Are Laws Barring Sex With Minors Out Of Date?


Sandra Beth Geisel, a former Catholic schoolteacher, was sentenced to six months in jail last month in Albany for having sex with a 16-year-old student, Judge Stephen Herrick said she had “crossed the line” into “totally unacceptable” behavior, but the teenager “he was certainly not victimized by you in any other sense of the word” except legally, reports the New York Times. The prosecutor and a lawyer for the boy’s family called the comments outrageous. But is it possible that the 16-year-old wasn’t really harmed?

When the women in a series of recent sex cases around the nation face prison, questions are raised about where to set the age of consent. Because many of those named as victims refused to testify against the women in what they said were consensual relationships, not everyone agrees that the cases involve child abuse. “We need to untangle the moral issues from the psychological issues from the legal issues,” said Carol Tavris, author of “The Mismeasure of Women” and a social psychologist. “You may not like something, but does that mean it should be illegal? If we have laws that are based on moral notions and developmental notions that are outdated, do we need to change the laws?” Women having sex with teenage boys is not new. A U.S. Department of Education study called “Educator Sexual Misconduct” last year, found that 40 percent of the educators who had been reported for sexual misconduct with students were women. Prosecutions of women have been rising slightly in the last several years, said David Finkelhor of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire. He believes that the scandal involving sexual abuse by priests called more attention to cases with teachers and other authority figures.


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