The Soapbox: There Is No Justification For An Adult Raping A Minor

When I read an article (via Facebook) about a 23-year-old man being charged with the rape of a 12-year-old girl, after being caught by the child’s mother engaging in sexual acts in the back of his car, I knew it would be a mistake to scroll down to the comments section. I anticipated commenters would shift the focus from the perpetrator, the adult man, to the victim, the pre-teen girl — especially because she had snuck out of her parents’ home to meet the guy. Still, I felt compelled to see what the general consensus was.

Of course, there was no shortage of victim-blaming.

Every aspect of that young girl’s life was subject to scrutiny by online commenters: Was she well-developed? What was she wearing? Had she done this before? Many came to outrageous, unsubstantiated conclusions like, “Well, she definitely lied about her age!” and “Obviously her parents weren’t monitoring her social media.” One commenter even admitted to being a victim of molestation as a child, but argued that unlike this victim, she ran and told her parents afterwards, so obviously this child was not a victim since she had not. Another stated, “I’m sorry but there should be a law that puts fire under kid[s] who lie about there age.”

Then some plainly stated she was not a victim, but a slut. “[She’s] is a slut and it’s not the first time,” was their rallying cry. Others claimed the child rapist was the real victim, arguing, “Stories like this [sic] is how men get put in jail for girls who breathed and act n [sic] claim to be older. These girls need to receive punishment as well because basically they are getting away with it for tricking these men it happens to [sic] many times.”

In addition to excusing and enabling rape, these comment also highlight the miseducation of the general populous with regards to sexual assault and the definition of rape. And sadly, we are not discussing a small, “uneducated,” powerless minority, but a vast number of individuals — some of whom wield the power to prosecute or set rapists free. After all, a Swedish court recently dismissed a rape case against a 27-year-old man because the 13-year-old victim’s body was “well developed.” In Montana, a 49-year-old teacher raped a 14-year-old student (who tragically later killed herself) and initially served only 30 days in jail because the judge said the victim “seemed older than her chronological age” and “as much in control of the situation” at the time of the rapes. (Thankfully, the sentencing was overruled.) Another case brought against a 44-year-old teacher for raping his 16-year-old pupil was dropped earlier this year by the judge who claimed the young girl “groomed” the somehow helpless adult for sex.

“If anything, it was she who groomed you. You gave way to temptation at a time when you were emotionally vulnerable because of problems with your wife’s pregnancy,” Judge Joanna Greenberg — yeah, a woman – said to the man.

Based on these opinions, a girl should only be protected by the law from rape if she is perfect, never lies, never disobeys her parents and doesn’t have breasts. However, based on the law, adult sex with a minor is statutory rape. In the state of Washington, where charges are being brought against the 23-year-old who was found in the car with the 12-year-old, the age of consent is 16. The age of consent in the United States, generally, ranges between 16-18. Whether or not a girl lies or leaves her house wearing nothing but her birthday suit is completely irrelevant.

Because, you see, it is the responsibility of the adult, not the minor, to ensure that he/she is behaving according to the law. Would the excuse “she/he lied about her age” seem plausible if an individual was busted purchasing alcohol for minors? Of course not. We know and understand that it is dangerous to enable underage drinking. Yet somehow that excuse seems rational regarding sex between an adult and a child?

Society’s failure to view young adolescent girls as minors worthy of protection because of their physical maturation or indiscretions places the unfair, burdensome expectation of sound and rational judgement upon their shoulders. Especially when we consider the study done by The Guttamacher Institute that found that the vast majority of states do not require sex education be taught to their students or that the information be medically accurate if the subject matter is broached at all. And then there’s the Kaiser study that revealed 34 percent of high school principals promoted abstinence-only sex education. How can anyone expect emotionally, intellectually and psychologically underdeveloped girls — many of whom may not even have access to comprehensive sex education — to make any decisions regarding sex or sexual activity? We should not and cannot. That is why we have statutory rape laws that should be respected.

Young girls can make mistakes. However, no mistake should ever be used as justification for their victimization. Let’s please agree on that much.