Recently a human rights barrister, Barbara Hewson, has caused very strong feelings both for and against her beliefs. I am strongly against.
She has stated that to protect older men from prosecution the age of consent should be lowered to 13 and “minor misdemeanours” such as groping underage girls should not be criminal acts. Her reasoning is that many girls under the age of consent look older and therefore men shouldn’t be expected to know, and that a man putting his hand up a girls skirt is not as serious as gang rape.
Of course it is true that many girls look older than they are but that doesn’t mean they are older. Should men have to check the age of girls they’re going to get involved with? Yes! And making sex with a thirteen year old legal won’t prevent the psychological impact it could have on her, it will just normalise abuse and make her think she’s wrong for feeling that way. Surely we should be making young girls aware of the dangers of sex and making the shame of reporting sex crimes be eradicated rather than giving grown men license to molest or have sex with children!
Ms Hewson argues that many girls under the age of consent offer to have sex or perform sexual acts on older men and those men shouldn’t be expected to turn it down… Erm…. Yes they should. As a society we recognise that children don’t always grasp the full impact of what sex means which is why the age of consent is there, until that age they can’t give informed consent because they’re too young to understand what they’re consenting to. Suggesting that men are unable to turn down offers of sex from anyone, let alone underage girls, is pathetic.
Her argument that gang rape is worse than molestation is also true and I doubt many people would try and suggest otherwise, but just because one crime is more wrong it doesn’t make the other crime right. A woman arguing in support of Ms Hewson on the Jeremy Vine show on radio 2 stated that should a grown man put his hand up her nine year old daughter’s skirt then “of course” she wouldn’t call the police because its not a serious issue. I would massively disagree with that. It IS a serious issue. No not as serious as rape but serious, and to suggest not would only give that man the freedom to grope other girls but the liberation to move on to greater crimes that perhaps this woman would object to. I would report him, immediately, and possibly for his own protection as once my husband found out about it there would be hell to pay.
Our society is over sexualising children and exposing them to things designed for adults. The music channels are full of mostly naked people singing lyrics that are extremely explicit. Children’s clothes have “juicy” written on the bums. Surely this is the last step in making children into mini adults officially?
I know how much harm sex can do to your mind, even if your body stays healthy. I have spent a great deal of time in therapy learning to handle issues, many of which revolve around sexual experiences I couldn’t cope with. Sex can be equally as dangerous as beautiful, equally as painful as fun, and children cannot understand that. Adults can, and do, take advantage of that naive innocence. Making it legal to do so doesn’t protect the vulnerable innocents only the adults. The adults perpetrating these acts do not need protecting.
As an adult I have many times been casually groped in bars and clubs, and some of these incidents still make me uncomfortable and feel dirty and ashamed. I was a grown woman and either backed away safely, or in a couple of situations firmly applied my knee to the groper’s crotch when backing away failed to have the desired effect. The point is I, as an adult, and one who has had sexual experiences both good and bad, still finds that sort of situation hard to deal with. Had I been a child then I may not have been aware it was wrong, may not have known what to do if I had known, and certainly would have needed adults to reassure me that I was an innocent victim. Nobody has the right to your body, no matter your age, but people feel they do. That realisation for me came suddenly and shockingly and it affects me still to this day. It is not low level. It is not mild.
It makes me so angry that someone would truly believe that grown men groping little girls is a “low level misdemeanour” not the appalling crime it is. I plan on educating Miss Rose about sex, about dangers, and about self respect. I hope should anyone ever do things she isn’t comfortable with she will come straight to me knowing that I will be on her side and not tell her to “get over it, it’s not serious”. It is serious. If you feel what is being done to you is wrong then you have every right to seek help regardless of your age, but especially as a child. Don’t take away that right. Don’t normalise child abuse.