Teen Sex Crimes: What's Love Got to Do With It?

Filed under: In The News


It's a case of "I love ... eeeew!"

When a boy just a few months shy of being a legal adult is having sex with a 12-year-old girl, the two of them may think it's true love. The rest of society thinks it's creepy. That's why it's against the law.

That's the moral of several stories coming out of Iowa, where prosecutors are shooting down the "But-We-Love-Each-Other" defense.

The Sioux City Journal reports two 11-year-old girls in northwest Iowa have gotten pregnant by older teenage boys in the past six months. Both girls said they wee madly in love with the fathers of their children, Gary Niles, the chief juvenile officer for Iowa's third judicial district, tells the newspaper.That doesn't matter. Both boys face felony sexual abuse charges because 11-year-olds [here's a shocker] are not old to enough to give consent.

Ages of consent vary from state to state. Regardless, Niles tells the Journal teenagers need to know that -- all emotions aside -- having sex with children or younger teens can have severe lifelong legal consequences.

Even parents need a legal education, he adds. In some cases, he tells the newspaper, parents have encouraged illicit and illegal love affairs involving older teens and younger children.

"I think [the teens] see age as more of an arbitrary barrier," Niles tells the Journal. "[It's] that 'I'm in love with this person and it's OK because it's love' kind of thing."

Carol Hawes, the clinical director at Catholic Charities in Sioux City, tells the newspaper love is blind -- especially among people who have never navigated its pitfalls before.

"I don't think the youth are even close to being aware of all the consequences of what can occur with this" she adds.

It's often a matter of one moment of passion for a lifetime of regret.

Early last month, the Journal reports, sheriff's deputies in nearby Plymouth, Iowa, arrested a 17-year-old for having sex with a 13-year-old. Now the boy faces felony charges of third-degree sexual abuse and up to 10 years in prison.

Girls in such cases risk pregnancy, social ostricism and a whole range of other consequences, Niles tells the Journal. However, boys, too, need to consider the long-term consequences, he adds.

"We've had kids on the sex abuse registry that couldn't live in dorms or at colleges," Niles tells the newspaper. "Every step of the way it becomes a barrier for improvement, so the long-term significance is unfathomable for a lot of these kids."

Related: One in Four Female Teens Have an STD

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.