utterly vilified. He will go to the grave knowing that he will be regarded as a monster after death and for as long as his name is remembered. Perhaps the public would like to see him face some lions in a modern Colosseum by way of a finale?
Harris has been ill recently. Presumably fearing public reaction, he was sneaked into a secure ward in Royal Stoke hospital through a side door – into the “Ebola Ward”.
I draw the reader’s attention to the contrast between the treatment of Harris, by the court and public alike, and the following cases of adult female sexual offenders against children.
In years up to 2012, 44 year old ex-teaching assistant Emma Webb had sex with a string of underage schoolboys in Wokingham. The latest offenses against two boys took place in her own home, in her car and at the boys’ school. She assaulted boys of 15 and 16 with no previous sexual experience. At her trial in 2014 the court was told these events were “a disgraceful abuse of her power”.
The court heard that Webb texted the boys, telling them to leave lessons, and would lead them to a deserted maths classroom at the Wokingham school where she worked. There she performed oral sex on them. On one occasion she lured the 16-year-old around to her house for a sex session after messaging him via Facebook, telling him her husband was out. In another instance she texted the boy telling him to excuse himself from class, before dragging him into an empty maths room and asking: “Are you going to fuck me or not?” One day she offered to give him a lift home but she pulled her Jeep into a deserted car park and told him “before I go, I just want to do something” and unbuttoned his trousers and performed oral sex on him. After she had finished she performed a sex act on herself, groaning loudly.
Webb asked the 15 year old boy to keep the Bluetooth function on his phone activated so she could send him pictures of herself in her underwear playing with sex toys. The pair would kiss on the stairs at school and then have sex. In another instance, she drove the youngster to a secluded area of woodland, where they had sex on the back seat of her car. Webb told the boy it did not matter about using a condom because she was unable to have children.
The judge was told that the boy had been reluctant to report the affair to the police because Webb had threatened him with her husband, who was a black belt in karate. He feared a reprisal attack.
Webb escaped jail being given only a suspended sentence and was ordered to undergo two years of supervision by the probation service and to pay a £100 victim surcharge. Mr Recorder John Gallagher told her she was only avoiding prison because she had already been punished for previous offences.
That’s right. She avoided prison because she had previously been jailed for 32 months after admitting sexual assault of five other pupils at the same school.
Having let her off, the tough judge said, “this is your last chance, there can be no more of this.”
Not quite the same treatment meted out to Rolf Harris, was it?
Note that, in all newspaper reports of sexual assaults by women, rather than using words like “assault” or “abuse” words like “affair” or “sex romp” or “having a fling” are used. Here’s another recent case.
According to the newspapers, Charlotte Parker, a 32 year old married teaching assistant, had a “torrid two-year affair” with a male pupil, starting when he was 14. According to the judge, though, the word “affair” did not cut it. He said,
“Let me make this abundantly clear, this is a case of gross child abuse. People who work as teaching assistants, whatever their gender, who take advantage of victims, of any gender, commit very serious offences indeed. It makes no difference that the victim was a boy. It makes no difference he may have thought he was in a relationship with you. The law is there to stop people taking advantage of children.”
Quite, well said, judge – but in 2014 he still gave her only a suspended sentence.
At the time of the offences (the newspapers used the word “affair”), Parker was employed at the Hyland’s Academy in Chelmsford, Essex, and the teenage boy was a student in her class. The abuse (the phrase used in the newspapers was “illicit dalliance”) reportedly started after the boy, who was 14 at the time, sent his teacher an innocent Christmas card. Soon after the boy turned 15, the pair embarked on a physical relationship. For two years, Parker managed to keep her abuse of the boy secret. During that time she sent him several thousand lewd texts. When his parents found out about the abuse Parker threatened to kill herself.
Explaining his decision to issue a suspended sentence, Judge Austin Stotan stated that although the boy was underage, he was a willing participant in the affair. Really? But, judge, are you not aware that the law says an underage person cannot give consent?
And here’s another.
In 2013, teacher Eppie Sprung Dawson, 27, was caught “half naked” having sex with her pupil Matthew Robinson, 17, by police in a lay-by. It’s been illegal since 2000 for a teacher to have sex with a pupil under 18, even if it’s consensual. The four-month sexual “affair” (that word again) ended Dawson’s marriage and career, but she was spared jail. She was put on the sex offenders register. Nevertheless she can apply to be a teacher again after two years (so, she will have done so by now).
