25 September 2009

Sex with a teacher

Time to take a risk - add sex, a minor and the law, and you get heated views, and the one I'm going to express will be controversial.

A 26 year old teacher has a sexual relationship with a 15yo student (who will be 16 by the end of this month). Your automatic reaction? Appalled. It shouldn’t happen, the teacher should be punished and the student given the support needed.

However in this case there are some more interesting facts:
- The teacher is a woman, the student is a girl;
- The girl and the teacher were close, in love in fact and both apparently still are;
- The sexual relationship was initiated by the student, indeed she pushed for it over some time period;
- There is no victim statement from the student, who did not testify against the teacher. The victim statement is from the parents.

The teacher concerned was a child prodigy, undoubtedly smart and talented, it isn’t hard to see what the student might see in her. The teacher herself, helped to grow up fast because of her talent, may well emotionally be better able to relate to someone younger. Of course, we’ll never know. Indeed none of us should have known about this.

The only reason this got to court was because a woman got wind of the affair, after rumours spread, a meddler told the parents. The parents have reacted feeling betrayed, no doubt as much by their lying daughter as by the teacher, but it doesn’t look like they have spent much time thinking about the consequences of complaining to the Police about it. The likelihood is that their relationship with their daughter, now thoroughly humiliated and guilty for this, will deteriorate. After all, given she initiated the sexual behaviour, her guilt and blame for the devastation of the life of her teacher will be palpable. The teacher is getting 15 months in prison and being put on a sex offenders' registry (notice there is no violent offenders' registry, so you never know if you're going to hire or live near someone who has stabbed, beaten up or shot someone else) for ten years, and can never work with children again - because, of course, a lesbian adult is going to be a threat to 8 year olds presumably!!?!!

So where is the victim? The girl is distraught by the whole case because of how she and the teacher are being treated. In other words, the criminal justice system is caring not a jot for the so-called “victim”.

Let’s be clear here. A teacher should not engage in sexual relations with a pupil, it is entirely inappropriate. This is something that is appropriate to expressly forbid in employment contracts and in gaining teaching accreditation. Breaching this can quite rightly be grounds for dismissal and deregistration. In the UK it is a crime for a teacher to have sex with a pupil under 18, whereas anyone can have sex with those aged 16 and over.

However, the real question is whether it is a criminal matter when the only credible victim feels a victim BECAUSE of the criminal justice system pursuing the case.

In the current age some will feel “well if it had been a male teacher with the girl nobody would be asking these questions”, perhaps. What really matters here though is what is the role of the state in dealing with this case? If the teacher loses her job and her ability to pursue her job as a result of breaching terms and conditions, then so be it, that is appropriate. Beyond that the state is essentially saying the 15yo girl cannot make decisions for herself around sexuality to such a degree (yet she could these choices months later with men and women from aged 16 to 106) that the person who she pursued deserves a custodial sentence. Who is protected by this? What is gained by it?

If you were the parent you would be distressed your daughter went behind your back, and that the teacher and daughter lied continuously about the relationship. Why did they do that? Well it is obvious why they hid it.

Is it a reason to throw the woman in prison, given she can never teach again and faces having to rebuild her life from scratch because of that?

The judge in this case did make an interesting decision on contact between the two parties which speaks volumes about why this should not be a criminal matter. There is no prohibition on them having contact when the girl turns 16, including while the teacher is in prison. In effect, the judge acknowledged the two of them are in love, but the girl was the wrong side of the age line, marginally.

This is, after all, not about someone who is a child. This is not about the teacher approaching the pupil or just submitting to a flirtation, it is about a teenager and a young adult becoming emotionally close, and crossing a line by initiation of the teenager.

Would it not be preferable that in a case like this, there should be no criminal prosecution if the so-called “victim” objects? The question is at what age can one start to allow that, I would suggest the age of criminal responsibility. If someone is deemed old enough to know what she is doing as being right and wrong, surely that person is old enough to decide whether she is a victim.

It’s worth noting, of course, how hypocritical the UK is generally on this sort of thing. The Sun, for example, has had a voyeuristic field day on the case, of course knowing that not a few of its readers will wish that it could publish as many lurid details as possible. Similarly, in England you can be tried and found guilty of murder and rape if you are 10 or over, in other words, you’re an adult in terms of being a criminal from that age. On the one hand, many in the UK want to crack down on youngsters committing crime, quite rightly so, but equally want to treat them as victims and protect them. The truth is that they are somewhere in between that, and sadly the criminal justice system wont deal with that, and no politician would ever try.

The bigger issue is that teenage sexuality is problematic for so many. The reasons being that people are pulled between wanting to let teenagers be themselves and on the other hand shield them from something that is taught to be both very desirable and incredibly awful. That of course is another story, but in a country where all adults who have contact with children are to be treated as perverts unless they can prove their innocence, it is hardly surprising that sensible discussion is nearly impossible. This sort of nonsense which implies that the case of Madeleine McCann has some parallels, is the order of the day. Compare to this case of a 22yo female teacher and a 17yo male student, which was not a crime at the time.

You’re either in favour of being draconian or you’re a suspect. I would suggest that this article may actually have the more important point to be made here. Is it not time that young girls and boys did not feel that sexuality is about attracting attention, rather than reflecting who you are?

