Hugh Faulkner vs. Chris Hale

[Publisher’s Note: On February 9, 1998, we published a Commentary piece by GO INSIDE Magazine’s Hugh Faulkner concerning Mary K. Letourneau, called Private Tutoring: Teacher Rape of a 13 Year Old Student. GO INSIDE reader Chris Hale responded to Mr. Faulkner’s essay and the contents of their debate are found here, unedited, and in their totality, for further public reflection and comment.

Update: July 4, 2002: Mr. Hale has written a reflection on this original debate entitled A Changed View on Mary K. Letourneau.]

Chris Hale (May 12, 1998)
My name is Chris Hale and I live in Columbus, Ohio.

I believe Mary Letourneau is innocent of child rape. She didn’t force the fourteen year old she was involved with to have a sexual relationship with her. The fourteen year old decided for himself to engage in this relationship. He even stated he initiated the sexual part of it. He knew what sex was, had sexual feelings, knew he could become a father, and willingly took the risk of becoming a parent to have this relationship.

In my opinion, it can’t be said he is too young to understand sex or to consent to it. Rape did not occur in this case because there was no force or coercion. That goes against the very definition of rape.

His family states he is emotionally more mature than most of his peers. He doesn’t appear to be fourteen but looks older. I don’t believe Mary is a pedophile. A pedophile is attracted to a pre-pubescent child.

This fourteen year old was probably into puberty at the time of their relationship and doesn’t look pre-pubescent. Because he wasn’t pre-pubescent, Mary can’t be a pedophile. This fourteen year old does not regret being in the relationship with Mary. He says he loves her. He also has said he is not a victim of rape. He says Mary never hurt him or forced him to do something he didn’t want to do. He has never said he is sorry he became a father at thirteen. He has not dropped out of school and helps to care for his daughter. I don’t think he feels his life has been destroyed.

Most people say this relationship is abnormal and destructive. But I think many thirteen and fourteen year olds have sex with people their own age. There is no law prohibiting adolescent sexual relationships. Why is sex between an adolescent and an adult considered abuse yet two fourteen year olds can have sex and they don’t get sent to jail. I think the law of consent is inconsistent and flawed. I think there should be mitigating circumstances in Mary’s case and not be an inflexible law.

I don’t believe the fourteen year old has gained any justice from Mary’s imprisonment or from her being labeled a sex offender. He doesn’t believe he is a victim. He has been deprived of a relationship with someone he cares about. In my opinion, that is unfair to him. I don’t think he’ll get over it when he is older.

I feel Mary is not a criminal and deserves to have her career, family, and reputation restored to her. She did what she felt was right and no harm was done intentionally by her. She only wants to be with someone she loves. Her marriage to her husband was on the verge of collapse and she found someone else she loved to be with.

I feel she has been treated unfairly by her critics. Her relationship is non-traditional but so is other types of relationships such as homosexuality, and it is being tolerated more today.

I feel Mary’s relationship should be tolerated and that she should go free and live her life the best way she can. She can teach again, have a relationship with her children, and with the fourteen year old. To me, this seems better than for her to sit in jail.

I only wanted to express my opinion to defend Mary because not many people support her. I feel she needs support. Please consider what I have written.

Sincerely,

Chris Hale

Hugh Faulkner (May 12, 1998)
Thanks for the note.

While you and I are on wildly different ends of perception, I appreciate your opinions.

I don’t know how old you are – I’m getting lots of mail from teenagers about this – but as an adult it’s clear to me that people in the position he was placed cannot make mature decisions.

Her obsession with him began while he was still in diapers. According to her testimony, she stated that she knew he was a soul mate when she used to change his diapers. She had him as a 2nd grade student, and nurtured him along to the point where sex was the obvious next step. Based on your definition of a pedophile, she is one. The difference between two 14 year olds having sex, and a 37 year old with a 14 year old is obvious.

The injustice in this is that this boy now has 2 children at 14. The woman he “loves” is a year younger than his mother and he doesn’t stand a chance of any degree of normalcy. Most adults have the inability to understand “love” thus most marriages end in divorce, let alone a 14 year old who is smitten by a woman who will raise her skirt for a child.

In my opinion, she is destructive, sick and manipulative.

I welcome you to write an opposing piece for the magazine.

-Hugh

Chris Hale (May 13, 1998)
I am 25 years old. I think that for this particular fourteen year old that Mary was involved with, he was able to make a choice to participate in a sexual relationship. His family says he is more emotionally mature than most people his age.

