I am appalled and angered by the recent guest column by Tess Bell. While I agree with her suggestion that parents should be fully informed about the parties their teenagers attend, it is the only point with which I agree.
I have a BS degree in nursing and a MS degree in psychology and am a 38-year-old mother of three children (14-year-old daughter, 5-year-old daughter and 21-month-old son). As such, I believe a different perspective needs to be expressed about this issue.
It is my understanding that the law in question was written to protect teens under 16 years of age, because they are not capable of giving consent to sex. There is a developmental difference between a 15-year-old or younger teen and a 16-years-old or older teen. During this age span, they undergo the physical changes of puberty; the cognitive development of hypothetical thinking, ability to theorize and deductive reasoning; ... and the psychosocial development of individuality and fostering of independence through identifying with their peer group.
The younger teen does not have the cognitive capacity to consent to sex if these developments have not occurred. Of course, children develop at their own rate, so the law defines development with a physical age. Perhaps the law would be more palatable if it could define power. ... There is also the possibility that sex is not consensual because of the imbalance of power between the younger and older teen.
Bell also asserted that perhaps both of the teens should be prosecuted. This is illogical as it implies that neither are the victim, in which case a crime has not occurred. Beyond that, it is appalling to think of further adding to the possible and potential psychological damage done to the victim.
I think the mask of adolescence often distracts us and we do not look below the surface. They are trying to individuate, but accomplish this by emulating their peers. Add to this the effects of poor parenting, negative media images, pressure to succeed and terrorist threats and the mask becomes thicker. It is a harsher world than when we grew up. We need to look deeper with compassion and not make sweeping, callous judgments.
An editorial in an earlier issue of the paper proposed we teach our sons the consequences of teenage sex. While I agree that it is important for us as parents to teach our children that their actions have consequences, I believe there is a simpler and more encompassing answer: the Golden Rule. We must teach our children to love and respect themselves so that they are capable of loving and respecting their fellow human beings. Come to think of it, this would cure many other societal ills.
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