In 2013, 35 year old teacher Bernadette Smith had “an affair” (that word yet again) with her 16-year-old pupil, Gary Ralston after she confided in him about her marriage breakdown. Gary is described in the newspapers as “fresh faced”. The photos show someone you would unhesitatingly describe as a child (I don’t think it’s right to include a photo here). The pair started meeting in the local park (nothing shady there at all) and their relationship soon turned physical, although Smith insisted that ‘nothing sexual happened’ beyond kissing. And yet she spent the night with him in his bed in jeans and a bra after the “affair” was discovered. Smith looked surprised as the sheriff decided not to jail her and she left Stirling Sheriff’s Court with a broad grin across her face. Gary’s parents were not impressed. His father said, “It’s not right. She’s a sex offender, pure and simple”. They have reason to be even less impressed since she failed to sign-on as a sex offender at her local police station as she was required to do.
Babysitter, Mary-Ellen Mooney, then 18, forced a 13-year-old boy to perform sex acts on her when she was supposed to be looking after him. In 2014, Mary-Ellen Mooney, from Milton Keynes, rubbed the boy’s thigh, and sat on top of him, straddling him face to face. She kissed him on the lips. He described it as open and closed mouth. She put his hand down her pyjamas, then placed her hand over his through the clothing. Mooney committed sex acts on the boy on three separate occasions.
Later she sent a number of sexually explicit messages to the boy through Facebook. The court was told the messages read: “We should meet up, just me and you. Keep it hush hush – don’t tell [a friend]. You are fairly mature for your age and you’re not bad looking. I have got a really soft spot for you, babe. I think you have a hidden talent. I think you could handle me. You are going to take control of me and show your dominant side. It isn’t about size, it’s the way you use it.” During the exchange she also said she ‘could get into trouble’ if anyone else read the messages. Clearly Mooney was well aware that what she was doing was wrong.
Her defence barrister said Mooney should have any jail sentence suspended so that she would benefit from one-to-one courses aimed to teach defendants appropriate sexual behaviour – something the defence claimed is not made available to serving prisoners. Personally I have no great difficulty with such a suggestion, except, of course, that few people would extend such consideration to male offenders. To prison with the wicked men and to hell with any constructive treatment.
The judge, Karen Holt, said “The law reflects the seriousness of this abuse of trust on a child so young. As far as you are concerned, it is right I take into account your background – you have a sad background. You have not got into trouble despite your poor parenting. Bearing in mind your age and lack of previous convictions, your case doesn’t meet the criteria for any form of imprisonment for public protection. A custodial sentence is appropriate. I have spent some time, bearing in mind all the circumstances, on whether that has to be an immediate custodial sentence. I am just about persuaded I don’t need to send you to prison today.” Again one wonders whether this same judge would have been “just about persuaded” against a custodial sentence if an 18 year old male had done the same things. The statistical evidence suggests not. I suggest that the judge would never have considered anything other than a custodial sentence for a male. In the case of a male, a disadvantaged background would not have been sufficient mitigation. Also, the judge would not have been so likely to dismiss the issue of “public protection” in the case of a male defendant, I suspect.
Mooney was given a two-year prison sentence suspended for two years
Married, 35 year old teaching assistant Helen Turnbull was cleared by a jury of three allegations of sexual activity with the 16-year-old pupil but admitted sexual activity with a child by a person in a position of trust. She sent pictures of herself in lingerie to the 16-year-old, asked him what colour knickers she should wear to a meeting and told him he would be a legend if he had sex with her on her school desk. She was sentenced to four months in prison – but suspended for two years by judge Peter Armstrong. But her husband said, after the hearing, that he had caught her ‘in a clinch’ with another boy, aged 17, previously. He realised where her priorities lay when she replaced a picture of their daughter with a picture of her together with a boy pupil.
Turnbull must be able to charm judges. She has escaped prison again after she ran down a motorist and damaged two cars while drunk. Teesside Crown Court was shown video of her slurring words in her car. She even failed to give a breath sample to the police and failed to stop at the site of the crash. After such an offence one might have expected the previously suspended sentence to be activated. But, no. The judge told her “I am satisfied that there is ample protection to the public”. Really, judge? As long as you are not a teenage boy or a road user anyway.
