Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Irresponsible Reporting and Blaming the Victim

There was a news story this week about a male teacher who was arrested for having sex with a 15 year old female student. He was a teacher from another school hired to help produce the spring musical. This happened in my school district. It happens everywhere and it’s just as upsetting, but when it’s right in your own back yard, it seems to hit a little harder. Maybe it’s because you know the victim. I mean – even if you don’t actually know who the victim is, it’s a small town, and a small school, and you have son the same age, so whoever she is – you know her.

Honestly, I don’t think I would want to know who she is. If there’s anything that this girl deserves, it’s privacy. But I think we all know that privacy is probably the last thing she will get. It’s a small town. People gossip and this is good, juicy, scandalous gossip for those who thrive on this type of thing. I knew as soon as I heard the news story that I would end up pissed off at more than just the sick asshole that did this. And sure enough, I was right.

First, I saw the very brief story in the paper. But soon afterward, I saw a version on wpxi’s website which gave more information. WAY more information. In fact, they gave enough information to identify the victim. I won’t share that information here, but suffice it to say, people from the area knew who she was immediately after reading the article, and even those not from the area wouldn’t need more than a few minutes and some wifi to figure it out. WPXI has never been my favorite of the local news (they’re fond of the shock value non-stories, like “what’s lurking in your lunchmeat” or “Look what germs we found in your bathroom”), but this is downright irresponsible. Some states can and will restrict the media from releasing information on sexual assault victims – particularly minors. But in Pennsylvania, the only official policy is to “urge the news media to use restraint” in revealing the identity or address of child victims.

This is a bullshit, cop-out policy. This is a big part of why so many sexual assaults go unreported. People – especially those who have gone through a horrible experience like sexual assault – don’t want to be put in the spotlight. But despite the lack of a law restricting them from doing so, WPXI should be more responsible, more compassionate than to give out any identifying information.  The thing is – they got it wrong. The person identified by their information was not the actual victim. But it doesn’t let them off the hook, because now there is ANOTHER family that had been caused trauma by their irresponsibility. Several people tweeted them directly and more sent emails (I did both) asking about their policies, but of course, they’ve not replied. They’re probably too busy checking out local board of health restaurant ratings and getting lab results on our kitchen sponges.

Then, of course, the finger-pointing starts. I have seen grown women on facebook talking about how the girl is equally to blame, because she is old enough to know better (apparently this was a consensual thing). Fuck that noise. Let me give you a list of reasons why these people can go fuck themselves:

1.       Legally, whether she consented or not, she is unable to consent. She is younger than the age of consent. So even if she begged for it – she did not consent.

2.      When one person is in a position of power – especially one that allows them to have a reward of some sort to offer (in this case, roles in a performance) – the entire concept of consent goes out the window. Even if he didn’t say, “Sleep with me and I’ll reward you,” it is always implied. This is why even in colleges, relationships between teachers and (of age) students are not allowed. Even without the explicit statement of coercion, she may have felt coerced.

3.       It may have been (technically, not legally) “consensual,” but have you ever met a 15 year old girl? Fifteen year old girls may half-ass their homework or half-ass cleaning their room, but the one thing that 15 year old girls do NOT half-ass is love. I have been a 15 year old girl and I speak the truth. At that age, they are in the absolute height of love fever. They want more than anything to be loved. They want to be seen, not as a child, but as an adult. They will do anything to live out their dreams of romance and fairy tale happily ever after. Have you ever known a 15 year old girl who says she “likes” her boyfriend? Or “likes” whatever pop star is on top at the moment? Or “likes” her best friend? No – teenage girls LOVE. They LOVE their boyfriends and LOVE their friends and LOVE One Direction and LOVE their new lip gloss and OMG LOVE rompers and flip flops and puppies and the beach and on and on and on. Love is what is important to a teenage girl. So maybe she thought she loved him. Maybe she believed he loved her. When it comes to love, a fifteen year old is like a toddler. You don’t leave a plate of cookies in front of your unattended 3 year old and tell them not to eat them. Just the same, you can’t put a plateful of love – especially grown-up love – in front of a 15 year old and expect her to walk away.

4.     Finally, the most important one. Regardless of anything else – He is a teacher (and an adult). She is a student (and a child). PERIOD. I don’t care if she stripped naked in front of him and begged him to have sex with her – it is HIS responsibility as a teacher, as an adult, as a fucking human being to not act on it.

So to the gossipers, and the finger pointers, and the dumbass reporters: Think about what you are saying and doing – it could happen to your daughter or sister or best friend. How would you feel if the tables were turned?

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Lynnea said...

sing it. I agree with everything you say here and feel just as outraged about the news, the gossipers.

AmyLK said...

I love this! Send it to the editor of your local paper. The teacher is scum for taking advantage of the girl. And for the news to put out there who SHE is, is horrible.

bluzdude said...

I agree w/ you completely... unless of course it's a 15yr old boy with a female teacher. Then it's time to shine up the old "Luckiest Boy in the World" medal.

(If it had happened to me, the papers wouldn't have had time to run the story... I'd have been running down the street yelling, "Guess what I did?" If I was lucky, I would have remembered to pull my pants back up first.)

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