Jeremy, a small town boy from the Lake Havasu, AZ area, was 16 when he met his girlfriend. They were friends first, and started dating when she entered high school. The parents disapproved, and went to the police shortly after Jeremy turned 18. With no fanfare, he was sentenced to 5 years in prison after pleading to sexual conduct with a minor. No petition drive was started for him.
Brad was also a young man of 19 in love when he got ensnared on the “Predator Panic” web. Brad was so out of place in prison, our mutual friend “Lefty,” in year 22 of 29 for various burglaries, drug crimes and a sex assault, once remarked to Brad, “What are you doing in Prison? You don’t even have a rap sheet?
Five years later, his career as a paramedic was down the toilet, and he was even the subject of a suspiciously “abbreviated” Amber Alert after being seen in his car with a 1-year old child who was just reported missing. . .his daughter. The story was short on details , but we in the MHRM know this bait and switch all too well.
Fernando had an encounter with a young woman of 17 (age of consent in 41 of 50 states) he described thusly-”She said yes, her mom said no.” Next verse, same as the first.
These are just a few of the people I knew personally in the Arizona Correctional System, and even some child safety advocacy organizations are waking up to this insanity, with kids as young as 11 on the registry. No, check that, BOYS as young as 11. As admirable as these reports, like those of Human Right Watch, are, they are afflicted with the same malady as workplace deaths or homelessness; they conceal gender with titles (veterans, construction workers, youth). Indeed, (p.39) even the study concedes data is not actively kept on the gender of youthful offenders.
Enter Ms. Kaitlyn Hunt.
A young woman of 18 facing 15 years in prison due to sexual conduct with a 14 year old classmate, she is the current cause-celebre LGBT community, with a Change.org petition that has garnered nearly 300,000 signatures. The debate has largely been framed fallaciously, as a disproportionate potential penalty because she is a lesbian, with her lawyer (wrongly) decrying all the boys who “get off easy.” Her story has been on all the major networks, and she has appeared on the TODAY show among others to tell her story. The parents have been mercilessly portrayed as homophobes with no evidence. Indeed, public record points to the contrary, as it suggests she is quite the miscreant and hellraiser.
If Kaitlyn Hunt is the conduit to a broader discussion of statutory laws used disproportionately to pathologize male sexuality, I’m all for it. Color me skeptical based on the initial coverage. The media have largely defaulted to Damseling, the coin of the realm in matters of amour where the scythe of justice is poised to strike down someone not born with deadly weapon known as the penis. Against the backdrop of the Gay Marriage battle, the added element of her being an attractive lesbian adds a little more sugar to the Kool-Aid. A CNN video piece on Friday began with images of Ms. Hunt walking hand in hand with her parents, child-like, to a microphone, as sympathetic as Bambi cornered by cougar, the reporter’s voiceover restraining indignation like a covered crock pot muting the sound and steam of boiling water. “Prosecutors would have you believe that THIS is the face of a sexual predator.”
This is where my instinct to introduce tea kettle to TV screen was successfully suppressed. Barely.
I wondered how many of these pearl clutchers wrote message posts cheering on Patrick Drum as a vigilante hero for murdering Gary Blanton in cold blood. Oh, the names not familiar? Probably because Blanton was a MALE who essentially did the same thing Hunt did while he was a juvenile. Gary Blanton’s face was not that of a sexual predator, either. It was that of a son, teenager, and now, dead father and husband to two orphaned children and widowed wife. Where was his TODAY show interview?
As I wrote in the Tucson Weekly several years ago, where was sympathy for Keimond Brown? He was charged with molestation for having sex with another teen of 13. He was 15, and the charge follows him to this day. Did the ACLU file a letter on HIS behalf? (To be fair, the ACLU opposes all these registries).
The howl of the LGBT community notwithstanding, no one has a constitutional entitlement to Carnal Knowledge with anyone’s 14 year old. Otherwise the title of “parent” is only symbolic. That said, there is a better solution, one that protects the interests of young people while keeping their futures out of the clutches of those walking bureaucratic hammers whose mandate it is to treat everything like a nail.
Let’s call it “Juvenile Relations Court.” The model of course is Drug Court, which has quite successful in relieving the criminal justice bottleneck by taking first time, non-violent offenders and determining which of them is eligible for the treatment model and not grist for the Prison Industrial Complex Mill. Have a judge order counselors meet with the principals individually and as a group, and maybe come up with compromise solutions such as some form of supervised visitation, and reserve some penalty in the form of, say, a restraining order for the violating older partner in the relationship. I don’t have all the answers, but people far more experienced than I in this space can certainly work out the details. This would certainly be a good time for those MRAs and MGTOWS to strike while the iron is hot, writing your local legislators and gathering your neighbors to rally around this cause and address it.
But until we are ready to discuss this issue with the human face of criminally tarnished young men like Jeremy, Brad, Fernando and Gary Blanton front and center with the miniscule number of Kaitlyn Hunts, you will not see me signing any Change.Org petitions, nor shedding any tears for girls facing “predator” labels.