I think his maturity sets him apart and makes him able to understand what he is doing. He knew he could become a parent. He wasn’t innocent of the consequences of his actions. He initiated the sexual relationship. Mary didn’t force or trick him into doing what he didn’t want to do.

In the Seattle Times newspaper on the internet, I found an article for July 25, 1997, describing Mary’s relationship to the fourteen year old. Mary said when she met him in her second grade class, she developed a respect, an understanding, and an insight with him. She described the feeling as being that which one would have towards a brother or a sister. She also said she felt nothing sexual towards him at this time. She thought he would one day marry her daughter. An article for the March 30, 1998 issue of People Magazine has the same statements describing the relationship when they first met. Mary didn’t want to have sex with him when he was seven in my opinion.

When the young man became twelve or thirteen in 1996, that was when Mary began to feel differently about him. She had known him for years and had spent time outside of class with him. They both considered themselves friends. In 1996, he probably looked older than twelve, most likely fifteen. His emotional maturity was probably of someone in their late teens. Someone of this level of maturity can’t be considered a child as someone of an average level of maturity would be. I don’t think Mary can be a pedophile since she didn’t want a sexual relationship until he was thirteen, and at that time, he was already well into puberty. A pedophile is attracted to a pre-pubescent child. This thirteen year old didn’t fit into that category.

I don’t see the difference between a 14 year old and a 36 year old having sex and two 14 year olds having sex. Yes, the young man Mary was involved with has two children to care for now. But two 14 year olds could have two children or more by the time they both are 20. An adult can’t be solely blamed for the actions of some 14 year olds if the 14 year olds make a free choice. I think some 14 year olds are intelligent enough and mature enough to know if they should engage in sexual relationships. If sex isn’t for them, they should avoid it. If they don’t avoid it, they should accept the consequences. Since this young man chose to have this relationship with Mary, he must have been ready for it.

This relationship could work if given a chance. Mary could teach school. The young man could continue to go to school. Their children could be placed in daycare. In the evenings, on some days, the young man could do his schoolwork, stay home and watch the children. On other days, Mary could watch the children while he can go out and socialize when he was finished with schoolwork. In the summer, he could apply for a part time job. He will be fifteen I believe. He is a talented artist from what I have read. He could sell his drawings or paintings for profit or even be hired somewhere as an artist.

Would you be open minded to the possibility that Mary is innocent?

Chris Hale

Hugh Faulkner (May 13, 1998)
Chris,

Never have I said that the boy was “innocent” in this situation. I have, however, stated that he is a victim. Let’s examine your points:

Trust:
You base much of your opinion on what Letourneau herself has said about their relationship, as quoted by People Magazine and various news papers. Consider the source. Again, this is a woman who would abandon her husband, children and career to have sex with a 13 year old. Call it love; call it lust; call it whatever you want, but don’t call it normal. You say “she described the feelings [she had for him] as being that which one would have towards a brother or a sister.” Of course, she ended up having sex with this “brother.” That, Chris, is called incest. It too is against the law.

Victimization:
You claim the 13 (now 14) year old boy isn’t a victim in this case because he was “emotionally mature” for his age, and he “probably looked older than 12.” This is the type of justification and rationalization that a child makes when caught with their hands in the cookie jar. Adults are to know better. A nearing-40 mother knows better than to have sex with a 12 or 13 year old.

Contrary to your definition of “pedophile”, I have found nothing in the dictionaries I’ve referenced stating that it has anything to do with pre-pubescent children. In all cases (3 sources) it states a sexual attraction felt by an adult toward a child. A 13 year old is a child, is he not?

Whether or not the boy had pubic hair; whether or not he could impregnate her; whether or not he consented, it’s still wrong and against the law. Were this your 13 year old daughter we were talking about, with the roles reversed, would you welcome the perpetrator into your house or would you call him a letch and a pervert?

Your last statement deserves its own consideration:

This relationship could work if given a chance. Mary could teach school. The young man could continue to go to school. Their children could be placed in daycare.

Does that sound appealing in any sense? I’m quite certain the relationship will be given a chance to work when Letourneau gets out of jail in 7 years. Her fixation on him will allow little else. Letourneau will never teach school again as sex offenders aren’t permitted to deal with children, so she at least might spare their children from having to be placed in daycare.

Would you be open minded to the possibility that Mary is innocent?

Why?

How?

She’s already confessed to the crimes and has been found guilty of them.

