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***TRIGGER WARNING**** The following may or may not trigger victims of sexual violence. The news story that follows is not meant to support sexual offenders as we know that, but to generate a conversation about the laws surrounding particular incidents involving sex.

zackandersonThis is Zack Anderson, a 19-year-old from Elkhart, Indiana who was recently placed on the Sex Offender Registry in Indiana and Michigan. Problem is, Anderson doesn’t belong on the sex offender list.

Anderson landed on this list after an encounter with a young woman he met on the dating app “Hot or Not.” The girl lived just across the state line in Michigan and posed as a 17-year-old. Anderson and the girl met and had consensual sex but afterwards it was discovered that the girl was 14-years-old which means that Anderson, unbeknownst to him in the moment, committed statutory rape. (Statutory rape laws in Michigan state that, “Third-degree criminal sexual conduct is sexual penetration with someone between age 13 and 16.” Statutory rape laws for Indiana state that, “Sexual misconduct with a minor if a person at least age 18 engages in sexual intercourse with a child between ages 14 and 16.”)

Now Anderson faces a 90-day jail sentence, five years probation and placed on both Indiana and Michigan’s sex offender registry for the next 25 years. The girl and her parents attended his court date and declared that he shouldn’t be punished for her wrongdoing but the law remains. To top it off, the judge expressed disdain for the fact that Anderson used the Internet to meet girls saying, “That seems to be part of our culture now. “Meet, have sex, hook up, sayonara. Totally inappropriate behavior. There is no excuse for this whatsoever.” Those of us who use the Internet to connect, platonic and romantically, know that there is more than an excuse, there is a reason for this method of communication and meeting, but that is neither here nor there at the moment and the judge probably could have withheld his opinion on that. The real issue at hand is what to do in a statutory rape case when your victim lies and she–or he–comes forward to confess that lie and there is evidence of that lie–in this case maybe there is evidence through archived webpages of her dating profile that show her misrepresenting herself and her age.

Lying about one’s age on a dating app is an occurrence as old as time. So what are the consequences for lying about one’s age in a situation that could do harm and damage to the other person’s life? (And really, though Anderson is the only one being explicitly punished, I’m willing to bet that the girl may endure another kind of punishment if only through guilt.)

Nevertheless, because of this young woman’s lie Anderson’s life will never be the same. He has the jail sentence, the probation, the sex offender registry, and he can’t live or go near his parent’s house because he has a 15-year-old brother all because of a lie. I’ve been wracking my brain to see how this might be justified but I just don’t see it. Even as I write this I’m thinking, “But what if this is all I setup? What if his parents paid hers to come forward and state that she lied?” On one hand I want to believe this young man’s account because I want to believe that not every young man is a factory of raging hormones looking for a release by any means necessary–a nod to a Camille Paglia. On the other hand I’m fully aware that with our culture, a culture where rape culture is persistent and men get away with all manner of evil while we either silence or shame the women involved, the alternative storyline that I’ve conjured in my mind could also be possible. But I want to look at this case considering the evidence we have before us which is, literally, the testimony of Anderson and the girl’s admission and apology.

Say we take Anderson’s account at face value as well as the confession of the girl.

Say all of it is true.

Should the statutory rape law be upheld? Why?

Should there be an exception to the law if the victim confesses to deceitful behavior?

Should the victim be punished? Why? How? 

I’m very curious to hear perspectives across the board.

In a few days I’d like to follow-up on a few other issues that I can’t yet cover in this post which will include results from the questions above as well as the poll attached and why I am actually against the sex offender list in general. Until then, I look forward to sharing dialogue with people on the present case.

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