As reported by the Bristol Press, November 9, 2004.

Arrest Puts Focus on Female Predators

By Abram Katz

First the mystifying games and secrets shared with a friend’s mother, then the angry adults.

Both the abuse -- and the aftermath -- will likely leave imprints on the confused and scared 8-year-old boy, psychological experts said.

He may mistakenly believe the whole ugly episode was his own fault.

Being torn from innocence into the maelstrom of adult sexuality can leave immediate and longer-lasting problems, psychiatrists and psychologists said.

And this trauma may be compounded by the natural and unquenchable rage of his relatives.

"I just feel justice needs to be served and it’s going to be," the boy’s mother said Monday afternoon. "She ruined my child."

The third-grade boy still attends school but is now in counseling, said his mother.

Tammy Imre, 29, of Stratford, arraigned Monday on charges of first-degree sexual assault, fourth-degree sexual assault, and risk of injury to a minor, in connection with her alleged relationship with an 8-year-old playmate of her daughter.

Imre’s bail was set at $250,000. If convicted, she could face more than 20 years in prison.

"An adult having sex with a child of either gender is a gross violation of social standards," said Dr. Robert Trestman, professor of psychiatry at the University of Connecticut Health Center.

The man or woman is not simply taking advantage of a child’s body, he said. The adult subsumes the boy’s or girl’s identity and sense of self.

News of men preying on girls is more common than cases of women molesting boys.

Trestman said psychologists had assumed that girls were the most frequent victims.

But the Imre and other cases suggests that victimization of boys by women may be more prevalent, yet under-reported, he said.

Even if the sexual abuse is non-violent or not physically injurious, it can cause significant disruption in normal development, Trestman said.

"Kids assume that they’re safe with adults. Abuse changes normal exploratory behavior. Children may display sexually precocious acts," he said.

Trestman said parents should ask their children what happens on play dates.

"Once paranoia sinks in everything can seem like a plot. You can’t ask ‘Are you going to violate my child?’ " he said.

Many are fascinated by the Imre case because of society’s strict expectations about sexual behavior, he said.

"This kind of case makes us nervous. We spend a lot of time resisting bad behavior. It makes people wonder if what they’re doing is right. Forbidden sex is very interesting," Trestman said.

Imre’s alleged relationship with the boy surfaced after the boy’s mother intercepted a letter from Imre to her son.

"...You can come over (and) we can (you know what)," Imre allegedly wrote.

Imre acknowledged to having sexual relations with the boy, police said, and told police she considered him her "boyfriend" and future husband.

"That goes way beyond the normal pattern of sexual transgression," Trestman said.

"This goes beyond emotional problems to reality problems," he said.

Mary Kay Letourneau, then 35, gained national notoriety when she was convicted in 1997 of having a sexual relationship with a student, 13-year-old Vili Fualaau.

An 8-year-old, unlike an adolescent, is interested in relationships, and interested in his body, but not interested in sex, said Julian Ford, associate professor of psychiatry at the UConn Health Center.

The boy will be surrounded by anxious and excited adults and may mistakenly conclude that he is at fault, Ford said.

Moreover, "To be ready for sex a person has to understand relationships, trust, dominance, and intimacy," he said.

Premature sex confuses all of these issues, Ford said.

"The woman could have a lot of confusion and unmet needs that can be safely met with an 8-year-old," he said.

The boy can only replace a mature man in the woman’s fantasy, he said.

"The kid cares. That’s the saddest thing," Ford said.

Perhaps the boy’s biggest loss is his innocence, Ford said.