I first want to say, thank God for the first amendment which grants me and you, my American readers, the freedom to say whatever the hell we want.
*Steps onto soap box* Today, news broke out that a theatre teacher at my alma mater was arrested and charged with three counts of second-degree sexual assault and one count of second-degree endangering the welfare of a child after allegedly engaging in inappropriate behavior with a student.
To be fair, I will share that I knew this teacher, and was quite fond of him, and thought of him as a genuinely good person, I had no reason not to. I also knew the girl who may have been the victim. I have not received 100% confirmation that she is the victim, but you know how news spreads through high schools. Either way, this is irrelevant information, but I thought I should share. The victim was a nice girl, I didn’t know her too well, but generally normal teenage girl.
The problem I’m having right now is that kids from the school are posting things like “Wow, glad I didn’t do theatre,” and “what a horrible person.” And I might agree with them if he had been convicted, but even still the case and cases like it are frustrating to me.
I understand that rape is a very real and malicious crime. I understand that often in rape cases the perpetrator is an older person than the victim, or holds a position of power over the victim. What I cannot comprehend is why the law says if you’re 16 and have sex with a person who is say, 30 generally older than 20 or so depending on the state, it is rape. In what world does a 16 year old not know what they are doing when they get into bed with an older person? Of course, there are situations where they don’t know- mental illness or impairment, but I am talking about a “normal” case.
Imagine, if you will, a “normal,” healthy, smart 16 year old girl, falls for a 40 year old man. They are friends first, then they grow closer, romantic intention becomes involved, and they engage in sexual intercourse. Whatever happens next, for better or worse, anyone who finds out about this over the age of 18 is legally obligated to report it, and that man is now a rapist.
I’m not trying to say that that is what happened with the teacher from my school. I do not have the evidence to make that judgment or draw that conclusion, but the situation made me think about sex laws, and I’ve pondered it before. I don’t think romantic relationships should happen when the age difference is that great, at least until the younger party is more developed, but I think it’s possible they can happen. Again, I know in some situations the older party persuades or manipulates the younger into “consenting” to things they otherwise would not do, but I think it’s a tragedy when both parties know what they are doing, and one of them ends up having to legally inform their neighbors that they live nearby.
I’ve been 16. I made mistakes as a 16 year old, but I generally knew what I was doing. I knew it would have been wrong to engage in sexual relations with a man twice my age. Wrong not just because of social standards, but because if anyone found out, I could ruin that man’s life. Again, I do not know the details of the case in question. He could have been a serial rapist, and he’s just now getting caught. But before we jump to that conclusion, I want people to think about all the repercussions he is facing in a best case scenario. Best case: he is found not guilty, and he might have a wife who believes he’s not guilty, and he might be able to find a job at Target, but he’ll never work for a school again. The man has kids. No matter what actually happened, and no matter what they can prove happened, his life is over.
As for the girl, I am sorry she has to go through this- whether he actually raped her or not. A trial like this will be traumatizing for her and will also impact her life no matter what verdict is given. If he is actually guilty, she is probably already dying inside, and is now praying for justice. If it was consensual, she is living with the fact that she has ruined this man’s life, on top of the gossip people are already spreading around the school. If he raped her, I hope he is punished. But remember, if he didn’t rape her, he’s still being punished.