It’s Time to Face an Ugly Truth: Women Abuse, Too.
In the global movement against child sexual abuse, survivors and advocates continually grapple against two damaging myths.
Myth #1: “It was consensual. She wanted it.”
The first is a myth that defense attorneys love to use in cases where the survivor is female and the predator is male. It’s a tactic that silences victims into shame, because this myth capitalizes on the manipulation of predatory grooming. (Think: Roman Polanski)
Myth #2: “It’s natural and a rite of passage for an older woman to seduce a boy.”
Today, we are going to talk about the second myth—one that allowed child sexual abuse to flourish at Colton High School. It’s a myth that is perpetuated in the media—epitomized in the ‘80s rock song “Hot for Teacher.” (Think: Mary Kay LeTourneau)
The Case at Colton High School
According to media reports, Colton High School is a “pipeline to the NFL.” The team, led by storied coach Harold Strauss, has racked up championships and a roster of players who made it to Division 1 college teams and the NFL. There was just one problem: you had to get past the coach’s adult daughter, who used her role as an Athletic Trainer to molest student athletes for years.
Tiffany Gordon, who has been accused of abusing at least six boys, was not quiet or subtle about her predatory behavior. The boys on the team had a term for what happened when they met with Gordon: “spatting.” According to the survivors, it was common knowledge among the coaching staff that Gordon was “having sex” with students—that’s rape, in case you were wondering. Gordon is currently the Athletic Director at neighboring Grand Terrace High School.
Clearly, there was a problem. But because of a variety of factors including her father’s position, the success of the team, and especially the myth that the abuse didn’t harm the boys, she was allowed to stay in her job and continue to abuse kids. And then, those kids, her victims, also became the butt of the school-wide joke.
Those survivors ARE hurt and still suffer as a result of the abuse. In interviews, they have said that they have trust and intimacy issues. They suffer with feelings of depression, betrayal, shame and isolation. This can lead to addiction, violence, self-harm, and chronic disease, as shown in the findings of the landmark ACES Study. In fact, their pain mirrors that of boys who were sexually abuse by nuns or clergy and received no support or help from church officials or the greater community. The damage is profound, and, if not treated, lifelong.
How Do We Change This?
The best way to keep kids safe is to TALK: talk about the damage that abuse causes, talk about why it is NEVER okay for an adult (a woman or a man) to groom and sexually abuse kids. Talk to boys about how easy it is for a predator to take advantage of a child and manipulate them into thinking that the abuse is okay. Abuse is never okay.
If a man ever tells you that they were sexually abused as a child or teen by an adult woman, do not dismiss them with a wink and nod. Never tell a survivor that they should feel “lucky” that they had the experience. No child is “lucky” to be raped. It doesn’t matter who the predator is.
If you or someone you know was sexually abused as a child, no matter the gender of the perpetrator, it’s safe to come forward, report, and get help.
Survivors of child sexual abuse in California have until December 31, 2022 to take legal action under the California Child Victims Act. If you are concerned about your privacy, or remaining anonymous, you can learn more about that in our Questions & Answers section on our website.