Decriminalization of teacher/student sexual activity is not the answer.
Last Friday, the Washington Post ran a controversial opinion piece written by a former attorney named Betsy Karasik. In the piece, Ms. Karasik argued that some incidents of sexual activity should not be considered a criminal act. As a reaction to this column, MaleSurvivor Executive Director Christopher Anderson collaborated with the partners listed below to draft a response that was sent to the Washington Post in hopes that our response would be given equal space. 

Today, the Post agreed to run a part of this letter under Chris' name. Below is the full text of the letter along with all the signers.

Please share this full version. It is important that the message be heard. 
September 6, 2013


We, the undersigned, emphatically disagree with Betsy Karasik that student/teacher sex should be decriminalized. We also express in the strongest measure our disappointment with the Washington Post for giving her a national platform - remarkably, just one day after issuing an editorial strongly rebuking a Montana judge for his unacceptable comments and inappropriately lenient sentencing of a then 49-year-old teacher convicted of raping a 14 year old student.


Sexual activity between teachers and students is a profound ethical violation. The authority placed in teachers, coaches, counselors, or other instructors creates an inescapable responsibility to maintain appropriate behavioral boundaries. When that line is crossed, the power differential between teacher and student creates an abusive betrayal of the trust placed in the teacher by the student and the community. A student's willingness to engage in a sexual liaison with a teacher cannot eradicate this truth. As Dr. Richard Gartner, a pioneer in the treatment of men sexually abused as boys, has written, "Even seemingly consensual situations may turn out to have long term negative effects.... There's no way for an adult to know whether a particular child--even if he seems happy to participate--will be affected negatively by taking part in sex acts.  And the very last person we can expect to be objective about the needs and best interests of a child is the adult who sexually desires that child."


The high levels of sexual abuse of children and teens in our society are further evidence for the need for stronger prohibitions, not weaker ones. Decades of research indicate that at least 10%, and perhaps more than 20% of all persons under the age 18 are sexually abused. In addition, overwhelming evidence makes clear that many victims suffer significant long-term emotional harm in these cases. Suggesting that legal sanctions are unwarranted based upon a small sample of self-selected anecdotes is both intellectually irresponsible and a needlessly cruel insult to millions of people who were sexually abused as children.


Criminalizing sexual activity between age-appropriate, truly consenting people is not a good idea. Yet the prevalence of abuse and the significant risk to students' long-term health and well being necessitates that clear legal boundaries be drawn and enforced between teachers and students. Stronger enforcement of professional and legal sanctions against teachers who violate these boundaries is required. Importantly, better enforcement does not imply that draconian punishments are required for all offenders.


A great deal of evidence indicates that decriminalization would lead to more students being sexually exploited, abused and harmed. Decriminalization would wrongly signal to many, including potential abusive teachers and student victims, that teacher/student sexual encounters are not harmful. It would also effectively empower perpetrators of sexual abuse, and make it more difficult for many victims to get support. Ms. Karasik is right to be concerned about the stigma and pressures victims face in the legal system, but decriminalization is not a solution to those problems, and certainly would not provide the support that all victims of sexual exploitation and violence deserve.




Christopher M. Anderson

Executive Director



Lois Beekman

Former Advisory Board Chair,

Darkness to Light


Omar Bell




Julie Brand, M.S

Caper Consulting 


Elissa Brown, Ph.D.

Founder and Executive Director

Child HELP Partnership 

Professor of Psychology

St. John's University


Jim Campbell, PhD

Coordinator, University of Wisconsin-Madison Conference on Child Sexual Abuse 


Roger Canaff, JD

Former Prosecutor, Child Protection Expert


David Clohessy
Executive Director, SNAP 


Norris J. Chumley, Ph.D.  

Author, Executive Producer, Professor


James T. Clemente

Retired FBI Supervisory Special Agent

Child Sex Crimes Expert Witness


Joanna Colrain, LPC, CGP


MaleSurvivor Weekends of Recovery


Mark Crawford

NJ Sate Director, SNAP  

Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests


Michael Deninger, Ph.D.




Andy Dishman; MDiv; LPC


MaleSurvivor Weekends of Recovery

Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program
Clinical Professor of Medicine, University of California

Beth Finkelstein

Executive Director,

New York Center for Children


Kenneth Followell 

President, MaleSurvivor


Howard Fradkin, Ph.D.


MaleSurvivor Weekends of Recovery


Sandi Forti, Ph.D


MaleSurvivor Weekends of Recovery


Donna Fox, MSSW, CAPSW

Executive Director,

Canopy Center 


Richard Gartner, Ph.D.

Training and Supervising Analyst, Faculty, and Founding Director of Sexual Abuse Service,  

William Alanson White Institute for Psychiatry, Psychoanalysis, and Psychology


Michael W Gillum

Licensed Psychologist

Director, Let Go, Let Peace Come In 

Silent No More Group


Marilyn Grundy

Symposium Coordinator

National Children's Advocacy Center  


Marci A. Hamilton

Benjamin N. Cardozo Law School
Yeshiva University

Robert Hoatson, Ph.D.


Road to Recovery, Inc.


James W. Hopper, Ph.D.

Independent Consultant and Clinical Instructor of Psychology

Harvard Medical School


Mic Hunter, Ph.D. LMFT 

Author, Abused Boys: The Neglected Victims Of Sexual Abuse


Todd Kostrub

William C. Kellibrew, IV
Trauma Survivor

David O. McCall, Ph.D.

Private Practice, Washington, D.C.


Yale University School of Medicine


Sandi Capuano Morrison

Executive Director,

Institute on Violence, Abuse, and Trauma at Alliant International University 


Ernesto Mujica, PhD

Adjunct Faculty, TC-Columbia University 


The National Center for Victims of Crime 


National Sexual Violence Resource Center 


Chris Newlin, MS LPC

Executive Director,

National Children's Advocacy Center 


Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape 


Matt Paknis 

Board Member,



Scott Pitts

CEO, Scott Pitts Consulting 

Owner, Event Merchandise Group

MaleSurvivor Advisory Board 


David Pittman

Executive Director,

Together We Heal

Support Group Leader, South FL Area, SNAP


Angela Rose

PAVE: Promoting Awareness, Victim Empowerment


Mikele Rauch, LMFT 


MaleSurvivor Weekends of Recovery


Amy Russell

Deputy Director,

Gundersen's National Child Protection Training Center 


Joanna Schroeder

Senior Editor,

The Good Men Project 


Jim Struve, LCSW


MaleSurvivor Weekends of Recovery


Murray Schane, M.D.


Charol Shakeshaft, Ph.D 


Virginia Commonwealth University


Michael Skinner,


The Surviving Spirit


Stephanie M. Smith

Southern Regional Director,

Gundersen's National Child Protection Training Center 


Carol Smolenski

Executive Director,



C.J. Sumner

Board Member,



Basyle J. Tchividjian, J.D.

Executive Director, GRACE 

Associate Professor of Law,

Liberty University School of Law


Viola Vaughan-Eden, PhD, MJ, LCSW


American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children 


Victor Vieth, J.D.

Executive Director,

Gundersen's National Child Protection Training Center 


John L. Walker, Ph.D

Survivor and Board Member,



Debra Warner, Psy.D. 

Forensic Psychologist


Beverly Whipple, Phd, RN, FAAN 

Professor Emerita,

Rutgers University