Friday, May 13, 2005

Friday the 13th

I'm a little nervous about posting this, in case it violates anyone's privacy. I've tried to disguise the folks involved, but I'm not anonymous here and so probably someone could figure it out. But it still seems like an important story, so I'm telling it here. If I get cold feet and take it down later I'll leave the first few paragraphs here up.

It's been a while since I linked to RLP, but this little piece reminded me of something I've been wanting to talk about here for a while. So go read, and come back. Real Live Preacher

Back? OK, so RLP apologizes for the Baptists, or at least for himself as a Baptist. The Episcopalians aren't doing much better. But right now I don't really want to talk about denominations or even about whether God loves gay people (I'm pretty sure she does, but that's not the point here). I want to talk about teenagers and sex and fear.

Did you read Ayelet Waldman's next-to-last column? The one about the boy in prison in Kansas for statutory rape? Something like this is happening to one of Mariah's friends, and it's very scary.

The short version: S (not her real initial) and F (ditto) had been dating for about six months. Important facts: they are both girls, and S is a senior, and 18, while F is a freshman, who is 15. For reasons I have yet to understand, someone decided to inform F's mother, who--in fairly short order--decided to press charges against S for "contributing to the delinquency of a minor." The good part is, that's only a misdemeanour, punishable by up to a year in prison and a $2500 fine. (Statutory rape is worse.) The bad part is: What??!! She found out her daughter was experimenting (let's put it that way--there are other ways, but we'll be euphemistic here) and called the cops?

When is that ever a good idea?

As Ayelet says, we don't think straight (no pun intended) as a society about teenage sexuality. It's scary how scared some people are at the thought that their kids may be sexual beings.

I have to admit, I don't feel all that ready to face this issue myself. F is Mariah's age, and it could easily have been Mariah in this situation: involved with someone three years her senior, more experienced, more intense.

I like to think I wouldn't have called the cops. No, strike that. I know I wouldn't have. Not within hours of even finding out there was a relationship. Not ever, I hope, unless we'd somehow gotten to a situation where I thought someone was in danger. and I wanted a restraining order. And, believe me, in this case it didn't even get close.

S and F have not seen each other since the day the school called in F's parents, except to pass in the hallway once. F has been pulled out of school; S graduates in June. Her court date is Tuesday. I was able to put her in touch with some sympathetic folks who may be able to help her w/legal counsel and housing, sympathy and support. Her mother, alas, thinks it's her job to warn people against her daughter. She tried to warn me. I told her I liked her daughter and would try to help her. She warned F's parents, who apparently acted much as I did for a while, but then--didn't.

I know we need laws to protect children against predators. Or to protect people against them, no matter their age. But I am appalled and bewildered by a system that defines a child as an adult only in order to punish her.

It's been over a week since I first heard about this and I am still not thinking quite clearly. It's clear that S needs help, of course--and is getting it, thanks to some very caring people I know who have stepped up without asking questions. I don't know what kind of help F will get, and I think she'll need some as well.

And for literally the first time ever since Mariah was born, almost 15-1/2 years ago, I find myself wanting to turn back the clock, to return to the easier days of babyhood. Not because I'm not ready to deal with teenage sexuality, but because I don't want this to be the big introduction to it. "Hey, you might be ready. But before you even THINK about it, remember that you could get pregnant, get sick and die, or, hey, get arrested! Now go on, have fun!"

Well, I guess if you don't want kids having (that kind of) fun, that's a pretty effective message.

At least the parenting books can give you some practical advice about colic and night terrors. On this subject, they are silent.


Anonymous said...

I have supported a teen relative through a very similar situation. Email me if you want to talk about it.

Jenn said...

That's terrifying, because I was in S's position three years ago. The corresponding F's parents called my mother instead of calling the police; during a different time in her life my mother would have probably encouraged them to get me in trouble, but as things were I was lucky, and she told them they clearly had the wrong idea of what was going on. We broke up anyway, totally shaken, so it still had an unhappy ending--but not nearly this bad, thank goodness.

alley rat said...


when i was 16 i had an older boyfriend (he was 21). i lied to my parents and said he was 19, and they didn't believe me. either way, technically it was statuatory rape and they could have done something about if they wanted. it wouldn't have done anyone any good. my boyfriend was NOT predatory in the way people might assume, and i was not vulnerable the way people might assume. i think my parents realized that, and they also realized that as muchas they didn't want me to have sex, i was going to, AND they knew that I was condoms (they found a bunch of them in my car while helping me clean it out!.
each case is different, and parents need to talk to their kids and know their kids and really act in their kids' best interest. these laws should not be used by parents to punish their kids or other people for doing things that parents just don't like...

Libby said...

Exactly, Alley Rat. Thanks. And thanks, Jenn. Scary. S now has someone who was in a similar situation to talk to, which is a big help. Anonymous, I'm ok for now, thanks, but I'll keep it in mind.

Anonymous said...

My parents called the police to press statutory rape charges against my boyfriend. He had just turned 18, and I was 16, one month away from being 17 but 16 is the legal age of consent in my state. It was a terrible nightmare. You think my mother could have had a straight talk with me about the dangers and considerations when having sex, but instead she told me "you're not allowed to have sex" and when she found out I had ... The memory of it still makes me ill.

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