30 year old teaching assistant Caroline Berriman admitted having oral and penetrative sex with a boy. In 2015 Berriman was given a two-year suspended prison sentence for three crimes: two counts of sexual activity with a child, and a third count of sexual activity in a position of trust. The boy was 15 at the time. Berriman was suspended then dismissed from Abraham Moss Community School, Manchester. After sentence was passed the boy criticised her suspended two-year sentence as ‘atrocious’. He said their relationship grew to such an extent that Berriman’s two-year-old daughter started calling him ‘dad’. They had unprotected sex at least 50 times. Berriman tried moral blackmail on the boy, telling him she was pregnant and demanding he run away with her “or it would break my daughter’s heart”.
Kelly Ann-Marie Burgess, 26, a teacher from Newport, pleaded guilty to four counts of the sexual offence “abuse of position of trust by engaging in sexual activity with a child”. The offences, spanning a period from January 1, 2013 to August 28, 2013, concern a sexual relationship Burgess had with a pupil aged under 18, whom she was teaching at the school where she worked. The “affair” lasted 7 months. The matter came to light when the pair visited a sexual health clinic. More than 1,200 text messages between the pair were found on Burgess’s phone, including sexually explicit content. Police also recovered naked pictures of the pupil stored on Burgess’s ‘phone. The court heard how the pair went away together on two separate occasions. In January 2013, the pupil accompanied Burgess on a teacher training weekend. There the pupil stayed in a hotel with Burgess, paid for by the school as part of a training course. The two went away again in July 2013 on a camping weekend where sexual activity again took place. Burgess admitted to seeing the pupil at least once a week outside of school for the purposes of sex. Burgess was sentenced to ten months for each count, to be served concurrently and suspended for two years. She was ordered to complete 200 hours of unpaid work. She has been added to the sex offenders register and automatically barred from working with young adults or children.
Then there was the delightful Karen Ackland, divorced 44 year old mother of two, who took advantage of being offered a bed in a friend’s house after a party to sexually assault her son, aged 14. Ackland pounced on the boy as he got ready for bed and used him as her “sex object” – only to be rumbled when his older brother heard her making sex noises. The boy later told a friend: “I went to get into my trackies and she stripped naked in front of me. We had sex but it was really weird. She kept asking me to spit on her and all these weird things”. Ackland initially tried to claim that the boy initiated the sex, but changed her plea to guilty at the last minute. In 2014 Ackland was sentenced at Canterbury Crown Court to a nine-month jail sentence – suspended for a year. The boy’s mother was not impressed. She opined that female offenders should be treated the same as male offenders: that Ackland should have gone to prison.
And I haven’t mentioned yet the ‘celebrated’ case of Jade Hatt, the 21 year old babysitter from Swindon whose idea of ‘looking after’ an 11 year old boy included full sexual intercourse. She simply stripped off, then stripped him, then straddled him.
Judge Tim Mousley QC said it was an exceptional case that allowed him to step outside the rigours of the sentencing guidelines. He claimed that, because the boy was a mature 11-year-old and Hatt was an immature 20-year-old, “that narrows the arithmetic age gap between you”. On this spurious ground he imposed a six month sentence suspended for two years. There has been wide spread concern about this sentence which is under review by the Attorney General. (Added later: the decision went against a more severe sentence).
Then there was Emma Harfield who, as a 29 year old teacher was found to have had “inappropriate relationships” with two boys. The inappropriate relationships involved having the boys in her bed. They also involved her showering them with expensive gifts and kissing. The relationships continued even after a family friend had warned her to stay away. One of the boys, 15 at the time, later said he was relieved when the police intervened. Harfield had been forcing a relationship he had no interest in by grooming and stalking. The boy spoke to the press urging others in his predicament to speak out. As far as I am aware Harfield faced no criminal prosecution. In 2014 she was, however, banned from teaching for life.
