While sex abuse cases are all too common, prosecutors and child victim advocates say prosecutions of adult women sexually attacking boys are extremely rare. All unrelated, the three cases in the District surprised local authorities and have raised awareness of an often-underreported crime.
“This is unusual,” said prosecutor Kelly Higashi, chief of the sex offense and domestic violence section of the D.C. Superior Court unit for the U.S. attorney’s office. “People do not often recognize the harm this does to a boy.”
Teenage boys rarely report such attacks to police or to close family members, authorities said. The boys keep the abuse quiet, either out of guilt or, in some cases, because they believe such incidents are a rite of passage to adulthood.
Child welfare advocates say there is a double standard that makes it more difficult to identify cases involving adult female attackers and young male victims.
“If you put a teenage girl in the same situation and the abuser is a male, you will have an entirely different reaction from society,” said Deborah Donavan Rice, executive director of Stop it Now, a Northampton, Mass.-based child sex abuse prevention group. “But child sexual abuse is child sexual abuse.”
It is difficult to determine how often boys are sexually assaulted by women. One group, the National Center for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, estimates that instances involving female offenders and male juvenile victims make up less than 14 percent of sex abuse cases nationwide. Other groups say such cases are less common. Still, advocates say, parents of boys who are victims are becoming more likely to report such crimes, and authorities are prosecuting them more aggressively.
Christopher Mallios of Aequitas, a District-based sex-crime victim advocacy group, said during his 16 years as a Philadelphia prosecutor he had seen police and prosecutors “high-five” teenage boys who had been sexually assaulted by women, saying that the boys were “lucky.”
Mallios said that view — that teenage male victims should not being taken seriously — is slowly being eradicated. “It’s rape because the law says it is rape,” he said. “Minors legally cannot consent to sex with adults.”
D.C. sex crime prosecutor Higashi said it is often adults close to the victims who coax them into talking about the abuse and to come forward, and she praised adults in the D.C. cases for being willing to support the children involved. It is often because boys feel uncomfortable talking about what happened that leads them to keep silent, she said.