Statutory Rape Laws and Victim Misrepresentation

A Tacoma area man was found guilty of statutory rape and child pornography for various illicit activities involving a 14-year-old girl who misrepresented herself as an adult.

Jurors in the trial of a 48-year-old Fircrest [Washington] sex master accused of raping, kidnapping and exploiting a 14-year-old girl he enslaved found him guilty of eight counts of sexual exploitation of a minor. He was found not guilty on the remaining 30 charges, including first and second-degree kidnapping, third-degree rape of a child and multiple counts of possessing and dealing child pornography.

Stanley Scott Sadler, a postal technician with three children, had been charged with 38 crimes in connection to the girl, who he says told him she was 19 and consented to all the activity. He was charged with first-degree kidnapping and multiple counts of third-degree rape of a child, sexual exploitation of a minor, possessing child pornography and dealing child pornography.

Prosecutors didn’t debate that the girl had told Sadler she was 19, but said he should have known better than to believe she was old enough to have sex and pose for sexual photographs. They alleged that on Aug. 29, 2004, Sadler went to Camas to pick up the girl, and then took her camping with his children and finally to her house. While there, he had sex with the girl, encouraged her to have sex with a woman who was also his sex slave, took sexual photographs of her and emailed them to friends.

My initial reaction was, “Eeew.” The idea of a 48-year-old man taking advantage of a 14-year-old girl in such a way is sickening.

Yet it’s not clear to me what lengths someone is to go to in order to verify that potential sex partners are the age they claim to be. While most 14-year-olds look like children to me, there are notable exceptions. Indeed, Brooke Shields, Anna Kournikova, Britney Spears, Alicia Silverstone, Leanne Rimes, Lindsay Lohan, and numerous other celebrities were presented as sexual beings at very early ages.

This is futher complicated by the fact that Washington’s age of consent is only 16. Surely, a 14-year-old claiming to be 19 could easily be perceived as being at least 16?

Now, one could certainly argue that 48-year-old men with any moral fiber should refrain from having sex with teenagers, even if they actually are 19. Further, it is certainly a good idea for a variety of reasons not to have sex with people one doesn’t know well enough to be reasonably sure that they are adults. But my concern is over legal culpability here, not best personal practices.

Update: I should note, too, how rapidly our perceptions of age and sexuality have changed. It was not at all unusual a couple generations ago for girls to be married and having babies at 13 or 14. To take one famous example, remember the rather disturbing wedding night scene from the Loretta Lynn bio-pic “Coal Miner’s Daughter?” The real-life Lynn was 13 that night. Hubby Oliver “Mooney” Lynn had recently gotten out of the Army, aged 21. As Wikipedia notes, “The Lynns had four children by the time Loretta was 17, and she was a grandmother at age 29.” They married in 1948–not all that long ago.

via roving correspondent Richard Gardner

FILED UNDER: General, ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Bithead says:

    Years ago, I used to work at a radio station that was owned by the local school district.

    I had just graduated a few years before, and was amazed at the look of some of the girls in that school. I can recall thikning to myself that I clearly was not paying attention when I was in school.

    Kids don’t look like kids, anymore.

  2. DC Loser says:

    Recall that porn star Traci Lords was found to have been 15 when she did her first porn film, with a birth certificate stating she was 22. She made over 100 porn films before she turned 18.

  3. RA says:

    All you should have to do is check her drivers license. If she has a well forged license then the man should not be prosecuted.

  4. ravin says:

    When my husband was in the military in Hawaii, a common problem was “eleventeen-year-olds”. Girls who used make-up and clothes to make themselves seem older and claim to be adults, but who were really anywhere from 11 to 15. Then army guys who fell for it got prosecuted for statutory rape. It happenned several times that I know of while we lived there, and my knowledge is far from all-inclusive, I’m sure. Some army commanders were telling their soldiers to check IDs. I’m still not entirely sure what was in it for the girls that made them do this.

