Shaker Rose sent me this story out of Kansas, about a 14-year-old girl who’s been charged with rape and criminal sodomy after reporting to her school counselor that a male classmate had forced her to have sex with him. Because the male classmate is “a few months younger and still 13 years old,” and because “Kansas law says sex with anyone under 14, even if it’s consensual, is rape,” the girl is now being charged as a (statutory) rapist, with no regard to whether she herself was (forcibly) raped.
There’s more on the story here, which details the accounts of what happened according to both parties. It’s a complicated case, because there quite genuinely may have been some level of consent during the first incident, which then turned into a forcible event when the girl wanted to stop. Additionally, our cultural prejudices about how rape victims are “supposed” to act will make lots of people wonder why, if there was forcible sex one day, would the girl be alone with the boy on subsequent occasions—and the conclusion they’ll come to is that there wasn’t forcible sex at all. (See the comments attached to that story.) In reality, not all rape victims react in ways that seem completely logical, and denying one’s rape by pursuing consensual sex with one’s rapist is not remotely uncommon. Particularly in children this young, it’s dangerous to try to judge their actions in sexual assault situation based on “logical” standards. Children molested by parents often appear to have a closer relationship with the abusive parent, for example.
Anyway, exactly what happened needs to get sorted out by investigators and a jury, and I want to make clear that I’m not presuming guilt.
That said, charging this girl as a rapist is ridiculous, starting with the fact that it does presume guilt. It presumes that this girl who went to her school counselor unbidden to talk about the situation has lied about what happened and ergo filed a false report. Or, the Deputy County Attorney is looking at her admission that she consented to oral sex before he “got really forceful by pushing my head down to where I was choking and I didn’t like that and I wanted to stop but I couldn’t,” and he’s nonetheless thinking he can’t let her get away with those moments of consensual oral sex before her alleged rape started, because, until then, she was technically raping the boy. I mean, jebus.
And, aside from being yet another general disincentive to rape victims against reporting, reinforcing the idea that the system won’t protect or support you, charging the girl with rape is also essentially conveying to every 13-year-old boy in Kansas that they have free reign to rape girls as soon as they turn 14, because, if the girls report it, they’ll be charged with rape. Splendid.
Worst yet, because the case against the girl looks likely go to court first, the boy may be granted immunity in exchange for testifying for against her—which means that a forcible rapist could go free in exchange for the conviction of a statutory rapist.
Suffice it to say, the girl’s attorney (who is representing her pro bono) is none too pleased with the entire situation, noting that the law on statutory rape was meant to deal with adults abusing children, and that the Deputy County Attorney Evan Watson is using the charge against the girl “as a message to bully her into taking” a lesser charge such as “contributing to a child’s misconduct or deprivation.” Which may be true, but I still wonder why she is being charged at all—at least and especially before her own forcible rape case has been tried. Her attorney also makes the obvious point:
“We have a young girl who needed help…and she hasn’t received help,” said [Sean Shores of Shores, Williamson, and Ohaebosim in Wichita]. “The message we are sending to our daughters is that it’s better to say nothing at all than get help. We’re basically telling them to shut up.”
…“I don’t know why [Watson’s] hell bent on this,” said Shores of Watson and the case. “It’s just unbelievable.”
Unfortunately, it’s all too believable there really are some people who think “shut up” is a message rape victims need to hear.