Shawn L. Bird

Original poetry, commentary, and fiction. All copyrights reserved.

question- what is molestation? May 21, 2015

I just heard about celebrity big brother from 19 Kids and Counting Josh Duggar’s confession that when he was a young teen, he behaved inappropriately with younger females, that he underwent counselling, and while he’s sorry about it, he’s received his forgiveness and moved on.

The internet seems full of those who label him a molester and think he should have been sent to jail.  I am somewhat confused by this response, because to my mind, a young teen, awash in hormones he doesn’t know how to deal with, is a boy in need of good counsel, frank conversation, and restorative justice, not a boy who needs to be tossed into jail.

I don’t know the details of Josh’s case, but then neither do those commenting all over the internet, so let’s keep this theoretical:

Facts: Young teen brains are not developed, therefore, impulse control is undeveloped. Pubescent hormones impact judgment.

I have to say that I think this kind of scenario speaks more loudly for the needs of young people to have thorough sex education- including not just the biology of their changing bodies but frank discussion regarding sexual autonomy and gratification.  Those of us who remember the wildly fluctuating passions of our first crushes need to remember that this is all extremely complex and confusing for 13 and 14 year old kids.  Media is assaulting them with messages about what sexuality means, their families and faith communities may have contradictory views.  How much did you discuss this stuff with your parents?  How much do you discuss with your kids?  I think our kids from toddlerhood need to know what is okay touching.  They need to know that they have autonomy over their bodies and that they should keep their hands off other people’s bodies.  But if they don’t, what should happen?

So here’s my question, with respect to pubescent youth– What is assault?  What is abuse?  What is mutual curiosity? What is counselor worthy and what is criminal?   Are there age lines?  Intent lines?  Subjugation lines?  What do you think is appropriate?  How would you want your son dealt with if he confessed to touching younger girls?

What is criminal responsibility for kids?

In the interest of disclosure, I am married to a youth probation officer who deals with this every day.  There definitely can be psychopathic rapists at 14, but they are a rare commodity.  Let’s concentrate on average kids.


42 Responses to “question- what is molestation?”

  1. This is a hard question, yet before the judicial system goes full-on punitive, let’s remember that youths who go into a detention facility often come out of it as hardened criminals.

    • Yes. We have hardly any youth detention facilities in BC anymore. Very few youth are charged. Instead of responding only to the result (theft, assault, etc) they analyze the cause, and try to deal with that through counselling, monitoring, etc. (That is my husband’s job). It’s been a very effective strategy and recidivism is extremely low.

  2. tylerdtroutman Says:

    Wow, a poet, writer, teacher and an astute commentator on social issues. You live for the applause don’t you? well,you are getting it.

  3. KJ Says:

    [The comment below has been edited to remove specific references, as I requested in my commentary that this discussion remain theoretical. If the author objects, she is welcome to request complete deletion of this comment]

    What is assault? What is abuse? What is mutual curiosity? What is counselor worthy and what is criminal? Are there age lines? Intent lines? Subjugation lines? What do you think is appropriate? How would you want your son dealt with if he confessed to touching younger girls?
    What is criminal responsibility for kids?

    Assault is defined as a violent act against a party. Abuse is a repeated negatively-influencing behavior. In regards to children, if your child violently beats up another child… he has committed assault, and needs counseling. If this happens repeatedly, with no change in behavior after counseling, maybe time in a JD facility is necessary. When it comes to abuse, especially sexual, it becomes more complicated. A sexual assault is a one-time violent sexual act committed without consent. The age of consent in most US states is around 16. Does this mean if two 14 year olds get it on, it is rape? No, as long as they both consented. However, if a 17 year old and a 13 year old… in most states, that is statutory, and I 100% believe that it should be prosecuted. At 13, one does not have the capacity to consent to such a relationship, and at 17, you are more grown up and developed mentally, and honestly should realize that maybe you shouldn’t be doing this with someone so much younger than yourself. If a 14 year old boy molests his younger sister… there is not a question that that is wrong. [edited] Finally, what’s appropriate? Consent, and teaching it to your children. It is not appropriate for another human being – child or adult- to touch esp. in a sexual manner another human being without their consent. If my son confessed something like this to me, and it had happened once, he would IMMEDIATELY be put in counseling. If it happened again, and again, [edited], I would see to it myself that he was placed in a facility where he could never hurt another person again. However, if my son was too young to understand what he was doing – personally, I believe below age 8 – I would ask him if someone had been touching him that way, and send him to counseling. Once you enter your teens, you know what you are doing is wrong.

