Investigating the Influence of Perpetrator Gender on Public Perceptions and Media Portrayals of Teacher-Student Sexual Relationships

Charlotte Houghton, Calli Tzani, Maria Ioannou, Thomas Williams, Greta Darmanin Kissaun

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Concerns about sexual relationships between teachers and students have recently grown, with research limited about the perpetration of these crimes by female educators. In light of research gaps and theoretical controversy, this study aimed to investigate the influence of perpetrator gender on public perceptions and media portrayals of male and female sex offenders in the context of teacher-student sexual relationships. Utilizing a mixed methods design, 167 participants were presented with a vignette depicting either a male or female teacher convicted of statutory rape and completed either the attitudes towards male or female sex offender scales. Secondly, online newspaper portrayals of case studies were examined using qualitative content analysis. Findings revealed a significant difference in scores, whereby participants demonstrated more negative attitudes towards male sex offenders. The content analysis revealed three themes: accountability, perceptions of harm, and gender roles. Although portrayals of male teacher sex offenders were generally more negative, female abusers were described as equally damaging and deserving of punishment. It was concluded that gender bias that favors female perpetrators is infiltrated within public attitudes. Implications include the value of intervention and prevention strategies and improving victim reporting rates.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)754-765
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Police and Criminal Psychology
Issue number3
Early online date20 Jul 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2023

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