Earlier this year a 23-year-old teacher named Debra Lafave has convicted of having sex with her 14-year-old student on school property. It was a long-lasting “relationship”, in which she claimed that the child was her boyfriend, even though by her own admission, they had little in common (duh!). When they were eventually found out, she was arrested, tried and pleaded insanity to the charge of “committing lewd or lascivious battery on a person under age 16”. A Florida judge gave her 3 years of house arrest followed by 4 years of probation. Florida has instituted Jessica’s law, which dictates mandatory 25-year minimum jail sentences for child sex offenders when the victim is 12 years old or younger. However, even though there were mitigating circumstances that should have worsened the crime and lengthened her sentence — she was the boy’s teacher, which is an authority figure — she was given only three years probation.
Recently, Lafave appeared on the Today Show and a few others programs claiming that she was raped as a child herself (at the age of 13 by a 13-year-old boy in her school) and that she is bipolar. She claimed that she was telling her story in order to raise awareness of the disease (which is in fact very serious). And there are now surfacing rumors of a potential book deal about the whole sorted affair.
So, I have several thoughts, comments and questions about this case…
First, this sentence was incredibly light. This woman should be in prison, not on the Today Show. She should be considered a criminal sex offender who raped a young boy and destroyed his life, not glamorized on television and signing book deals. If this woman were a man, she’d be in prison for 30 years. But because she’s an attractive woman (see picture, not to mention that she was in Playboy back in ’91 — not that I looked that one up…
… a flagrant double standard kicks in and here she is talking with Matt Lower about how she’s the victim.
This is just plain wrong, and my question is why? Why is there a double standard? Why can a beautiful woman like this get off the hook? Why do so many people think that this boy should be lauded as macho for “getting some” from his hot teacher, rather than pitied for the reality that he more than likely faces a lifetime of therapy and difficult relationships? After all, his parents have made it very clear that he was severely emotionally traumatized over the whole thing. Has our society been so over-sexualized that we are now inclined to let people get away with this stuff as long as they look good in front of the camera?
My second question is whether or not anyone buys the insanity plea? She blames it on being raped herself (although her story there is full of holes). And althogh that would be horrible, sad and traumatic (if true), it still doesn’t excuse her choices as an adult. And the evidence doesn’t really support her bipolar claim either. Even if she does have the disease (which I doubt), that also doesn’t excuse her. She should be in a hospital getting help, not on the Today Show getting legitimized — arguably even glorified.
My third question is about the judge and the justice system. How can these judges get away with these kinds of light sentences? Have our standards of conduct disintegrated so far that we no longer think stuff like this is a big deal? Do we really worship sex so much that we admire for the kid for doing something about being “hot for teacher”? Do people even realize that this kid was raped!? That his life has now been turned upside down by something that should never have happened to him? It’s not cool. It’s not macho. It’s horribly sad.
Lastly, what’s with the blatantly obvious double standard? I guess we also worship sexy people to the point that being in Playboy in ’91 is enough to get you off the hook (3 years house arrest vs. 30 years in the slammer = off the hook, as far as I’m concerned) for royally screwing up a kid’s life? No pun intended. What’s up with that? Womens’ rights groups should be going crazy with anger at how this woman was treated differently than a man in her position, right? Just like human rights groups should be furious about what happened to this poor kid, right? Where are they?
So, the summary (and I know this will come as a shock) is that I’m appalled … by all of it. What do you think?