    I’ve been abused by my father for years, in subtle and not so subtle ways, every form of abuse. I have never once thought it was right for me to touch someone sexually without their consent just because my dad did it to me. I do believe [someone] old enough to be held accountable for his actions should at the very least be investigated further so that [others] are kept safe.

  4. doncarroll Says:

    Shawn, you approached this perfectly. I agree with you that when it comes to teens, impulse control certainly comes into play as well as curiosity factors too. When I was growing up, I heard it all from the streets. There wasn’t any kind of discussions at the family dinner table when I was growing up in regards to these topics. One has to wade through a bunch of stuff as a kid growing up. Teens in the age of 13 -17 aren’t exactly experts. In America, it’s always been about punitive controls, and quite frankly done impulsively. Punitive controls should be the last resort. Malicious is the key word as I see it.

    • So to your mind, a malicious intent suggests criminality that requires incarceration, or counselling, or ?

      • doncarroll Says:

        [edited to remove specific references] i don’t know all there is to know, because i don’t know the whole story. but it does appear when it was occurring action was taken to correct it with counseling. kids can get a lot of mixed signals. like i said, it’s a highly sensitive arena.

      • Mixed signals from home, media, church, abusers, counselors, well-intentioned friends, relatives, work…

        Education is SO important! Everyone needs a voice.

      • doncarroll Says:

        yes….that is exactly what I was looking at. Education is SOOO important!!! It needs to be looked at in a broader spectrum. i’m glad that you saw what I was driving at.

      • I am reminded of a time when I was a summer camp counselor and a boy came forward (to someone in authority) to say that his counselor had asked him to touch his penis. The kid, who’d obviously been educated by his mom, refused and immediately reported. The guy was immediately dismissed and charges were laid (though I never did hear the results, since I moved away from the area). If kids know exactly what to do, know that those kinds of ‘secrets’ are not to be kept, and that adults WILL help, how much pain can be prevented? That kid was treated like a hero for coming forward.

  5. Oliana Says:

    Lots to think about here and I do not know the details of this person’s case. The laws have changed in the past 12 years in regards to even legal age of consent to have sex…increased from 14 yrs old who could be sexually intimate with even an adult and increased to 16. Now for youths between 12 and 14 there has to be less than 24 months difference in age and 14 and 15 year old cannot be sexually intimate with someone older than 60 months. I am not sure jail may be the solution but counselling alone may not be enough either; I am thinking of the youth who was assaulted…their wounds take so long to heal and the scars are sad reminders.

  6. Christina Says:

    I agree with you. He was just a child. Now the people who push sexuality at these children through marketing and media? They are adults. If anyone should be judged it should be them. But then again, who is buying what is marketed? Who is allowing their children access to that type of media, although granted, you can’t protect your children 100% of the time. It’s a tough world for kids either way.

    • The media thing is very interesting.

      We end up with girls walking around in the equivalent of bathing suits, angry if they’re noticed, angry if they’re not. Both genders have warped understandings of sexuality, what is appropriate garb, and behavior. We end up with objectification and confusion. It is a very challenging time!

      Recently, we were looking at some photos of high school students in the 80s. What we noticed were that the girls were covered to their necks, and boys were in the tight clothes! One of the Jr. Highs did a 50 year retrospective of their PE strip, and no boys were willing to wear the tight 80s shorts their fathers would have worn! That was funny, but telling.

