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Sex Crimes: All As Black as They’re Painted?

by Beth Divine 12 Jun 2018

These days, any mention of a sex crime causes an instant backlash of horror, disgust and calls for the resurrection of the death penalty. The only thing worse than a sex criminal, it would seem, would be someone who commits crimes against children…

However, I will step out on a limb and state that not all sex crimes are the same. All are heinous, none should occur, but conflating all sex crimes with murder/ rapes is a horrendous mistake, one that is likely to result in more horrific crimes happening.

Imagine being a man in love with a young woman, young but legal. Imagine pursuing a mutually satisfying and completely consensual relationship with this woman. Now imagine being arrested, sneered at, and thrown in jail as a rapist: your young lady is not yet legal (although mere months off) and had run away from home. Her fuming family have tracked her down, discovered your relationship and far from being accepting and understanding of their child’s choices, they have decided to make it all your fault, causing the arrest on the grounds – highly justified grounds, by the way – of statutory rape.

Statutory rape occurs when a man who is of age (and this can vary from place to place) enjoys sexual relations with a woman considered to be too young – usually the age of consent is 16, but it can vary. In this case it does not matter if the woman’s birthday is the next day, if she was more than ready and willing, even if she lied about her age. It also does not matter if the man is only a few months older than her, and the relationship a genuine loving one: he is held to be a criminal, arrested and convicted as such, and put on the sex offenders’ list – for life usually.

Further, horny teens sending their boy or girlfriend nude pictures of themselves constitutes distribution of child porn if they are under age – this means that not only will they get into trouble with their parents, but they risk ending up with child porn and sex trafficking convictions, equal to those earned by those who do target, abuse and exploit vulnerable people for personal profit…

To offset these imbalances, many nations and states now have so-called Romeo and Juliet laws that are designed to separate out messy consensual relationships from evil predatory ones. However, it is clear that not enough is done on either front: there are still horrific abuses being perpetrated because those who have the power to stop them do not know or care enough to intervene, while too many young – and perhaps foolish – people are vilified and hounded because they loved or trusted the wrong person. These are often people who are prime fodder for the tabloids: wealthy or middle-class, usually white, not generally from backgrounds that would render them at risk to abuse. (Needless to say, they are usually tried and found guilty in said press, with their actions being weighed less than their looks and personalities…)

I would go so far as to say that these cases – teenage love affairs – detract horribly from the more serious crimes that occur out of sight and conscience, making sex crimes and trafficking a grey matter of opinion, instead of, as it should be, a black and white matter of absolutes.