Photo: Courtesy of Essex County Correctional Facility.
On Wednesday night, a language-arts teacher at Columbia High School in Maplewood, NJ was arrested and charged with multiple accounts of aggravated sexual assault and child welfare endangerment involving three fifteen-year-old students. When the story broke, local residents launched a Twitter conversation about the case, cracking jokes about how funny and ridiculous the whole thing was. After all, Nicole Dufault was a woman, and the students in question were male.
Dufault allegedly assaulted the students many times over the course of the 2013-2014 school year as well as the summer. She's been accused of forcing oral sex and intercourse on the boys, both on school property and in her car. Using the #FreeMsDufault hashtag, @WatAbt_Pat tweeted, "She was cool as hell." Said @DevonSeventyOne: "I wish she coulda topped me, too."
Apparently, this must be said: Rape is rape. No matter the gender of the aggressor or the survivor. The response to Dufault's case is just the latest example of cultural disregard and disbelief around cases of female sexual predators and male assault victims. And, before you roll your eyes, while women do remain the overwhelming target of sexual assault, it's been estimated that one out of six males are sexually abused or assaulted by the age of 18 — and that's not counting all the assaults that go unreported.
Photo: Courtesy of Columbia High School.
One reason the issue is so underreported is that society has conditioned us to believe that men and boys "cannot" be assaulted by women — or that an erection equals consent. Andrew Bailey threw this double standard into the spotlight last year with his viral video monologue, "Why Rape Is Sincerely Hilarious." Recounting his own childhood molestation by a female teacher, Bailey explains how, for years, he believed it didn't count as actual assault. "I must have wanted it," he thought. He went on to recount how the trauma of the assault vs. the reaction of his friends ("It was the most popular I've been in my whole life") warped his entire adult life. Bailey's gutting tale is just one example of what happens to a person, male or female, when assault goes invalidated or unacknowledged.
It's interesting to contrast #FreeMsDufault with what happened in 2005, when another Columbia High School teacher, Nelson Trias, was charged with five counts of sexual assault involving a 15-year-old female student. Twitter wasn’t the force then that is is now, but we bet that response would have been different. Again: Rape is rape.