After all, it is only when a more rational and humanistic view of sexuality can be taken, will there be the ability of politicians to reflect wider views. Meanwhile, this is the country that plays the draconian card, and which at the same time has the highest teenage pregnancy rate in Europe, stuck between guilt, shame, judgment and a massive undercurrent of hedonistic desire and perversion.


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ZenTiger said...

Let’s be clear here. A teacher should not engage in sexual relations with a pupil, it is entirely inappropriate.

That is exactly right. You have an age of consent line in the sand, and adults are supposed to be able to respect it.

If minors cannot give consent, then they cannot give consent.

Teachers are also in a position of authority, and that position needs to be respected by the teacher.

You either respect the laws of the land, and CONTRACTS or you don't.

What you are effectively arguing for is merely the lowering of the age of consent. Maybe 14, maybe 12. Get a 12 year old to say they don't feel like a victim and is everything OK?


There is always a reason.

Libertyscott said...

Zen: Of course I emphasised the contractual issue, and I was NOT arguing to lower the age of consent, I was arguing that it seems unjust to pursue a prosecution when patently there is no victim. The (ex)teacher was young and has no record of pursuing minors, and nothing else to suggest she was at all predatory. Her history suggests she was treated like an adult at a young age, and probably there are some issues around her and relationships. The student by contrast actively pursued this and is now DAYS away from this being legal.

Factually minors can give consent, the question is whether they understand the nature and consequences of that decision. I'd argue that if it can be proven in court that the individual CAN understand it, and is NOT a victim, then the criminal law steps to one side. You'd be hard pressed in almost all cases of sex involving minors to prove that the person under 16 was mature enough to understand and was not a victim or being exploited.

You're either a victim or you're not, and in this case 15 months in prison for someone who wasn't predatory, had no prior record and for whom there is no victim is draconian and unreasonable.

Had she punched the girl in the face she would have got less, and would not be on a register.

I am guessing you would happily send a 15yo to prison for rape because they can understand that, yet it is inconceivable that an exceptional 15yo can be demonstrably proven to be as an adult.

ZenTiger said...

The only issue about having or not having victims is the level of punishment assigned. There is a strong case to have a great deal in leniency on how hard some matters are prosecuted.

Tying the two together - that is, making something legal if you can get the "victim" to say they are not is not the way to balance justice.

The adult, in a teaching relationship knew enough, and had agreed to a code of conduct that they deliberately transgressed. They put passion ahead of love.

You move on to say that 15 makes it fine. Many are arguing that 12 makes it fine. We can debate that all we like, and ultimately, change the law. Until then, adults have a responsibility to accept the boundaries of their contracts and the law and understand that children cannot give informed consent.

I'd argue that if it can be proven in court that the individual CAN understand it, and is NOT a victim, then the criminal law steps to one side.

Young people are inexperienced. They can be easily manipulated. They might believe a relationship is going to be "fore-ever" and invariably are shattered when it does not turn out that way.

Should this matter be proven in court, and a year later this young person finds her older lover in bed with another 15 year old, ask her again at that point if she may have been in error back in that day in court. On reflection, she might find that she was too inexperienced to detect manipulation from real love.

Now I realise this is mere supposition, and that the relationship might be genuine on every level. I'm just picking one of many issues that explain why we have an age of informed consent, and why we need to respect that age, because exploitative behaviour on younger people is unfortunately common.

Anyway, the teacher is clearly in the wrong on many levels and the teacher is the one that deserves punishment. The level of punishment appropriate is a matter for the courts, and with her employer given she deliberately broke her contract and a teachers code of ethics.

I am guessing you would happily send a 15yo to prison for rape because they can understand that, yet it is inconceivable that an exceptional 15yo can be demonstrably proven to be as an adult.

I would "happily" punish people that commit crimes, and the more violent the crime, the more important they are punished. I would also want to ensure there was a chance for rehabilitation too, and handling youth would require different handling of adults, to my way of thinking.

The 15 year old in this case did nothing wrong. It was up to the teacher to gently rebuff the advances and suggest a platonic relationship until such time as the special teacher-student relationship was over.

Canterbury Atheists said...

Zen mate, I keep on needing to point-out that you are on thin-ice getting all ‘hot under the dog- collar’ about age of consents – when Vatican City ordains 12 to be a hunky-dory age for Catholics to start f*cking under the roof of The Holy See.

Age never seems to be a barrier with the sex-lives of priests either.

See ya.


ZenTiger said...

Atheist, stop being an idiot.

That law is on the statute books simply because they inherited their legal system from Italy.

As I understand it, the Vatican City has a citizen population of around 800 people, and no children due to the nature of the place therefore no person in the Vatican City is likely to have ever used that law to marry a 12 year old.

It is of course, against Catholic teaching to have sex outside of marriage.

Also, the Age of Consent in the Vatican City is 15 when an adult is involved, rather than between two young people.

I'm not sure what you are trying to prove? Do you want harsher penalties for any 14 year old caught having sex with another 14 year old?

If your daughter was caught having sex with another teenager, do you want the issue treated as a criminal offense, or would you argue it's not up to the state to punish two 13 year olds with criminal sanction? Would you report your child to the police?

Man up now, let me know if any action before age 16 deserves jail time.

There are many strange laws on the statute books in every country around the world. They will eventually get cleaned up. This particular one in the Vatican City will not be used, but perhaps it should be left on the books just to whip people like yourself into a rabid frenzy?

ZenTiger said...

I've done further research. Seems that the age of consent is actually 14. More information here:

Vatican City and Age of Consent