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.