Why boys who are victims of statutory rape are being let down by society.
Statutory rape is a big deal. However, it isn’t widely reported, or talked about in society or mainstream media. Statutory rape is when someone above the age of consent (16 or 17 in most states) has sex with a minor. Most victims that we do hear about are females, but, do our perceptions change when we hear an adult female has engaged in sexual activity with a minor male?
Perhaps the most famous case is that of Mary Kay Letourneau, who made headlines in the 1990s for getting pregnant by her 13-year-old student, whom she later married. Instead of being ousted from public life, Letorneau got a relatively short prison sentence, even making an appearance on Barbara Walters.
Would the outcome of this case have been different if a girl was abused?
Young boys who are victims of statutory rape are not able to receive the same support from society. Boys are considered “lucky” or a “hero” the moment an older woman has sexual intercourse with them; that is absolutely absurd. Boys experiences with statutory rape should be taken seriously. Isn’t that what the law guarantees? To have justice and fairness no matter your gender? Everyone needs to be protected under any situation.
There are serious harms that come with adolescent boys being in statutory relationships with adult females. According to a study by D.A. Hines, and D. Finkelhor, boys with these experiences had “more psychological, alcohol, and deliberate self-harming behavior problems than men without such experiences.” (308)
Justice for male rape victims is not easy, since many of their cases are not considered legitimate crimes. In Sheboygan, Wisconsin, when Alan Jepsen had sex with his 14-year old girlfriend, the cops came knocking on his door; He was thrown into jail. When Norma Guthrie, a 17-year old, had sex with her 14-year old boyfriend, she was arrested. The difference is she was released immediately on a signature bond, charged with only with a misdemeanor — a maximum of nine months in jail. Alan was fined with 1,000 cash bonds and charged with a Class C felony, a maximum prison sentence of 40 years.
Are gender stereotypes affecting our viewpoint on a situation that causes harm to an individual?
Males are typically stereotyped as wanting sex. When underage boys enter into these relationships, they have not yet reached the point of sexual maturity or mental capacity to be able to consent. They may think that sex is something they should want, but are perhaps not ready for the experience.
According to Hines and Finkelhor, youth’s decision making ability is not fully developed, preventing them from being able to meaningfully agree to sex. And that, “In other research adolescents who have sex often do not perceive it as a decision that they made, merely something that “just happened”, suggesting perhaps difficulties in projecting sequences of activity into the future.” Underage boys who are in statutory relationships often categorize their experiences like this, as something that “just happened” and therefore may suffer from weakened decision making abilities later on.
We are not helping; in fact, we are contributing to this problem. Why can’t we face the reality that an older woman can rape a minor boy? Rape is rape, regardless of gender. These boys are adolescents and should have the ability to enjoy childhood and innocence. We should open up a dialogue to minimize the emotional harm these boys may suffer.
Parents believe their girls need protection, yet, when it comes to boys, there is still stigma surrounding their sexualities.
There is a wide array of assault perpetrated against boys and men largely being ignored. In 2010, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated that 5 million men and boys were being raped or sexually assaulted in some way.
We need justice. Boys deserve fairness in the face of statutory rape.
If you or anyone you know has experienced sexual assault you can call the national hotline at 800.656.HOPE (4673). Alma Guardado is a first-year Social Studies major who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.