      Fashion is circle.

  7. Joanne Corey Says:

    I am glad that the boy in question got help. What I am worried about is the girls involved – that they received counseling on a continuing basis, as they will have to live with the aftermath of the molestation for the rest of their lives.

  8. Darque Says:

    Reblogged this on Darque Thoughts and commented:
    Excellent post!

  9. Trueweaver Says:

    In my opinion,Theories arise from repeated phenomena that can, therefore, be(or almost be) proven. Factor that support such theories include nature. There are natural stages in the development of child as (s)he transitions through puberty into adulthood.
    The subject’s environment at the time of the incidents has a lot of bearing to his choices back then. It is apparent that the Human being is the only living creature with a Free Will/ Faculty of choice; and Josh is no exception.
    In response to your questions, I will focus on the role of parental guidance, information(and the lack of it) and self awareness.

    Pubescent youth are at a stage in which they would like to assert themselves as worthy of attention and independence from any perceived bondages (including parental ties). Their hormones work “overtime.”
    Amongst boys, physical aggression becomes common. The result is Assault on other parties. in such cases, I would recommend a lot of guidance from the male parents and/or guardians of the boy. They should be made aware of the legal implications of their actions as they prepare for adult lives in few years. Additionally, what they risk as potential victims of assault too. They should be taught control and responsibility by sharing alternative dispute resolution options. On the other hand, abuse can be random, premeditated or unexpected. Any adolescent can be a perpetrator or victim, either wittingly or unwittingly. Abuse can be physical, emotional or psychological. It can manifest itself through inappropriate actions like careles touching, like in Josh’s case I presume; careless verbal utterances or actions aimed at hurting someone else’s conscience. in the case of mutual curiosity, the intention is exploration. It is a natural feeling that comes with puberty and defiance within a youth will fuel it.
    Appropriateness or inappropriateness will depend on the cultural setting. For instance, in many non western cultures, such teenagers may qualify for marriage. I believe that it was allowed as a measure against awkwardness between boys and girls. However, in the contemporary world there is a better understanding of what unfolds at puberty, and it governs the roles that parents, and counsellors can take up.
    I would like to pride myself on the fact that at puberty, there are those adolescents that use their energies to discover their hidden potentials and some go ahead to make a positive difference with their lives. It is a choice they make because of the kind of guidance they must have benefited from along the way. It is only when they are aware of what to expect at that stage in their lives that they start to adjust their thoughts and ideas towards countering the challenges responsibly.
    Education will help by giving pre-teenagers (10-12 year olds) the clear picture about what comes with teenage.
    This is a collective effort from all agents and actors in the socialization process of the child

    • Well put. “It takes a village,” as they say.

      • Trueweaver Says:

        Very true. It takes concerted efforts. Through the process of globalization, the world is becoming a global village where such sensitive issues will be like ‘common cold’ to be dealt with everywhere. I vouch for enriched education system that equips children with the right ‘tools’ for their survival.

  10. kingmidget Says:

    The difficulty I have with this is that the actual facts of the Duggar case are completely unknown to all of us, so speaking in general terms. A 14 or 15-year-old boy who engages in sexual interactions with girls of the same age is not committing an assault and is not molesting anybody. If the girls are significantly younger than a boy of that age, then it probably should be considered an assault or molestation. Going back to the Duggar situation, which you may not want me to do — I have this feeling, because of the very religious, conservative nature of his family, that even engaging in sexual interaction with girls who were his peers would have meant he needed counseling.

  11. Thank you for bringing up these questions and encouraging discussion!!

  12. tylerdtroutman Says:

    No, Shawn. I am a real simpleton at times. I honestly thought I was complementing you when I saw you doing all these wonderful feats of the mind. That is what I meant if you even recall what I said from the avalanche you received yesterday. So the fact that people saw something negative in what I said really hurts because I don’t mean to hurt anyone especially someone I admire like you. Ta.

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s