Some cases are, admittedly, more borderline – for example that of Ruth Vaughan who, as a 24 year old teacher started a sexual affair with an 18 year old pupil at the elite £30,000 per year Oakham school where she worked. The case brought no criminal prosecution but was judged to be a breach of trust and Vaughan was indefinitely banned from teaching in England. Or the case of teacher Yvonne Preston whose infatuation with a pupil was terminated by her ban from teaching before it could become physical. She had been showering the boy in question with gifts, sending him inappropriate texts, asking him to dance with her in class and behaving in a manner which must have been difficult for the boy to deal with. She can apply to have her teaching ban lifted in two years.
above, Yvonne Preston
The complainants in the Harris case were described in the newspapers as “brave victims” who had undergone “terrifying ordeals”. The boy victims of the above women were never described in such terms in the newspaper reports.
It is not only men subject to historical allegations of sexual abuse. Marie McCarthy, now 62, was tried recently for sexual offenses against a 15 year old boy 29 years ago when she was 33. In 1986 McCarthy visited the boy’s mum and when he came downstairs in a towel to get something for his bath she wolf-whistled at him. As he left the room he heard her telling his mum that if she went after him he “would go up the stairs as a boy and come down as a man.” While he was in the bath she came in, plunged her hand into the water and grabbed his private parts and after making a sexual remark she left laughing.
A week later he was at her Huyton home looking after her young son when she sat next to him wearing a tight nightdress and after saying everything would be all right began stroking different parts of his body. She helped him undress, before they had sexual intercourse. “He did not fancy her but did not know how to stop what was happening,” said the prosecutor. Over the next six weeks McCarthy orchestrated about 30 other occasions for various sexual activity and the boy felt coerced into taking part. Eventually he told his mum’s partner who said he would sort it out but McCarthy continued her abuse of the boy. She would say, “I have to have you” and “I can’t stop myself.”
Judge Watson summed up as follows. “You manipulated him for your own sexual advantage, you groomed him. You knew the riot of emotions he, as a 15year-old, was going through as adolescence and puberty sent him one way and then the other. You used him as your sexual plaything. I hope you now realise your behaviour has cast a shadow over his life for the last 29 and a half years. An appalling shadow which has had a real impact upon him. If anyone thought it was the sort of behaviour a 15-year-old boy would fantasise about, this case gives the lie to that very false picture. You deserve to go to prison for what you did, it was not a one off but a string of different sexual acts against him that summer. The very fact that he came forward last year to tell someone tells you it is not something he has been able to leave behind at all.”
Then the judge sentenced her to 21 months in prison – suspended for 2 years. Yet again, no jail for the female offender. Her victim “stormed angrily” out of the courtroom.
Is this lenience to women sex offenders because the victim is male? There may be an element of that, but it is certainly not the only factor. Women offending against girls are also treated leniently. Take the case of 27 year old Cumbrian teacher Hayley Southwell. She groomed a 15 year old girl pupil, including the use of a large number of “intimate and explicit” text messages and moving images. They ‘counted down the days’ until her 16th birthday after which the teacher admitted they had had a sexual relationship (it would seem in ignorance of such an act still being illegal at 16). The judge said the explicit texts and images were a significant aggravating feature. Nevertheless, he gave Southwell only a suspended sentence on the basis that “the relationship appeared to be a case of mutual affection”. Hmm, I think we can conclude there was some mutual affection between Rolf Harris and his daughter’s friend, given that their adult affair lasted 10 or 11 years. But what’s mitigation for the goose is not mitigation for the gander, clearly.
And here’s another involving a female victim, in this case no older than 12. Charlotte Holl, 25, was a female beauty pageant judge when she intensively groomed and ultimately sexually assaulted a young girl, plying her with cigarettes and alcohol. Holl sent 1,200 texts and social media messages to her victim – who was under 13-years-old. But Holl was spared jail. She was given an 18-month jail sentence suspended for two years after she admitted four sexual assaults on the girl and “being an adult who met a girl following grooming”.
Then there is the case of Coventry PE teacher, Sandrine Brown, 31, who admitted sex acts with two teenage girl pupils from her school. She was caught in bed with both girls, aged 13 and 16, at same time leading to Brown’s arrest in April this year. Brown is yet to be sentenced and may face jail.
