Can a 14-Year-Old Ever Be “In Control” if She’s Raped?

Let's_Get_Crazy_Wonder_WorldI was going to refrain from writing about the whole Miley Cyrus/twerking/”what’s up with that” commentary. Then I learned of a Montana rapist who was sentenced to 30 days in prison for the rape of a then-14-year-old girl.  It seems the judge felt that even though the rapist was 40-something male teacher of the victim, who later committed suicide, that the middle-school victim wasn’t really raped in a bad way, because, well, it wasn’t really violent and she seemed a lot more mature and so had actually consented.

I’ll wait for your head to stop spinning.

As I pondered that, and some other public reactions to young girls who have been raped and blamed for their own sexual assaults because of how they dressed or appeared, I wondered what role the media plays in presenting certain images of girls and young women.

Over at USA Today, I’m wondering — how much do things like MTV’s promotion of Miley Cyrus and her twerking, and other television portrayals of the over-sexualization of girls, impact how people like this Montana judge view underage victims of rape and sexual assault. If there is one judge who believes that a 14-year-old girl is as much “in control” of her actions as those of her 40-something attacker, how many others are there?

I hope you’ll pop over there and take a read.  And please remember — I am NOT attacking Miley Cyrus.  🙂

Joanne Bamberger is the publisher and editor-in-chief of The Broad Side.  She was formerly known around these internet parts as PunditMom, but now she is trying to be herself. She is the author of Mothers of Intention: How Women and Social Media are Revolutionizing Politics in America (an bestseller and now available in E-book form!). She was recently awarded the Campaigns & Elections Magazine/CampaignTech 2013 Advocacy Innovator Award for her research and writing on the power and influence of women online. Joanne is a “recovering lawyer,” but she is still well-versed in her litigator skills and courtroom practices.

Image via Wikimedia Commons/via calmdownlive/CC License

  • Marti Teitelbaum

    I was with you particularly when you mentioned your daughter (in the USA Today piece) — of course the same age as mine. Our daughters are in no way ready to make decisions about sexual activity.
    Kids who “seem” older and “more mature” (from various comments by the Montana judge and the UK judge) have probably been either sexually abused or left without any parental protection. They seem more mature because their experience has taken them well beyond the experience a child of that age should have. It doesn’t mean that they are any more ready or able to make good decisions about sexual activity, just that they’ve been injured and developed a sort of stylistic scar tissue that makes them look older to people with no real understanding of child development.

    • I think that’s a good point, Marti! I was molested, and at the time, I acted older than my age; mostly because of my abusive household. I had to make grown-up decisions for myself at a young age. It doesn’t mean I wasn’t ACTUALLY young. But it meant I couldn’t always appear vulnerable. And I certainly couldn’t let the adults in my life make decisions for me. This made people doubt whether or not my abuse was really “that bad”, me included.
      But it still took about 8 years of therapy and some really dark suicidal thoughts before I got over my child sex abuse.

      I think that at the end of the day, in general, I’d just like to put slut-shaming aside for a second and start rape-shaming.

      You wanna control the way women and girls dress and pretend it’s for their own good? OK. That’s a little old-fashioned, and it’s never kept women safe before, but you go ahead and knock yourself out. I’m suggesting something more radical. And maybe more efficient.

      How about we make men feel bad for attacking women?

      This 40 year old man took advantage of a young girl he was supposed to teach and guide. He raped her. That was wrong. That guy is a rapist. If you were a teenage girl, or have one in your family, or if you love any woman, you should be super-pissed at this guy. Because it could have been you, or the woman you love, or the teenage kid you love.

      It doesn’t matter how she was dressed, or how she spoke or what she said. He still raped her.

      And then she killed herself. Because being raped is scary. And hard. And it takes years to get over the violation of your body and your rights.

      There’s a reason that they use rape, in wars, to mess with the enemy. Because it’s horrible.

      And after his 30 days in jail, I hope we rape-shame the Hell out of him, and he wishes he’d never raped anyone.

      Yes, that judge is an ass-hat. But he is only one person. We, as a community can make rapists feel bad. We can start rape-shaming the same way started shaming slut-shamers.

      Let’s start giving men real, social consequences when they abuse women.

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