It’s NOT A Love Story!

The truth of what child sex abuse is and what it looks like has been missed because the packaging of this crime has been neatly wrapped and presented in a false light. Whether this is done intentionally by some or subconsciously by others, I am not sure. But, I am clear on one thing…it has to stop! If we are ever going to make a dent in the crusade to end this epidemic, we must call a crime a crime.

Everyday there are articles in the newspaper about men and women who have sexually abused kids; be it a teacher, a neighbor, or a so-called boyfriend or girlfriend. The headlines are often very similar – “Teacher caught in a sexual relationship with teenage student,” “Prominent executive accused of having sexual tryst with minor,” “Clergyman involved in inappropriate sexual relationship with 14-year-old boy.” On any given day, you can browse the internet and find one of these heart wrenching stories that causes you to question the humanity of those carrying out these heinous crimes against children. But…have you ever stopped to ask yourself why these headlines give the appearance that this was some romantic tryst among two consenting individuals? Does it seem even remotely rational to suggest that the interaction between a 35-year-old woman and a 14-year-old boy could seriously be considered a lovers’ rendezvous? Does the physical penetration of a 12-year-old girl by a man twice or three times her age make you feel all warm and fuzzy? Do you see the actions of a clergyman against a pubescent teenager who doesn’t feel safe enough to tell what is being done to them as a consensual sexual love affair? I mean, really? Is that what you interpret these details to mean?

Well here is the problem with the media and news outlets. They spend an awful lot of time writing and reporting these stories in such a way that people will watch them and read them and yet not be so sickened that they close the browser window, change the channel, or toss the entire newspaper in the trash and declare that they don’t want to watch the news or read the newspaper because it’s too depressing. We, as consumers, are literally being told how to feel about something as sick and repulsive as child sex abuse. And, because we often prefer a feel good piece over the truth, we allow ourselves to believe a child was actually involved in a “relationship” instead of concluding that a child was raped, sodomized, and mentally scarred by a sexual deviant.

In a tweet by the Philly Inquirer, a teacher was said to have given a 14-year-old student “special attention.” The Inquirer later came back and apologized for this gross misrepresentation of sexual abuse. In yet another incident, a gym teacher was reported as being involved in a “year-long tryst” with a 16-year-old boy and “bedded another student.” These stories are disseminated EVERYDAY and flagrantly romanticized as though these children not only willingly participated, but the writer would also have us to believe that the child possessed the cognitive ability to function in the mental and emotional complexities that accompany a sexual encounter! What 8, 10, 12, 14, 16-year-old child do you know who is truly prepared and capable of being in a “relationship”? If the truth be told, most of us who are 20, 30, and 40+ struggle with the mental and emotional aspect of relationships, so why is the media so comfortable characterizing these crimes as trysts, relationships, and sexual encounters?

WAKE UP!! Stop believing the lie! These are not love stories. They are stories of rape, molestation, trafficking, and abuse! We cannot allow others to re-label these crimes to make them more palatable because in doing so, we don’t pursue the crusade to end this epidemic with the fervor and vigilance that it demands. We don’t push for harsher sentences and vote out judges and lawmakers who are soft on those who commit crimes against children. We subconsciously give the pedophile license to offend again because we fail to characterize their action as monstrous and worthy of the ultimate punishment. Romanticism of these crimes also cause people to frame these actions as a lapse in judgement or poor behavior choices instead of an insatiable deviant sexual desire in someone who cannot be rehabilitated during the average (3-8 years) prison sentence for a sex crime.

I implore you to not allow yourself to be sucked in by the media cycle and see these headlines for what they are….stories of sex crimes against children. There is nothing romantic about rape and sexual abuse, and the child is definitely not going to remember it as the warm and tingly moment of one’s first kiss or crush. It will always be the time in his or her life when they wished someone could see what was happening to them and come to their rescue and protect them like every child deserves.