the era of age and sexual consent: a path to solution

The age related galore of regulitis does not use common sense nor evaluation of discernment of the individual child in matters of child sexual abuse. What solutions could there be to counter the legal and cultural pressure to continue the “to bottom” race of the age of children's sexual consent?

The use of buzz-words like discernment and consent revolves around concerns. Whether legitimate or not, their alleging forms the basis of excuses in our pigeonholing societies. The old adage of grasping extreme differences into homogenous categories everyone can understand and deal with. It is about variation and diversity versus convenience for courts and society. Yet the younger, the greater these disparities durably impact lives.

Do we need it? Do we need an “age of consent”? Or are we better off with anarchical concepts interpreted on an ad-hoc, case by case basis? Which criteria and definitions would, or should, we use? On what would we base them?

The law mixing up inquisitive exploration, discernment, consensualness, and all elements of criminal nature is clearly incapacitated to provide an easy, child centred answer.

neurology to the rescue

Neurological science has proven we are not “adult” until well into our twenties. Objective research, such as brain scan imagery, shows by age 18, the usual legal adult age, we are about half way in our neurological development from puberty to adulthood. A quick search will reveal the amount of confirming research on the subject.

Risk taking and dealing with risk taking consequences, our capacity to inhibit impulses or deal with influence, and more, are not fully developed at 18. Whether we like it or not, this involves and influences at least our psychological and sexual capacities. It usually takes until about our mid twenties to reach that point, but there is great individual variability in timing.

Children will inevitably explore and experiment sexual behaviour long before the end of development. During that time, various forms of influence, or worse, create victims who sustain life-long measurable neurological damage.

Who's responsible?

To me the question is not whether the age of biological ability to procreate, or an alleged age of any kind, should be used. Age should not come into the picture. The question to me is how those who are further on their path of life could (want to) take responsibility for those who are less so?

In many if not most child sexual abuse cases, victims have had to show, prove, to authorities there was unwarranted influence, abuse. In families, children who try to speak up most often are not heard, nor listened to.

Is that how we want a child, regardless of age, to start dealing with life-long far reaching measurable damage?

Who's responsible when a 15 year old child explores sexuality with a 14 year old? Do we consider it consensual because neither seems at that time to suffer from the experience? Do we punish the elder child, or try to establish which of both is the furthest developed? Or do we commit gender based violence by defaulting responsibility to the boy regardless of his development? …

None of any of these in my opinion.

Parents, family, the close circle of trust are responsible …

Who's responsible seems easily defined in the face of child sexual abuse. The parents, and the child circle of trust, are responsible, no? Yet if it would be easy, wouldn't child sexual abuse not exist?

Even parents fall prey to omission to act in favour of their child victim. For example by adults willing disbelief, generating life-long child sexual abuse consequences. I've published an open letter to my recently passed away aunt because it is I think an example of the responsibility of families.

Pictures and movies can capture and convey the spirit in ways scribbles can't. While it takes stomach, I invite everyone to watch the 2018 movie “les chatouilles” showing the childhood experience of artist Andrea Bescond. The movie was translated to English, titled little tickles. It is an exemplary example of how families may deal with Child Sexual Abuse.

A trailer of the movie can be watched on invidious.'

For me the movie was an eye opener on a politically incorrect truth. Mothers too are responsible for child sexual abuse. And the increasing data suggests women are no better then men at the subject.

In 2020 Kristin Jones as victim offered an inspirational ted talk: Why children stay silent following sexual violence.

Yes, some of the data she refers to might not be entirely up-to-date or correct. And there are a few gender discriminations creeping in there. But that's not important. Her sharing of her personal experience is an example testimony of what happens among the 90% of child sexual abuse cases, and sheds light on what needs to change.

So what should we do?

Wrongdoing will happen in the group of peers, among children. Repression against children is not the answer. Support, awareness and reparation are.

Based on the neurological evidence, the law should seek to increase the age of consent. As far as I am concerned, at least to 18 if not higher. The duly necessary exceptions to the law, acknowledging children's exploration, should render the age of consent wholly dependent on three pillars:

Surprise: International law and jurisprudence already allows for much of this “flexibility” concerning consensual sexual conduct in the group of peers. It is just we do not apply nor use it because no law can assess the individual level.

Only people who are truly competent and experienced can try to provide a personal opinion assessment. And there is a chronic lack of them, everywhere. And it is in the nature of people to make mistakes. Expert mistakes are as human as unpardonable in matters of Child Sexual Abuse.

In time, I am confident law will acknowledge neurology to determine whether an individual is of age of consent or not. Much like it has the capacity to objectively determine who has been victim of child sexual abuse, and who is falsely accusing.

my thoughts

Child sexual abuse has been part of humanity since times immemorial, and will remain part of our societies no matter what we do or wish to counter it. It doesn't mean it is not our duty to work and act against it.

The first change is how we all look at and deal with child sexual abuse.

Our adult culture and praxis of ego, honour, shame, silencing, ... being valued as more important then a child's needs being dealt with appropriately, must be stopped.

We don't need to teach children. We need to teach adults, parents and the close circle of trust in particular. Adults need to learn appropriate communication on the subject. Among themselves and towards children. An atmosphere of non judgement as a warm, secure, trustworthy blanket. In this way, also false allegations of children can be dealt with in a sane and future life constructive way.

Stand by children victims and children perpetrators. And particularly stand up against adult set ways and perpetrators. No matter the age consideration. And realise since as a society we condemn sexual abuse between adults, shouldn't we start with addressing sexual violence against and among children with as much fervour?

end of part 2 of this 2 part series

A shorter edited version is also available at HAVOCA.

Tags: #Rights #Sexual #Psychological

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