We as a society have made much progress in spreading awareness and understanding of child sexual abuse as an issue. Unfortunately, we still see examples of an outdated tendency to blame victims for the actions of abusers. Yesterday, we were happy to read that in the tragic case of a 14-year old girl who was sexually abused by her teacher and who later committed suicide, victim blaming was not tolerated.
Despite the widespread support of this child victim, a few still cling to an antiquated notion that a student-teacher relationship is okay if the teen “wants it” or “consents.” Betsy Karasik, a writer and former attorney, wrote this opinion post for the Washington Times, in which she states:
“The point is that there is a vast and extremely nuanced continuum of sexual interactions involving teachers and students, ranging from flirtation to mutual lust to harassment to predatory behavior. Painting all of these behaviors with the same brush sends a damaging message to students and sets the stage for hypocrisy and distortion of the truth. Many teenagers are, biologically speaking, sexually mature. Pretending that this kind of thing won’t happen if we simply punish it severely enough is delusional. If anything,…the indiscriminate criminalization of such situations may deter students struggling with sexual issues from seeking advice from a parent or counselor.”
Our community of concerned adults had quite a bit to say about this viewpoint, which was shared on the D2L Facebook page. One comment particularly stood out- a simple, powerful thought from supporter Allison Gossage that we hope affects you as much as it does us:
“So then what would the author of said article say would be the effect of decriminalization on the ability of victims to speak out?
Decriminalization and otherwise downplaying sexual abuse is possibly the most oppressing aspect of abuse. My identity as a survivor comes from the effort I make to speak out against sexual abuse. Take that away, and I am just a victim.”