The age of consent

With the recent news about a teacher traveling across the country for weeks with a high school student, I couldn’t help but wonder about how their relationships  got started. “Grooming” is the way an offender gradually draws a victim into a sexual relationship and they keep that relationship secret.  
Research shows us there are 6 stages of grooming perpetrators (males and females) use: They are:
• Targeting
• Gaining trust
• Filling a need
• Isolating the child
• Sexualizing the relationship
• Maintaining control
Look for some of these in this true story from my colleague, Karen.
“I didn’t even have to stop and think about it that day. I was sitting at the Reference Desk when a woman came in and said she was concerned because she had seen what she thought was a pretty young girl kissing a grown man outside the library. I walked over to the window and saw them walking away and I immediately knew who they were. The girl was 14 and the man was definitely a grown-up. I picked up the phone and called the police.
I told them someone had said that they were kissing and that they had left together. The police arrived quickly and took our statements. It was quickly determined that a crime was in progress. The police got the man’s name and tracked them down. I had called for one reason and one reason only. If I read in the paper the next day that that young girl had been raped and murdered, I knew 100% that I could have stopped it and didn’t. So I did. I didn’t know for sure what was happening, but I knew enough to be scared so I called the police and have them deal with it. The police did come back to the library to tell me they had been found together and they had arrested the man. I know nothing beyond that.
She was 14 and he was an adult- not almost an adult, but a man in his 20’s adult.  You see, I remember being 14 and having feelings, but I didn’t yet know what to do with them. I remember thinking my French teacher was cute and that various movie and music stars were “hot.”  I remember wondering and questioning and trying to figure out what being “in love” was all about. The difference is – there wasn’t a grown-up in my life using confusion and my naiveté to his/her advantage.”
I think it is important to talk to our children about grooming in the same way we need to talk to them about understanding commercials and how they are designed to sell a product. Information is power! Give your children power by sharing important information they need.  The age of consent for sex in Alabama is 16, with an acceptable age difference of only 2 years. Many other states have set the  age of consent at 17 or 18.

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