Saturday, September 1, 2012

Priest's comment that in 'a lot of [priest abuse] cases, the youngster — 14, 16, 18 — is the seducer' was offensive and inane, but it highlights that we tolerate a double-standard when the rapist is an adult woman

The priest's comment is found here: http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/08/31/13583763-ny-priest-apologizes-for-saying-child-is-often-seducer-in-sex-abuse-cases. The comment engendered outrage, head scratching, and disgust -- and rightly so.  (I am not sure why he included 18-year-old adults among the boys.)

We would be equally outraged if the priest had said that we shouldn't necessarily be concerned about "protecting minors from the consequences of their willing participation in sexual misconduct." Or if he said "a minor who voluntarily engages in sexual intercourse is not necessarily a victim of sexual abuse."

Yet, we don't blink when a judge says exactly those things about teen boys statutorily raped by adult women.

When teen boys are statutorily raped by an adult woman and he happens to impregnate her, he is liable for child support if the statutory rapist decides to have the baby (which means, his parents will have to pay for their son's child if they want to keep him out of jail). In that case, the law has no problem in imposing an obligation on the boy because, the feeling seems to be, he really isn't a "victim-victim," because it isn't really "rape-rape."  In that case, unlike the situation where a female victim of statutory rape decides to have an abortion, the taxpayers don't have any obligation to pay for the result of the boy's victimization. That responsibility is his, and his alone.

In the case of County of San Luis Obispo v. Nathaniel J., 57 Cal. Rptr. 2d 843 (Ct. App. 1996), a thirty-four-year-old woman had sex with a fifteen-year-old boy and became pregnant. The woman was convicted of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor -- commonly called statutory rape. She decided to have the child, and after she gave birth to her daughter, she received Aid for Families with Dependent Children, and the county sought reimbursement for the AFDC payments from the father, the 15-year-old boy. The court held that the boy, a statutory rape victim, was financially liable for the child that resulted from his victimization.

Why? Because California courts charged with interpreting California's statutory rape laws have recognized that "a minor . . . who voluntarily engages in sexual intercourse is not necessarily a victim of sexual abuse." In re Kyle F., 112 Cal. App. 4th 538, 543, 5 Cal. Rptr. 3d 190 (Cal. Ct. App. 2003).
The Obispo case is not alone: Other state supreme courts and several state appellate courts have ruled that male statutory rape victims can be financially liable for supporting a child resulting from their criminal victimization.

In one case, a 15-year-old boy who was statutorily raped was held to be "not an innocent victim of [a female adult's] criminal act, and the law should not excuse him from his responsibility to support his biological child. Oklahoma's public policy mandating parental support of children outweighs any policy of protecting minors from the consequences of their willing participation in sexual misconduct with adults." Stringer v. Dep't of Human Services ex rel. Baker, 2004 OK CIV APP 97; 104 P.3d 1132 (2004).

There are, of course, no reported cases where female victims of statutory rape have been held to a similar support obligation.

The policy underlying these cases is peculiar and troubling.  A statutory rapist not only victimizes a boy once, but she is permitted to use the long-arm of the law to impose financial obligations on him for 18 years. The matter-of-fact language of some of the jurists in these cases who impose adult obligations on children just because they are male and their attackers are female is even more disconcerting.  There is little of the outrage we all rightly feel when a priest molests a young man. Instead, it is the boy who is treated as a wrongdoer. Are adult male statutory rapists really "worse" than adult female statutory rapists?  Do we really want to go there?  The language in the cases where boys have been statutorily raped suggests that at least some judges think there are victims and there are victims -- and some victims are more worthy of society's outrage, depending on the gender of their molesters.  And that should concern all of us.