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Sexual Abuse by Educators and School Staff

NCJ Number
Virginia Child Protection Newsletter Volume: 76 Dated: Spring 2006 Pages: 1-6
Joann Grayson Ph.D.
Date Published
6 pages
This overview of issues in sexual abuse of students by educators and school staff discusses the nature, prevalence, and prevention of such abuse.
Shoop (2004) describes sexual abuse by educators as "criminal sexual conduct that involves physical contact between the abuser and victim and a significant age difference between the parties." "Sexual harassment" has been defined as "unwanted sexual attention from administrators, teachers, peers, or school staff " (Hyman et al., 1997). There are few sources of reliable data on educator sexual abuse of students. Statistics on sexual harassment in schools are available, however, and they indicate widespread occurrence. Researchers agree that educators who sexually abuse students are often the most popular teachers, who work with students individually and/or in extracurricular activities. Official statistics indicate that the majority of abusers are male and their victims are female; however, surveys of students show a much higher percentage of female abusers and male victims. Abusers typically target students who are deemed to be in need of attention and emotional bonding from an adult. The effects of sexual abuse and/or harassment range from mild to severe symptoms, including avoidance of school and poor school performance. Student victims of abuse fail to report it because of the power imbalance and the fear they will not be believed. Teachers do not report suspicions that a colleague is abusing a student out of fear of falsely accusing him/her and being sued. Abusive actions are more likely to be detected and reported if a clear code of conduct for educators is known to both students and teachers and protections against false allegations are in place. Training programs for educators regarding the nature, seriousness, and effects of abuse can also help in preventing sexual abuse and harassment.