The Herald Bulletin

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Editorials

July 3, 2013

Editorial: Elwood case shows need for talk about predatory teen sex

It’s not unusual for a high school senior to date a freshman. In the vast majority of cases, the senior is a boy and the freshman is a girl.

Some might argue that it’s natural. Boys mature, generally, more slowly than girls, and a senior-freshman pairing isn’t a problem.

But as illustrated by a recent case that passed through Madison County courts, it can become a big problem when an older teenage boy sets his sights on younger girls.

A 17-year-old boy had been charged with three counts of child molestation in January, after an investigation suggested he had engaged in sex with three younger girls. One was 13 at the time and became pregnant.

On Tuesday, Madison County Juvenile Court Judge George Pancol placed the boy on probation, required him to attend sexual behavior counseling and released him to his parents’ custody. The prosecution had argued that the boy be punished more severely.

The family of the pregnant girl, now 14 years old, has reported through media accounts that their daughter was coerced into having sex with the boy. To them, the boy’s actions are tantamount to rape.

It’s difficult to say exactly how the relationship led to intercourse; it’s a classic he-said/she-said case. And the situation is further muddied by how the law regards age and sexual consent. The legal age of consent to sexual activity in Indiana is 16. Basically, once a girl or boy turns 16, anyone of legal age or older can legally have consensual sex with them, other than relatives and those in positions of authority.

However, sex between an older teen and one as young as 14 is legal, provided that not more than four years separates them in age.

Pancol’s ruling certainly seems like a slap on the wrist for a boy who appears to have preyed on younger girls. But, then again, nobody but the boy and the girls he dated really knows whether he coerced them.

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