Oddest of all in respect of female-on-female sex offenses are those which involve the abuser pretending to be male. A case currently topical is that of 25 year old Gayle Newland of Cheshire. Her victim, though, was another adult woman, also 25. The complainant and Newland were friends, as women. But the complainant claimed that Newland had also taken the persona of a man and had tricked her into wearing a blindfold whenever they met, including the ten or so times they had sex – with Newland wearing a prosthetic penis. The defendant claimed, unsuccessfully, that there was no blindfold and her partner was both consenting and knowing regarding her true gender. False accusation? Who knows, but I suspect that impersonating a man made Newland’s position in court far more problematic for her defence. She got eight years – clearly her male impersonation was good enough to get a man’s sentence.
Oddly, a similar case earlier this year, and involving underage girls, failed to attract attention – that of Christine Wilson of Aberdeen. She was 19 to 21 when the offences took place; her victims were 13. Presenting herself as a 17 year old male, Wilson “used a sex toy to persuade the girls of her sex”. Unlike the Newland case, the virginal girls in question would be easier to fool. Unusually one of the victims has identified herself, Megan Adie. She was unaware of the deceit until the police told her and was outraged at the sentence Wilson received: probation and 240 hours community service. Adie said, “She will be able to go back to her own house and lie in her own bed again. I will also be lying in mine, still trying to deal with what she has done to me. I really hope the judge has thought this sentence through because if Christine does this again, I hope he knows it’s on his conscience”. Judges don’t think like that, Adie.
The judge said that Wilson’s gender identity disorder led her to genuinely feel that she was male and that significantly lowered her culpability. My mind just refuses the fence on that one. Had Wilson felt authentically like a man she would have had a heightened sense of culpability, not the reverse. Moreover, her feelings are not the issue. If I genuinely believe I deserve that BMW 7-series I just stole, does that justify my theft? The issue, in any case, is unlawful sexual activity with a minor – regardless of Wilson’s sex or sexuality. What do we pay these judges for?
These male-impersonator cases may not be as rare as you’d think. There was a documentary on UK TV a couple of years ago in which a late-teenage girl had fooled a younger girl into believing she was a boy. She ended up in bed with her and raped her with a 6 inch wooden dildo. A woman acquaintance who watched the documentary with me opined, “she’s not a rapist, she’s just a poor confused girl”. Well, of course, those two statements are not mutually exclusive. My annoyance at the remark lies, as always, in the double standard. Had the girl been a boy and behaved in exactly the same way, there would be no qualification of the designation “rapist”. Having the nerve to suggest that a male perpetrator might be a “poor confused boy” would not be well received, and might meet with screeches of “rape apologist”.
All these cases were recent and in the UK.
The few cases reviewed above are certainly the tip of the iceberg as regards illegal sexual activities between women and underage boys or girls. Evidence is beginning to accumulate supporting 20% – 25% of paedophiles being women. Michelle Elliott has long been of this opinion. More recently a UK study by the Lucy Faithfull Foundation has come to the view that up to 20% of paedophiles are women. Studies in the USA by the National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect have reached a similar conclusion: “the sexual abuse of children by women, primarily mothers, once thought to be so rare it could be ignored, constituted 25% of the sexually abused victims”. Like Michelle Elliott’s work, this knowledge goes back twenty years. It is not news, but it is only in recent years that it has begun to surface in public discussion. A 2014 US study by Wurtele et al based on anonymous self-reporting of sexual interest in children also indicated that ~25% of people admitting to such interest were women.
In the USA the number of prosecutions of female teachers for sexual abuse of their pupils is now in the hundreds per year, and rising as the phenomenon has become recognised. In U.S. schools in 2014 almost 800 school employees were prosecuted for sexual assault, nearly a third of them women. The proportion of identified women offenders is increasing steeply.
Jenni Murray has difficulty understanding why women do it. This is the opinion of Anthony Beech, criminological psychology professor at the University of Birmingham: “The teachers feel entitled. They think they can have sex with anyone they want. It’s power imbalance and manipulation. There’s a narcissism – I can do what I want because I’m the most important person going.”
In July 2014 there were 11,150 people in prison in the UK for sex offences. If the recent rate of increase in sex offence prisoners has continued, there will be about 12,000 by now. About 99% of them are men. Eight UK men’s prisons contain nothing but sex offenders. The average sentence for sex offences has increased from 40 months to 59 months over the ten year period to 2013. There is a considerable appetite for putting men in prison for sex offences. Chris Grayling, Justice Sectretary, has said, “I make no apology for putting sex offenders where they deserve to be”. He has not, to my knowledge, made explicit that the place they deserve to be differs according to sex. Based on June 2013 data, only 0.7% of imprisoned sexual offenders are women.