  5. Alan Kellogg says:

    What was in it for the girls? Excitement, adventure, and sex. Hate to tell you this, but 11 year old girls are randy little things. Given the chance they’d bed most any adult male they know and trust. You have to watch them carefully. And boys that age are no better.

    Where early marriage is concerned…

    Many years ago, when I was rather bad off, I met a woman age 45. She had a daughter age 30, a granddaughter age 15, and a great granddaughter just born. She also had a mother age 60, a grandmother age 75, and a great grandmother age 90. In the line of maternal descent the traditon was to get married at 14 and have their first kid at 15. And for at least 6 generations the first child was female. Full term, short labor, no complications. Simply the way things were done where they came from.

  6. legion says:

    Yeesh. Not to mention the estimated ages for the main characters in Romeo and Juliet, which I believe were also in the 12-13 range…

    So, is there a legal (not moral, mind you) defense that can be used in these circumstances? Or is it always on the shoulders of the elder to make sure their partner is legal?

    And Alan – Wow! That’s not a family, it’s an assembly line!

  7. CoMom says:

    My kids and I had just this discussion the other day.

    If you read enough and watch enough Discovery Channel shows, you’ll know that women/girls (and their parents)instinctively look for stability and security in a partner in order to support them and their children. This usually means an older man. After all, how many 18 year old boys are stable or secure financially? On the other hand, men instinctively look for fertility, which is usually found in the young.

    Historically, with women dying in childbirth and a short life expectancy, girls were usually married by the time they were 18 to men who were usually in their 30s or later, many of whom were on their second or third wife. For example, my great-grandmother was 17 and her husband was 28 and well-to-do when they married. Laura Ingalls Wilder tells of a friend who was 13 when she got married. Laura herself was only 18, Almanzo her husband was 28.

    However, our values and culture have changed and we now have extended childhood much longer. Many ‘children’ don’t leave their parents until their 20s or 30s, instead of their teens. I certainly don’t want some 30-something man messing with my 14-year-old daughter, who looks at least 18 (especially in a bikini). Most of us want our daughters to get their education and fulfill their career dreams as well as having a family.

    As far as the law goes, given human history, I don’t think it’s perverted for men to want teenage girls. It’s when they go after children who haven’t reached puberty that they have a problem. And what’s with the trend lately with women in their 30s having sex with 13-year-old boys? THAT is definitely not natural. We just had another case like that here (Colorado) last week. And cases that deal with a person in a position of trust, like a teacher or a minister are wrong too, just like with adults.

    I think the law needs to differentiate between these different cases. Although I do believe that as humans, we’re supposed to be able to control our more basic instincts and stay within cultural bounds. Does that 48-year-old man want someone like him to do the same thing with his daughter? Even if she was 19? Even so, it doesn’t make what he did rape or sexual assault.

  8. Anderson says:

    Yeah, this is a problem. Parents allow, or encourage, their little girls to dress like hookers, and legislatures “protect children” with statutory-rape laws.

    That said, & as JJ implied, it’s not unreasonable to create a strong incentive to get to know your lust-object well enough before having sex with her. Like, visit her house? Find out where she is during the day–at work, or in class?

  9. Alan Kellogg says:

    Anderson,

    😀

    But seriously, kids today are better fed and healthier. That increases the possibility of pregnancy in girls, which places an even greater burden on them and their family. In addition we actively discourage conversation regarding sexual activity and pregnancy. I once overheard a sexually active boy of 17 telling his friends that fact had to be kept from his dad, or his dad would have a cow. Yet we have people who blithely insist a pregnant girl must get her parent’s permission before getting an abortion. How do you expect her to tell her mother and father about her pregnancy, when she’s not really able to tell them about her sex life?

    On this subject it’s not a good time to be a kid.

  10. intelec says:

    Federal law says AOC is 18 or older. The Internet is federal jurisdiction. Any solicitation of an actual child or someone one believes to be a child when done over the Internet will be prosecutable under the more strict federal statutes as well as any applicable state laws.

    http://www.ca3.uscourts.gov/opinarch/051421p.pdf
    http://www.ca3.uscourts.gov/opinarch/044092p.pdf