Argue as we may about it. The irrefutable facts are that a woman in her mid-30s had sex and bore two children with someone who just only recently began to wear the title “teenager.”

-Hugh

Chris Hale (May 14, 1998)
I don’t believe Mary turned her back on her children or her teaching career just to be with the thirteen year old. While she was having an affair between September, 1996, and February, 1997, she went to school everyday and taught as she normally would.

She never pretended to be sick or called off work just so she could spend time with the thirteen year old. She never made the thirteen year old miss school so they could be together. Their relationship was private and did not interfere with their responsibilities as teacher and student. To me, she was not planning to leave her career. Her career was taken away from her, she did not leave it, in my opinion.

She didn’t plan on abandoning her children. In the Seattle Times article for July 25, 1997, she said she planned on divorcing her husband, take custody of the children, living with the 14 year old, and being together as a family.

Many have said she planned on leaving the country around February 3 of this year when she was arrested again. Her passport was said to be found under the mattress of the front seat of her car. $6,200 was said to be in the car. It was said she and the 14 year old planned to leave and take their daughter to another country so they could legally marry. I don’t believe it. Where was the passport for the fourteen year old? He couldn’t travel abroad without one. I don’t believe she would leave her children. She had time to go to another country between June, 1996, and February, 1997 (when the affair was first happening). She didn’t. To me, that shows leaving never entered her mind.

I understand why she left her husband and had an affair. I have read that before her affair, her husband was having affairs of his own and was verbally abusive towards her. I don’t know how long this went on, but it appeared to be for years.

She drifted apart emotionally from her husband about 1996, and began to have feelings for one of her close friends, the fourteen year old. To me, the loss of her marriage to her husband wasn’t much of a loss if he treated her wrong as I have read. The statement she made of feeling close to him like a brother in her second grade class doesn’t seem abnormal to me. She didn’t have sex with him for six years. Besides, “brother” doesn’t seem literal to me but a figure of speech.

The most important reason why I believe this young man is not a victim is because he himself stated in public interviews that he was not raped or hurt in any way. He has also stated in newspapers that he is not a rape victim. He says he loves her. Who would know better than him whether or not he was hurt or violated? Also, what true victim of rape is going to say they love their attacker?

It makes more sense to me that a true victim would hate the person who violated them and wouldn’t want to be in the same room with them. That isn’t the case here. He says he wants to marry her. If Mary is so sick and so mentally ill, why would the fourteen year old have the same feelings for her as she has for him? Is the young man mentally ill himself? Does he have Bipolar Disorder?

I found a definition of a pedophile in a book on diagnosing mental disorders, DSM IV. It did say a pedophile is attracted to children but it gave the age range as generally thirteen or younger. To me, the word generally means not necessarily thirteen and probably younger. People mature at different rates.

Someone at thirteen might be at a maturity level of ten or fifteen, or even older, it depends. Because the definition is general, it can be open to interpretation. Chronological age is not the only factor in determining if someone is a child. Their physical and emotional maturity levels can age slower or faster than their actual age. It isn’t as simple as it looks to place a few people in the category of a child as most. This young man is one of those few. His is a rare case.

Yes there is a law prohibiting adult and thirteen year olds from having sex. But should it apply to this particular case? There are mitigating circumstances. Why can’t the law make an exception to the rule just this once?

The young man wants a relationship with Mary. If he had his way, he would probably ask for the charges against her to be dropped. Why can’t his wishes be respected? If the roles were reversed and I had a 13 year old daughter that had an affair with a 35 year old man, whether I thought he was a criminal would depend on the circumstances.

If my daughter were to say she was hurt or violated up front and that she never wanted sex with him at all and was forced to have sex, then yes I would say he is a criminal and should be put in jail for rape. If my daughter said she loved him and wanted to have sex with him, I would not call it rape. I wouldn’t like what she was doing, but I wouldn’t see it as rape.

I don’t know what I would do.

All I know is that I don’t see what Mary did as wrong or perverted. My plan on how Mary’s relationship could work was based on her having her name cleared of all charges. That way she could teach again. What she confessed to was a law that didn’t allow for mitigating circumstances. She didn’t want to plead guilty.

I think, in my opinion, that her lawyer told her to plead guilty because everyone was against her and she wouldn’t have stood a chance at being acquitted at a trial. A case of mitigating circumstances was never considered or argued. She wasn’t given a chance to prove her innocence. This case is more complicated than just a simple law stating that an adult having sex with a thirteen year old is automatically rape.

