A few days ago I posted about a Judge who gave a "first strike" warning to a sex offender having found him guilty of sex with a minor. And, as I always do, I copied the post onto my website and Facebook account. It's the latter that receive most comments and debate. Probably because it's a little more instant and a little more private. However, it's some of those comments that made me think...
Several people mentioned the "child" (by legal definition) was under age - 14 - and therefore, it was a clear cut case of what we call here in New Zealand "Carnal Knowledge"
It's under NZ Law, "Section 134 of the Crimes Act 1961. Carries a ten year penalty." said JP
"Aaannnd it must 'kill' the cops after putting in some of the hard yards to get these wankknobs to court and they only get a slap on the wrist with a wet bus ticket. We have enuf rules/laws in this country - just bloody enforce them you judges." (JR)
A few other comments backed up the previous comments but there was one that stuck out. I won't go into detail too much because the person in question mentions her own personal experience. Suffice to say she was under-age and the man was over 20, and, for whatever reasons, she enjoyed the attention he gave her.
The good thing about discussions like this with a group of like minded people is that, sometimes, they throw you a curve ball - such as that wee gem. Or, as in my case, they jolt your own memory back to the days when say, (ho hum) I was a sweet little 14 year-old.
My first crush - and I call it that because I am older and wiser. Actually I am probably just more cynical and grumpy. In any event, his name was Phil. He was a friend of my new step-fathers. A hippy I think. Well, he had no fixed abode, no family I could remember, made stain glass things, and smoked dope. I'd call him a bum now but back then, on the farm where dashing young men were at an all time low for hormone raging teenage girls, he was it! We snuck walks around the farm and snogged behind the cowshed. Very romantic stuff. I don't know if it was all the attention I was getting or the adrenalin rush of getting caught that I liked most but to now say I may have been a victim to abuse? I dunno, it just doesn't sit well with me.
As time went on, so too did the intensity of our "relationship," for want of a better word. We never actually did the deed, so to speak, and I'm not exactly sure what happened but one day, after school, he just wasn't there any more and I was never allowed to mention his name. Something went down. What, I just don't know.
Like the person who commented on my Facebook, I liked this man's attention as well. Maybe the "kid" in that court case posting did too? So it made me wonder. Is child abuse only child abuse when the child doesn't like it?
I thought about this for a while and the only thing I could come up with is - what a huge chunk of responsibility to land on a kid's shoulder - he or she must decide? Then I thought, gee, maybe that's why there are Laws in the first place - to make those decisions for people who, for one reason or another (age for one), are unable to make it themselves.
Now that I am an old crusty grump, my point of view has changed. I have fallen back on the Law as a guide. I don't like the idea that child abuse becomes focused on the child. Did she like the attention? Did she coerce the situation? Was she flirty, dressed inappropriately, anything that would basically make an otherwise sane man just loose it?
I put this back to the group discussion.
I was drunk and very flirty... that's why "it" happened."
Right there. Right in amongst those few words, you have the answer. The focus is on the child even in her own mind and for me, that just doesn't feel right. So what, she may have been drunk. She may have been flirty. Last I heard, it wasn't illegal for a 14 year-old to be like that. In fact, I am pretty sure it's quite normal behaviour - the flirty, wanting attention bit, that is.
Surely, it's how the respondent acted that's questionable.
Would we blame a three-year-old child for her father turning on her like some viable sex toy just because she sat on his lap and acted all coe and sweet-like? I don't think so. Is it normal for a child of that age to be like that? I would like to think so. Did we all just harden up when the same sort of 'thing' happened and that child is now 14? Is child abuse really just an age related thing or are we still, even now, pushing the blame and the guilt purely and unmercifully back on the victim - still?