It’s Time to Discuss Statutory Rape Laws

This is an uncomfortable topic, so it makes sense that we as a culture try to avoid it, but here it is: teenagers engage in behavior that we would rather they wait on. This has been true from the beginning of time.

Another uncomfortable fact: teenagers are neither children nor adults. They have to be protected (both by parents and the law), but they also need more freedom because they are not completely incapable of making decisions for themselves.

In everyday life, we accept this. We know teenagers are in a gray area. We give them the chance to drive at 16 even though they are still, legally, children in every other sense. Why are we willing to trust children with massive vehicles that can go dangerous speeds and cause great damage? Well, most people would say they aren’t children, at least in that case.

What about leaving a 16-year-old home alone? If they are children, that is surely child abandonment, yet most of us would maintain they are, again, if not quite adults, still not children anymore.

Yet when it comes to issues of sex, we as a society like to think in black and white. Under-18 is a child, and they have no business doing anything a child wouldn’t do.

On the face of it, this is an absurd point. First of all, exactly what the age of consent should be is massively different across the world and even the country. Many Western countries mark consent around 15 or 16, South Korea marks it at 20. In the States, it falls somewhere between 16 and 18. So, when is a person legally able to decide? No one really seems to know.

This is not an arbitrary point. Statutory rape laws are in place in states like Texas that don’t allow for any nuance. There are even cases, though they are rare, of two consenting teenagers, both under age, being charged. The results of a statutory rape charge can be life-shattering. According to the Law Office of Mark T. Lassiter, it can result in years in prison and massive fines.

These punishments may seem fair when the criminal in everyone’s mind is some adult in their 40s praying on the innocent, but they can affect teenagers themselves just as often, if not more. An 18-year-old senior in high school dating a 15-year-old freshman is at risk of criminal charges under this system.

This is a country that can’t really decide when a person should be an adult. At 16, we drive, at 18 we vote, smoke, and join the army, at 21 we drink. Culturally, people are still considered immature halfway through their 20s. So, when is a person an adult? It seems we can see gray on this issue for everything except one thing: sex. And that is destroying lives.

It’s time for America to have an uncomfortable conversation and get this right.

Tell Someone and Get a Restraining Order

I have a story. A friend of mine came to me recently and told me she thinks she’s being stalked by someone. This guy, it turns out, isn’t exactly an ex-boyfriend. They were acquaintances, and he took her out two or three times for some semi-romantic outings. They went to the movies, dinner, had a few chats. She told me she called it off after only a couple of dates.

Well, he’s been after her ever since. At first, it was friendly messages on Facebook and Twitter, asking to get together, and after she made it clear that wasn’t going to happen, just random chats with occasional bits of begging to give him another chance.

My friend is pretty cute, and she’s funny and easy to fall in love with, so this wasn’t that unusual for her. She has a “let them down slowly and easily” policy where she tries to slowly cut off guys who just don’t get the hint.

Well, this guy got the hint, and then he got angry about it. He started sending her angry messages about how she led him on, how he broke up with a girlfriend (never before mentioned), and how she owes him another chance. It got pretty ugly, I guess, and so she unfriended him and blocked him on all accounts.

Unfortunately, it’s still going on now. He has her address, so he’s shown up a few times. He hasn’t been aggressive or angry, but he has tried to come into her place more than once. He’s asked for more dates. He even sent her flowers at work.

I was shocked to hear all of this, obviously. You see these sorts of things in movies, but I had no idea it was happening to my friend and for so long. I consider myself a pretty support guy when it comes to my female friends. I listen to their problems, and I try to help however I can. The fact my friend thought I “just wouldn’t care” hurts, but also makes me examine exactly what messages I’m sending out to her to make her think that.

In order to support her better, I’ve been doing some research on restraining orders. Apparently, this issue is far more prevalent than I thought.

So, I want to send out a few words of advice to my female friends. If you are having a problem with somebody like this, speak up. Tell people. A lot of them are going to be more supportive than you might think. Also, go to the police or a lawyer and find out how to make this person quit. They may just seem pathetic at first, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t capable of much worse.

I’m glad our society is starting to take these issues more seriously, and I think all of us can do more to make sure these problems go away. My friend deserves to be able to go home without worrying about someone she doesn’t want being there. All women do. We have to make this stuff stop.