WHEN WE GO TOO FAR AND JEAPORDIZE EVERYTHING
Yes, there are those out there who – in the interest of children – go too far.
I am posting this because fellow child abuse awareness and prevention volunteers and I have been accused of being “militant”, “over-bearing”, “uptight” … Well, you get the idea.
I want to express that all we believe and fight for is what is determined not only illegal by the standards of Federal law, but what has been scientifically proved to be unhealthy, dangerous, and harmful to children.
Do we understand the difference between “consent” and “force”? Absolutely! Just as we understand the difference between “informed consent” and “manipulated consent”. We firmly believe that small children and young teens are incapable of making informed decisions in regards to sex and are manipulated in cases where it is claimed they agreed, and the laws and doctors agree with us.
Sometimes, however, people go a little too far when children are concerned. Parents can become blindly outraged as teachers, guardians, and the legal system when teens are found to be sexually active before we adults are ready. Let me make it perfectly clear that I am referring to sexual activity between consenting teens – NOT adults and teens.
This is a story a fellow volunteer shared with us for our input. Below it are my thoughts that are shared among us:
Should teens who send racy photos face serious felony charges?
Should teens who send racy photos face serious felony charges?
CHICAGO – Though youth is fleeting, images sent on a cell phone or posted online may not be, especially if they’re naughty.
Teenagers’ habit of distributing nude self-portraits electronically — often called “sexting” if it’s done by cell phone — has parents and school administrators worried. Some prosecutors have begun charging teens who send and receive such images with child pornography and other serious felonies. But is that the best way to handle it?
“Hopefully we’ll get the message out to these kids,” says Michael McAlexander, a prosecutor in Allen County, Ind., which includes Fort Wayne. A teenage boy there is facing felony obscenity charges for allegedly sending a photo of his private parts to several female classmates. Another boy was recently charged with child pornography in a similar case.
In some cases, the photos are sent to harass other teens or to get attention. Other times, they’re viewed as a high-tech way to flirt. Either way, law enforcement officials want it to stop, even if it means threatening to add “sex offender” to a juvenile’s confidential record.
“We don’t want to throw these kids in jail,” McAlexander says. “But we want them to think.”
This month in Greensburg, Pa., three high school girls who sent seminude photos and four male students who received them were all hit with child pornography charges. And in Newark, Ohio, a 15-year-old high school girl faced similar charges for sending her own racy cell phone photos to classmates. She eventually agreed to a curfew, no cell phone and no unsupervised Internet usage over the next few months. If she complies, the charges will be dropped.
In Pennsylvania, all but one of the students accepted a lesser misdemeanor charge, partly to avoid a trial and further embarrassment, a public defender in the case said. The mother of one boy is considering fighting all charges.
Whatever the outcome, the mere fact that child pornography charges were filed at all is stirring debate among students and adults.
At Greensburg-Salem High School in Pennsylvania, junior Jamie Bennish says she’s not sure the boys in her school’s case should’ve been charged.
“They did not necessarily choose to receive the pictures, although I find it questionable that they did not delete the photos from their cell phones after some period of time,” she says. “As for the girls, there is no excuse for exposing yourself in that way, and any charges they receive they have brought upon themselves.”
Dante Bertani, chief public defender in Westmoreland County, Pa., where the students went to court, called the felony charges “horrendous.” He says such treatment should be reserved for sex offenders, not teenagers who might’ve used poor judgment, but meant nothing malicious.
“It should be an issue between the school, the parents and the kids — and primarily the parents and the kids,” Vertani says. “It’s not something that should be going through the criminal system.”
These cases do pose a dilemma, concedes Wes Weaver, the principal at Licking Valley High School, where the Ohio girl attends school.
He agrees that pornography charges or other felonies are not appropriate, noting that “the laws have not caught up to technology.”
But he says there has to be some way to educate students and their parents about the harm these photos can do — and the fact that, once they’re out there, they often get widely circulated. Days before his staff discovered the girl’s nude photos, the county prosecutor had been at the school to warn students against sexting.
“I don’t think we’re anywhere near having a handle on this,” Weaver says. “It’s beyond our scope as a school.”
So, what are my thoughts?
I think that by labeling this as “child pornography” it takes away from the severity of real CP and makes a mockery of the whole fight against it.
For instance: One of the strongest arguments pedophiles use against the Sex Offender Registry (SOR) is that there are 18 year olds listed on there for breaking the statutory rape AOC when they chose to sleep with a 17 year old (or 17 yr old sleeping with a 16 yr old – depending upon the AOC in that area). This is a very strong argument because it is absurd to lump horny teens on the brink of adulthood in with adults raping little children. (In my opinion.)
It weakens the reputation of the SOR as does charging 15 year olds with CP for doing something stupid that, let’s face it, many of us would have done if we had cell phones when we were teens. And who among us never saw a copier scan of a classmate’s rear end or something similar as a class prank? Or did we forget the all-too-popular “mooning” craze when we were that age? It isn’t an excuse but it is a bit of insight.
No, I don’t see anything good coming of charging teens with CP for sending each other tasteless images of themselves, albeit stupid.
I see this course of action as setting us back dramatically!
How would I handle this if it were my daughter?
First, I would sit her down and help her to understand the respect she deserves – respect for herself and respect for and from others. Of course, lessons in dignity have to start early on, as I’ve already been teaching my 7 year old. This isn’t to say it won’t ever happen, but as her parent and her guide to the world around her, it is my duty to teach her what is safe and healthy.
If she participated in any way – sent some, requested them, kept them (requested or not) – I would handle it as a parent and ground her, take away her phone (which I don’t think kids should have in school, anyway), and make her apologize to the parents of any student she sent such pictures to.
If she received images she did not want – and I can verify it – I would have the teen charged with sexual harassment. Child porn? No. That is absurd. Sexual harassment, though, is quite clear in such an instance, and it is the exact course of action I would take. In addition to requiring an apology and further investigation by the school.
By placing these teens on the SOR for being stupid around each other – and when are teens not? – these prosecutors are stretching an already stretched-to-the-brink system and spreading law enforcement in charge of monitoring SORegistrants too thin to monitor the real threats. This is what angers me the most about this story.
Again, my feelings are in regards to informed consenting teen/teen interactions. Introduce any adult influence and we’re talking about a whole new ballpark that does involve child porn and child abuse.
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