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A Child Abuse Investigator's Perspective: Mary Kay Letourneau Fualaau is a Female Predator

On April 10th, ABC’s 20/20 featured a new Barbara Walters interview. The subjects were Mary Kay Letourneau Fualaau and her husband and victim Vili Fualaau. The hook for the interview was that that Fualaau’s are soon celebrating their 10th wedding anniversary. To call this entire thing creepy is an injustice to creepiness.
Mary Kay Letourneau Fualaau

by Patrick Perion

(Patrick Perion is a child abuse investigator in the Mid West)

On April 10th, ABC's 20/20 featured a new Barbara Walters interview.  The subjects were Mary Kay Letourneau Fualaau and her husband and victim Vili Fualaau.  The hook for the interview was that that Fualaau's are soon celebrating their 10th wedding anniversary. To call this entire thing creepy is an injustice to creepiness.

During the interview, the audience was treated to some inner details of Letourneau's abuse of Fualaau - how she was smitten with a 12 year old boy when she was 34, and how one kiss turned into "an affair".  Letourneau detailed a night when a shared a kiss after spending the summer helping him develop a gift for drawing:

"The incident was a late night that it didn't stop with a kiss," Mary said. "And I thought that it would and it didn't."

The problem with this entire interview is that this wasn't an affair.  It was child sexual abuse. Period. Mary Kay Letourneau was the first female predator of the modern media era and her abuse of Fualaau was just as heinous as Jerry Sandusky. She also employed many of the same techniques: developing a bond with the child over some months before making a sexual move; using her authority as a teacher to enhance that bond, fawning over his talent (another textbook predator move); taking her time to make her move. As someone who has written about this subject extensively, I can say with full certainty that she was a really good predator.

People don't like to think of women as sexual predators, and I have only done a few cases in 21 years involving female perpetrators of child sexual abuse.  Female predators do exist, but they tend to be under reported. Even a Google search of "Female sex offenders" turns up little in hard data. There is however, a copious amount of anecdotal information.

What female predators usually have in common is that they seek out their victims in situations like schools and day cares. Like male predators they choose their victims from vulnerable populations, usually kids with serious dysfunction at home like Vili Fualaau, who grew up impoverished without a father and a tumultuous relationship with his mother.

Tracking down and locking up female predators is often times difficult, especially if the victim is a teen, these women aren't seen as predators or abusers. The boys who are abused by attractive young teachers are hailed as conquerors and not given the societal permission to understand that they were abused.

The media reports abuse of boys by female teachers as "threesomes".  Other outlets report that the teacher "solicited" the student. In the case of Letourno- Fualaau ABC chose to call it an affair. All of these cases are child sexual abuse. Attaching the words "child sexual abuser" to these cases gives them the stigma they deserve.

In the 20/20 interview, Mary Kay Letourneau said she wanted to be taken off the sex offender registry and stated that she wants to return to teaching. This should never happen. She may think she has atoned for her abuse but listening to her husband tells me that his pain lingers.

During the interview Vili Fualaau describes a dark journey since he was 13. Stating "I'm surprised I'm alive today" describing bouts of depression and substance abuse. Both are common reactions of sexual abuse victims.

In what may be the most surreal part of the interview, the Fualaau's were asked what their reaction would be if their daughters came home and told them they were 'sleeping with' AKA being abused by their teacher. Their response? They both said they'd be shocked and upset. Vili stated “I don't support younger kids being married or having a relationship with someone older,” Vili said. “I don't support it.”

Vili sounds like a guy who totally wasn't abused doesn't he?

Female predators are real. Sexual abuse of boys like Vili Fualaau is far more common than reported. Mary Kay Fualaau is the most famous case, but it is more common that one would think. The victims are preyed upon just as surely as if  the perpetrator were a man. Mary Kay Letourno Fualaau doesn't deserve to be removed from the registry. She made her bed (literally) and despite the time passed, now she still has to to lie in it and deservedly so.

(This article was originally published on the author's personal blog)