In 2009 there were 56 female child sex abusers in custody, with 49 sentenced and seven on remand. Another 84 were under supervision in the community. Fewer than 2% of people on the sex offenders register were then women. In June 2013 just 77 sentenced sex offenders were women. I cannot reconcile that figure with the claim that the number of female sex offenders in Wales alone increased from 78 in 2009 to 193 in 2012, though the significant thing is that all these figures are tiny compared with the number of male sex prisoners (i.e., approaching 12,000).
Though still a tiny fraction of the number of convicted males, the rate at which women are being convicted of sex offences is increasing rapidly – though not reflected in the prison population. It is probably fair to say that in the UK this phenomenon has yet to be properly acknowledged or reported but is presently beneath the surface.
The above examples demonstrate that women’s offending commonly displays the following characteristics: persistent grooming which continues for years, offences against multiple victims, offences against pre-pubescent victims (hence physically as well as legally children), and threats in the event of disclosure. The words used by judges in their summing-up at the trials have included statements such as, “a disgraceful abuse of power“, “a case of gross child abuse“, and “very serious offences indeed“.
And yet the women whose offences were described in these terms still received only suspended sentences. Why?
Don’t mistake my intent here. I am not one of the flog ’em and hang ’em brigade. I have no particular opinion regarding what the appropriate punishment should be. My question relates only to the stark contrast between the treatment of these women and the treatment of Rolf Harris, or other men, for offences which were no worse, even if you believe every word of the accusers.
The reason, of course, is that the judiciary reflects societal prejudice.
The prejudice of society could not be clearer. There is a double prejudice in these cases, one in respect of the offender and one in respect of the victim. If a man and a woman commit exactly the same sexual offence it is perceived by most people as being far more heinous in the case of a male perpetrator. As regards victims, if a boy and a girl are subject to the same sexual abuse, it is perceived by most people as being far less serious in the case of the male victim.
For completeness I note that female sex offenders do not always escape gaol. Such cases, however, are generally more heinous than those reviewed above. For example, Loren Morris was jailed for a nominal two years in March 2014 (though she will actually have been released long ago). Morris had full sexual intercourse with an eight year old boy at least 50 times, starting when she was 16. She continued having sex with the boy until he was 10. Now 21, Morris has a child of her own. The photo, above, showing her smiling and smoking, was taken outside court as she awaited her sentence.
And there was the case of Caron Lewty, the 48 year old music teacher from Leeds, who was jailed in 2015 for 6 months for sex offences against a vulnerable 17 year old boy at the special needs school where she worked. The boy was described as having learning difficulties, a general developmental delay and a lack of stranger-danger awareness. Lewty kissed and exchanged flirty messages with the vulnerable teenager and they also engaged in sexual activity in her bed on two occasions. Lewty, who will be released from prison shortly, will be on the sex offenders register for 7 years.
Consider the case of married religious studies teacher Madeleine Martin, the 39-year-old mother of two, who was jailed for 32 months and placed on the sex offenders’ register for sleeping with a 15-year-old male pupil. She had sex with the boy, who was younger than her own daughter, on many occasions, either in her car or in her house when her daughters were out. She even had the boy tattoo her name on his arm.
There was also Anne Lakey, tried for historical sex offences who was sentenced to eight years in prison. Lakey, now 55, was a nationally acclaimed head teacher in the 1980s. Earlier in her career, starting at age 28 when she was a history teacher, she groomed two boys, aged 13 and 15.
While she was married to the second of three husbands, Lakey had groomed the younger victim. He was encouraged to expose her breasts during a dare game at her home before she let him watch her bathe. She then took his virginity on the marital bed while he was still in his school uniform. She seduced the other boy in a tent at a camp in the middle of the night after she encouraged him to sneak over. The teacher had told her husband Eamonn Toland to sleep in a separate tent before asking the boy to visit her. She had repeated sexual relations with the two boys over several years.
Lakey denied all the allegations but admitted having a legal, sexual relationship with the older complainant when he was 18. The police were of the view that more victims may be involved and urged others to come forward.