Chris Hale

Hugh Faulkner (May 14, 1998)
“I don’t believe it.” That was your response to the published facts that Letourneau had clothes, a passport and lots of money in her car. We’ve seen other cases where evidence was wished out of existence – bloody gloves, DNA, shoe prints, etc. You seem hell-bent on turning a blind eye to Letourneau and the bad she’s done, and calling into question those who arrested her. Again, you’re pitting a convicted sex offender against law enforcement. I can’t imagine where anyone finds credibility in her.

“She didn’t plan on…” Sorry, Chris, but this sounds foolish to me and is the cusp of the whole debate. Rather than argue with you about whether or not the boy was a victim or a willing participant, let’s look at it a whole new way. Let’s assume a hypothetical took place, just for the sake of discussion. This, of course, is not reality, but a fictitious musing. Let’s assume for a minute that Letourneau didn’t force this issue. Let’s assume that she was a happy wife, mother and teacher. Let’s assume that she had only “brotherly” feelings toward this boy. Let’s assume, just for a moment, that this boy was actually the perpetrator and the one who was stalking her.

In this scenario, does that remove any degree of culpability from her? Could she, SHOULD she have not settled this at the outset? Do we not expect adults to be able to handle situations, particularly with a child, and to do the right thing? In this environment, could she not have limited their contact? Could she not have pressed the issue with either the school or with his mother? Could she not have turned away and made it very clear that his sexual advances were not welcome?

Frankly, I don’t care if this child hit on her like a freight train; or made unending advances toward her; or brought her lingerie, or roses, or chocolates, or money or anything else. She should have known better. She should have said NO! and she should have ended it before anything ever began.

That, of course, is not the way it happened, but we’ve been over that too much already. The idea that you think she didn’t plan to abandon her family or that she didn’t plan to have sex with a child or didn’t plan to destroy his life and any others doesn’t really matter now, because in my opinion she did all those things.

Are we to teach our children, particularly our daughters, that if someone persists, then you just have to give in? Are we to teach them that they are not in control of circumstances? I think not. We – you, me, each of us – needs to accept responsibility for our actions. We need to stop blaming bad choices on outside influences. There are plenty of poverty-stricken people who refuse to steal. There are vast victims of child molestation who are decent, wonderful, non-molesting people themselves. There are an incalculable number of children who had alcoholic parents who are not so themselves.

So, Chris, here’s my opinion in a nutshell. I don’t care who in this situation was the perpetrator. I don’t care what anyone intended to do. The simple facts remain: what she did was against the law, was against accepted behavior, and she could have turned away from it at any point. I’m saddened she CHOSE not to.

-Hugh

Chris Hale (May 15, 1998)
I think law enforcement can make mistakes and have wrong ideas about people. I think the Seattle Police and the prosecutors, etc. are being way too critical of Mary. She gave an explanation for the $6,200 in her car. Half of it was to pay her divorce attorney and the rest of it was to pay a dermatologist for treatment. I buy that explanation.

Attorneys are expensive, and without medical insurance, even dermatologists can charge a lot of money. She had just barely gotten out of prison and may not have had enough time to establish a bank account. Maybe she didn’t want to leave money in her apartment. People hide money wherever they feel it will be safe. Her passport was in the car, but again, where was the fourteen year old’s passport?

How was he to get out of the country?

She couldn’t very well hide him in a suitcase. As far as the clothes in the car, she said some were for her father, her son, and for her. She probably bought them in the last day or so. People can leave their belongings in a car and forget to take them out. All of this sounds incredibly simple minded, but sometimes the dumb explanations are the actual truth to the matter.

As far as the fictitious musing of her having only brotherly affection towards him and him stalking her, I think she would have settled it at the outset had it been this way. The reason is because she wouldn’t have seen him as someone to have a sexual relationship with. She would not have accepted his advances, would have told him to stop, and would have pressed the issue with his mother and the school.

If one doesn’t have a desire to be in a sexual relationship with another, then obviously they aren’t going to give in to the others demands. If she truly felt only friendship or a brotherly affection for him, then it would have been no problem for her to say no to sex with him. But that is not the way it was.

I think we should teach children right from wrong and to make smart choices. But in the end, individuals make certain choices and they have to live with them. If a thirteen year old male or female decides to have sex with someone their age or much older, and truly feels like having a relationship with someone, that is their decision. They should be strongly discouraged since it would be very hard to raise children at their age, and they would have to live with that. But they might just make a choice to have a sexual relationship anyway.

