Patience Perez is a sexual predator.
Over the course of one month, the 24-year-old high school security guard at Virginia’s Renaissance Academy abused her position of trust to inappropriately engage a 15-year-old boy in the halls. She flirted with him, supplied him with alcohol and marijuana. And eventually, she repeatedly raped him.
Perez carried out her crimes at her home -- while her husband, a sailor, was away -- and at the boy’s home while his mother was at work. She told him that her husband was abusive and that she wanted him dead. She allegedly hinted that he could be the one the save her.
If not for finding nude pictures of Perez on her son’s phone, the sexual assaults would undoubtedly have continued -- and a 15-year-old boy may very well be on trial for murder. Instead, his humanity is being tried in a court of public opinion while Perez walks off into the sunset with her husband and a slap on the wrist from the judge.
Two years in prison, with all but seven months suspended, is the price that Perez will have to pay for raping a young boy under the influence of drugs and alcohol. And during those seven months, she is allowed to remain free as long as she undergoes counseling.
The boy, whose face is plastered all over the news yet desires to remain unnamed, told WTKR’s Jessica Larche that his life has been “ruined” by Perez and that though he isn’t physically hurt, “mentally it's hurt me a lot.”
“She saw me in the middle of the hallway and gave me her number and her email,” he said.
“Like any other teenager, you would think that you’re the man. You got this older female that’s giving you her contact information. Initially it was supposed to like the thing where, we just like, have sex and then like that’s it. But then it turned into something much more. It turned into a relationship,” he said.
He continued: “If it was a dude, if it was an older man and a younger female about my age, that dude would be locked up for rest of his life,” the boy said. “This has basically like ruined me.”
Yet the media doesn’t report it that way. WTKR’s headline states that he was “seduced.” No. The age of consent in Virginia is 18. He wasn’t seduced; he was raped. His mother says the court’s leniency with her son’s rapist is like “an arrow” through her heart and has started a petition to push for stiffer laws in cases like these. But she is facing an uphill battle.
Cases where boys are sexually assaulted are often mocked, their trauma diminished. How can a boy be raped, people scoff. Teen boys are “horny” and this boy, as so many before him, should be bragging that an older woman found them irresistible.
But rape has never been about seduction. It has always been and will always be about power. That’s how male privilege, traditional masculinity norms and rape culture interweave to create an environment where girls can be raped, but boys can only be seduced. These flawed expectations teach men that they can never be victimized by women -- which is why this boy, a rape victim, calls his assault a “relationship” while still saying that it caused him pain.
Men are supposed to be too powerful and sexually dominant to ever be raped. Why? Because rape is something that happens to women, according to society. And even then, while many would protest Perez’s light sentence and the way the story is framed, still others would label the victim a “fast-tail girl” who probably asked for it.
The comment sections are overflowing with statements questioning the boy’s character and the authenticity of his despair, even though the research on male sexual assault victims, who account for 10 percent of all cases, is clear:
“Sense of self and concept of ‘reality’ are disrupted.”
“Psychological outcomes can be severe for men because men are socialized to believe that they are immune to sexual assault and because societal reactions to these assaults can be more isolating.”
In other words, their lives can be “ruined.”
Even more troubling, according to a 2008 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance report published by the CDC, 4.5 percent of high-school boys reported being physically forced to have sexual intercourse. Unsurprisingly, Black and Hispanic boys reported much higher rates of forced sex than white boys. Only 3.2 percent of white boys reported forced sexual intercourse, compared to 6.1 percent of Black boys and 5.4 percent of Hispanic boys.
While the racial disparities are considered by some to be “unexplainable,” the devaluation of Black male life in the United States is nothing new. They have throughout history been seen as bucks-in-training. To the court that wiped Perez’s white tears for her before granting her freedom, this boy was Bigger Thomas and she was Mary Dalton, probably lucky to escape with her life. He meant nothing to the court. His pain means nothing.
Even after being repeatedly and unapologetically violated by someone in a position of trust and authority, this system built solely to protect and perpetuate white supremacy did what it does best.
We must start protecting our boys. We chastise, blame, arrest and murder the damaged men they often become, but these men were once children. They were boy children who were beaten, ignored, manipulated. Raped. They were boys like Chris Brown, also from Virginia, who boasted about losing his virginity at the age of 8 as if it made him a better man.
Brown, like this boy, normalized his experience in the context of male privilege. Brown, like this boy, is known to have anger and depression issues. Yet, by the standards society trains them to follow, neither of them consider their “relationships” to be rape even as they admit, through word or deed, to residual trauma that continues to affect their lives.
Having a broader conversation about rape culture that takes Black boys into account is necessary and it is long overdue. Starting now.