We must stop minimizing the sexual abuse of boys

This 14-year-old boy was NOT “having sex” with his teacher.

Haley Halverson, Vice President of advocacy and outreach at the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, published this opinion piece in The Daytona Beach New-Journal on the often overlooked situations of sexual exploitation of men and boys.

"Stephanie Peterson Ferri, a former middle school teacher in New Smyrna Beach, has been arrested after she was accused of sexually abusing a 14-year-old boy.

However, if you go by most major news coverage you will find headline after headline characterizing this crime as “having sex,” a “sexual relationship,” or even a “sex romp.”

This 14-year-old boy was not “having sex” with his teacher. He was being sexually abused.

The 14-year-old boy in question was first in Ferri’s class when he was in seventh grade. In eighth grade, he worked as a teacher’s aid for her. Police say Ferri began sending him nude images on Instagram and Snapchat and buying him marijuana, in addition to sexually abusing him.

During this time his grades began slipping, and The News-Journal reported the victim became emotional when he finally confided to his mother about the abuse, saying “anyone could molest you.”

Stephanie Peterson Ferri has been charged with two counts of lewd and lascivious battery and one count of transmission of harmful materials to a minor.

We must stop minimizing the sexual abuse of boys.

Whenever news breaks about a female teacher sexually abusing one of her male students, the news cycle is quick to spin the story as one of a sex-crazed, hot female teacher and a lucky young student.

Would reporters cover this case of abuse with such callousness if the teacher were a male adult and the student a 14-year-old girl?

There is a reason that sexual contact between adults and children is illegal. There can be no meaningful consent to engage in sex between adults and children. All adults, and particularly teachers, are in positions of authority and trust over the children in their lives. When a person who is in that position of power, uses it to abuse, it cannot be tolerated. And as this case clearly demonstrates, from the boy’s slipping grades and tearful admission, he was traumatized by the sexual abuse.

For too long, male sexual exploitation victims have been overlooked.

A systematic review and meta-analysis of 55 empirical studies from 24 countries, found that child sexual abuse prevalence estimates ranged from 3 percent to 17 percent for boys (8 percent to 31 percent for girls). Specifically, the study found that 3 percent of men have suffered forced intercourse, 6 percent contact abuse, 8 percent mixed sexual abuse, and 17 percent non-contact abuse.

When our society does not recognize these realities, countless men and boys suffer in silence without receiving the appropriate services for recovery.

It’s past time for society to use language that reflects the true nature of these types of crimes against children."

To learn more, visit the National Center on Sexual Exploitation’s project Out of the Shadows: Addressing the Sexual Exploitation of Boys and Men