In recent days, I have twice seen a television trailer for That's My Boy, a new movie featuring the dubious pairing of Adam Sandler and Andy Samberg, both of Saturday Night Live fame. Embedded in the storyline is the premise that Sandler's character was seduced by his teacher as a young teenager. The result was a pregnancy—followed by high-fives for the 13-year-old father in the courtroom during the teacher's trial—and the birth of their child, played by Samberg. The father, whom Samberg's character calls "basically the worst parent ever," tries to reconnect with his son when he needs money.

I don't anticipate much redeeming value in this movie, and I don't plan to see it. But the trailer caught my attention because of its casual suggestion that the sexual abuse of boys is funny.

Such a depiction of sexual contact between adult women and boys is not unusual. As one recent story points out, myths and stereotypes frequently distort our view of boys who are sexually abused by adult women. Many assume that such contact is every boy's dream, that boys want to be seduced, and that such an experience is somehow a sexual conquest for the victim. Thus, we seem far less troubled when adult women abuse boys than when men abuse girls.

The reality is, all such cases involve the sexual exploitation of children, regardless of gender. Like other sex crimes, sexual abuse is an act of violence and power, not an act of love or even desire. The child experiencing abuse is not a victor; he is a victim.

Both in and outside the church, in recent decades we have become much more open in discussing the prevalence and effects of sexual abuse. But the abuse of boys by adult women remains largely hidden and is often waved away by not only popular culture, but even by those charged with protecting the abused. Research indicates that one in six boys is sexually abused before age 18. Such abuse happens at the hands of both men and women. Experts claim sexual abuse of boys is an underreported crime—and among the factors that discourage reporting are the stereotypes that say abused boys should enjoy sex with older women and should believe they've made a conquest.

As with girls, sexual abuse has a devastating effect on boys. According to the American Psychological Association, both male and female survivors of child sexual abuse often suffer depression, anxiety, sexual dysfunction, alcoholism, drug abuse, anxiety attacks, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Prolific Christian writer Cecil Murphey focused on this topic in his book When a Man You Love Was Abused. Murphey, who was sexually abused by a female relative, has invited other men to share their stories on his blog, Shattering the Silence. A read through these men's posts quickly shatters the myth that sexual abuse of boys is a welcome and confidence-building experience.

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Our justice system is inconsistent in its response to women who sexually abuse boys. Recently a Georgia woman, Shannon Alicia Schmieder, was sentenced to 40 years in prison for her sexual abuse of a 14-year-old boy, a family friend she had known since his birth. By contrast, when Arizona teacher Gabriela Compton was convicted of three counts of sexual abuse with a minor, among other charges, she could have faced 39 years in prison; instead, she was sentenced to probation.

Statistics say girls are more likely than boys to be sexually abused—so we may be less likely to think of boys as needing our protection. But sexual abuse is a crime against individual innocence. For a child who is abused, statistics don't matter—what matters is their own pain.

Women in the West are increasingly united and vocal in our commitment to fight the victimization of girls. We dedicate ourselves to ensuring that girls grow up with the same rights and opportunities we enjoy and that they live in a world that respects their innocence now and their boundaries later. We are outraged when men justify crimes against women and girls by suggesting that "she wanted it" or "she was asking for it." But how many of us are willing to overlook this assumption when it's applied to boys?

Some of us have a complicated view of boys. Depending on our history, we might see boys only as future men and stereotype them as sexually powerful, perhaps even as potential sexual predators. Some of us might be tempted to take a little pleasure in seeing the tables turned against males. But boys are not victimizers in waiting; they are children, innocent and vulnerable and deserving of our protection and advocacy.

Few Christian ministries are dedicated to fighting child sexual abuse. Those admirable Christian groups (like Tennyson Center for Children and FaithTrust Institute) who do speak out on the subject should consider making it a special priority to protect boys who are abused, because they are the victims most overlooked. Churches should work to educate their members and protect their children from abuse, with training programs such as Reducing the Risk. As they do so, may they not neglect to address the reality that boys are sometimes abused by adult women, and may they not assume only men are abusers. As vigilant individuals who educate ourselves and watch for signs that children are in danger, we must not overlook our responsibility toward boys. As media consumers, we can't justify laughing along with people who think sexual abuse of boys is a joke. As a society with the power of the legal system, the professional counseling community, and the witness of the church, we have an obligation to protect those who need protection. And as people of God, we must advocate justice for everyone.

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Note: If you or someone you love is affected by child sexual abuse, or if you suspect abuse, this list of organizations may help you find assistance.

Amy Simpson is editor of Christianity Today's Gifted for Leadership, a freelance writer, and author of numerous resources for Christian ministry, including Into the Word: How to Get the Most from Your Bible (NavPress) and the forthcoming Troubled Minds: Mental Illness and the Church's Mission (InterVarsity Press). You can find her at and on Twitter @aresimpson.