When I picture a pedophile I imagine a leathery-looking man sporting a terrible spray tan, with a creepy mustache, wearing sweat pants while driving an ice cream truck — not a middle-aged English teacher. Perhaps that’s why Melinda Dennehy is getting off so easy for sending multiple nude photos and racy texts to a 15-year-old male student. Maybe it’s because she doesn’t fit the societal mold of who a pedophile is supposed to be, and I think this is largely the problem when it comes to treating sex offenders equally.
The forty-one year-old high school English teacher and single mother of two will not be serving any jail time. Instead of facing a trial with felony charges and the seven years in prison that her actions suggest, she has been ordered to stay away from the teen and his family. She has been given two years probation.
The boy who received Dennehy’s provocative photographs informed police that she also sent him text messages offering to perform explicit sexual acts on him. He also added that she kissed him on the mouth in a classroom at least two times.
What I find most interesting about this story …
… are the reactions it is garnering. The general consensus seems to be big thumbs up to the 15-year-old boy for having the opportunity to see his sexy English teacher naked. One commenter on a Melinda Dennehy story over at The Huffington Post went so far as to say:
““Where were these awesome teachers when I was in school?”
This boy was sexually abused by a person in authority, an event that will forever shape his future interactions with women, in a worst-case scenario.
If the tables were turned, and a man sent photos to a young female student, I guarantee that there would be zero condescending remarks. I doubt that the punishment would be probation. It speaks volumes of the gender roles embedded in American culture. When a woman is sexually abused there is shame and outrage. When a boy is abused, people shrug their shoulders as if to say “he’s man, he can take it,” or worse that it’s somehow a helpful step into manhood. Abuse is abuse even when it’s coming from an attractive woman.
The bottom line is that Melinda Dennehy took advantage of a child.
This isn’t the first case of a female teacher serving little to no jail time for having sexual contact with a child. In 2006, Debra Lafave, a middle school teacher was sentenced to 3 years house arrest for having sex with a 14-year-old student on multiple occasions. Pamela Rogers Turner, a P.E teacher, served just 9 months for having a continuous sexual relationship with her 13-year-old male student.
It never fails to amaze me that female sexual offenders get a far less of a “sentencing” than male perpetrators do. I’m naturally not standing up for male perpetrators — on the contrary: I’m crying equal rights in punishment for both males and females in these types of circumstances. A child predator is a child predator no matter the gender.