When women are imprisoned for sex offenses against underage boys, many people struggle to interpret this as just. Many (most?) people simply do not believe that the sexual exploitation of boys is damaging. Barbara Ellen, responding to the case of Madeleine Martin, wrote in the Guardian, “do we seriously think that a female teacher sleeping with a male pupil is on a par with a male teacher sleeping with a girl pupil? I don’t. And neither, I’d wager, would most 15-year-old boys….If anything, one would have thought they might be jealous. The internet is awash with sites dealing with “older woman teacher-pupil” fantasies. And there lies the rub – should the law be treating male and female pupil victims equally when male and female teenagers are so different?”
Barbara Ellen can rest assured that, in general, the judiciary reflects her (overtly sexist) position, as do most of society. Barbara Ellen’s position, simply put, is that “he enjoyed it and he should be grateful for the attention”. Think of these same sentiments expressed in the context of a man’s sexual exploitation of a girl. Barbara Ellen’s views are obnoxious, but, I suspect, distressingly common. In her world view only females are precious and vulnerable. Males are neither. It never crosses her mind that a teenage boy’s facade of sexual bravado has been imposed upon him by a gynocentric society – because the assumption of braggadocio is the role which boys have been allotted. It is no coincidence that this psychological trap then gives spurious justification to female preference. That the outcomes for sexually exploited boys are no different from those for girls is something in which Barbara Ellen and her kind have no interest.
This is the empathy gap: the source of most male disadvantage. It is this same empathy gap which permits male victimisation to be vanished away. This vanishing away of male victimisation is official CPS VAWG policy. It is reflected in, for example, the public being unaware that not all the victims of Rotherham and Oxfordshire were girls – at least 50 and 80 respectively were boys. The Rotherham report noted that none of the boy victims had been flagged by social workers as “risky business” and stressed the importance of “making sure that judgments about child sexual exploitation are consistent and gender neutral, for example by asking if the same level of risk would be acceptable if the child was the opposite gender“. This is not a new observation. In the USA, a 2008 report revealed that, in New York City, about 50% of the victims of commercial sexual exploitation of children were boys. In 2013 a report by the organisation End Child Pornography and Trafficking extended this conclusion to the USA as a whole. In 2014 in the UK Barnado’s criticised the stereotypical belief that boys are less vulnerable to child sexual exploitation, observing that this has led to boys receiving insufficient protection from front-line services. Barnardo’s stated that new findings indicate up to a third of child victims are male.
I may seem to have strayed from my brief, namely the different treatment of male and female sex offenders, by both the public and the courts. But my point is that the invisibility of male victims of sexual abuse, and the harsher treatment of male perpetrators of sexual abuse, have a common cause: the empathy gap for males.
The public are deeply sexist, men and women both. This is why they can demand that Rolf Harris be thrown into the nethermost pit of hell, whilst simultaneously regarding women who commit very similar offences, or worse, as merely “having an illicit fling”. This anti-male sexism has been inflamed to neurotic proportions by feminism. Masculinity is intrinsically toxic. Male sexuality is essentially nasty. Any expression of male sexuality, however mild, will be seen as threatening and abusive. Women’s sexuality, on the other hand, is benign – even when they do exactly the same thing.
The ambient mythology of women’s perpetually caring and compassionate nature protects them from being seen as sexually predatory. The myth trumps reality at every turn. Reality is perceived through the filter of society’s preconceptions. This is what sexism is. Everything a man does is exploitative, predatory, damaging, dangerous and an expression of his male power. Nothing a woman does can possibly be any of these things, even when it is.
A man touching a woman’s bottom is a monstrous predator. But if a woman were to fondle my behind in a public place (and, yes, it’s happened, more than once) it is not something that I could even complain about without being mocked. Not that I have the slightest wish to. I’m not playing the victim here. I have not been socialised to regard myself as so precious that I need the fainting couch over such trivia. But the feminist victimhood mentality is precisely such pretension. It is convenient for feminists to appear vulnerable, because their illusion of vulnerability is their strength, their power.
And this is what the vilification of the likes of Rolf Harris is really about: power. This, and the ocean of propaganda in which we swim, is to remind us constantly that all men are niggers and we need to remember our place.