Child abuse laws in this country are clearly broken; they seem to trap the people it’s supposed to protect and protect the people it was meant to trap. Everyday, guilty people seem to elude prosecution while otherwise innocent people get tangled in a legal mess that’s almost impossible to get out of.
I thought my eyes were deceiving me when I read the headline “High Schooler Faces 25 Years on the Sex Offender Registry- For Engaging In Oral Sex.” In February 2018, two high schoolers were engaging in oral sex in a high school stairway. She was two months past her 18th birthday, he was 16. She was charged with felony unlawful contact with minors. He experienced no consequences because in the eyes of the law, he is a child. While both students attended the same high school, he remains unscathed and she is now a criminal. The rest of her life has been altered by one bad decision and until the law is challenged and that challenge prevails, she will become state property and a pedophile required to register on a registry that clearly wasn’t intended for her.
We could cast judgement about what she was doing in the staircase but that’s besides the point. Teens make poor choices all the time. Does she deserve a felony and 25 years on a sex offender registry? Absolutely not. Outside of a strong conversation with her parents, most people would argue, including myself, that the state had no business charging her with a crime. This could have been addressed in her household as a life lesson, a coachable moment.
Times are changing and we have to help our children keep up with ever changing laws. I think it’s great that both parents and schools bear the responsibility to engage our youth in sex education conversations, however, we have to change our approach- it’s not working. It’s one thing to teach them about the act of sex but it’s time to teach them applicable laws as well. While most states have Romeo and Juliet Laws to protect children in these instances, some still do not. You can’t just teach children to use condoms anymore. You have to tell them they can go to jail for consensual sex too. Then you have to figure out those instances and really have conversations about what’s off limits. It’s not about scaring them but really helping them to understand there are consequences for sex that they can’t anticipate given their short existence on Earth. As parents, it’s still difficult for us to keep up with laws because so many of them have evolved along with a culture that we seem to be staring at from the outside in.
Change is inevitable. With it comes the responsibility to keep up with the times and evolve with it. It’s unfortunate all the young people who have been tangled up in a legal mess under laws that weren’t intended for them. As parents we have to be proactive and have the right conversations with our children. In today’s age, these conversations can make all the difference in the world.
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