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