Kids can't consent! Get it right, reporters!

Two clergy sex abuse stories yesterday by television stations – one in Texas, the other in Indiana  – made me want to crawl back into bed and stay there.

First, KHOU TV, the CBS affiliate in Houston, reported that a girl, “when she was 13. . . .began a sexual relationship” with her 37-year-old youth pastor, Derek Hutter. The station reported that she “had sex with Hutter over a dozen times” and “had been involved with the youth minister since she was 13-years-old.”  

Then, WBIW, the Fox affiliate in Vincennes, reported that 34-year-old youth pastor Derrick "Duke" Hampsch is accused of “engaging sexual acts with a minor” and that “the probable cause listed three incidents in which the victim described taking part in sexual acts with Hampsch.”

(emphasis added)

Look at those underlined words and phrases. Each implies consent. Each suggests that the victim, despite being a child, is a willing participant. (And one phrase - “when she began a sexual relationship” - actually says that the child was the instigator.)

Each phrase is dreadfully hurtful. Reporters simply MUST be more accurate and sensitive in their language surrounding sex crimes, especially child sex crimes.

Ever wonder why so many rape and abuse victims stay silent? In part, it’s because of callous, stupid and inappropriate reporting like this.

If I put a gun in a teller’s face and demand the bank’s money, no one writes that she “took part in a financial transaction” with me. So no one should say or suggest that somehow, when adults sexually violate kids or teenagers, there’s no coercion involved.

Child molesters are usually more subtle and less overtly violent. But they still force their victims into what may seem like compliance. But it’s not. And we shouldn’t use careless or callous language that implies an equality and a willingness between child and adult that is just not possible.


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