Is it a mistake?

Maybe or maybe not.

It depends on the individual and what they think or feel about what they have done. But if it does turn out to be a mistake, people shouldn’t blame the adult or whoever it was, and say this “child” was raped. People can’t destroy another’s life because their lives or the life of a thirteen year old has been made harder by what that thirteen year old chose to do. This young man did choose to have sex with Mary. He is a father at fourteen.

Yes it will be very hard for him to raise two children, go to school, and still spend time with his friends. But, he did freely decide to participate in what made him a father. Just because most in society, such as law enforcement, feels sorry for him and his predicament, that doesn’t give them the right to make Mary a villain and blast her life and reputation to pieces. The intentions of this young man does matter.

I am not blaming him for anything, but I do believe this: He took part in making himself a father at fourteen and he must live with that. He could have turned away at any point also. He chose not to turn away either. That is why the law in this particular case is flawed and an exception to it should be considered. It is not all Mary’s fault, and it is completely unfair to lay 100% responsibility on her shoulders.

Chris Hale

Hugh Faulkner (May 15, 1998)
Okay, so what’s your argument? We both agree that he took part? We both agree that she broke the law. What’s your point?

True love, real or supposed, is no excuse for illegal and immoral action. True love is not uncontrollable destiny.

He’s a child, she’s an adult. As the adult, she had control. She broke the law. It’s irrefutable.

Just because they love each other doesn’t mean she should not suffer the consequences of her actions, does it?

-Hugh

Chris Hale (May 16, 1998)
My point is yes he took part, and because he took part, the law cannot call their relationship rape. She broke a law that did not apply to her individual situation. Her case does not fall into the category of rape.

My definition of rape is forcing someone to have sex against their will. It can be through physical force. Rape can be if someone uses a drug to knock someone unconscious and has sex with them unsuspecting. It can be sex with a child who is 5 or 8 years old that truly doesn’t understand what sex is and cannot have sexual feelings. Her relationship does not fall into any of the categories I have named.

Therefore, I say it can’t be rape.

The law is flawed and does not allow for these circumstances to be considered as mitigating. The law should have considered her situation as not falling into the category of rape. But the law is driven by chronological age only and states adults can’t have sex with twelve to sixteen year olds or younger or it is automatically rape.

The law assumes a thirteen year old can’t understand what they are doing and can’t make a decision on sexual relationships. That is where the law is wrong in this case. This young man did participate and did understand what he was doing. She had control, but so did he. To me, in this case, it is refutable. If she didn’t commit rape, should what she did be considered illegal? I don’t think so.

Is it immoral?

She did commit adultery yes, but her husband cheated on her before she did and was verbally abusive. Their marriage would have ended in divorce even if she did not have her affair. She pretty much divorced her husband in her own mind and pursued another relationship. It doesn’t seem a terrible thing or an immoral thing based on the fact that her marriage was about to collapse and would have anyway.

She still planned to get custody of her children so it wasn’t like she was going to leave her children hanging. She never wanted to inflict pain or harm on anyone. Malicious intent was not her goal. She did not have an evil agenda. Why should she suffer any consequences that would ruin her life? Because she made a fourteen year old a father and “took away” his “childhood”?

This fourteen year old chose to take part, and he had control, and because of that, he helped to create his current life as a teenage father. But society shouldn’t make Mary suffer because it was not her actions alone that led to the young man being a teenage father.

Chris Hale

Hugh Faulkner (May 16, 1998)

Why should she suffer any consequences that ruin her life?

Because her actions, actions she chose, dictate that.

But society shouldn’t make Mary suffer

Again, her actions are what caused the suffering – even for herself.

…it was not her actions alone that led to the young man being a teenage father.

No, but she could have prevented it, and as the only adult, she should have.

-Hugh

Chris Hale (May 17, 1998)
I have read that sex with a minor is illegal even if the minor wants it. I have heard that statement from just about everyone: Police, prosecutors, judges, the media, etc. No one has given a reason as to why it is irrelevant for a minor to consent.

Why does it not matter what an adults intentions are or what a minors intentions are?

Why if a minor fully understands what sex is, knows they can become a parent, and has sexual feelings, and willingly participates in a sexual relationship with an adult that it is still illegal?

All of these people always say it is irrelevant, feelings of what the participants are don’t matter.

The only explanation I have heard is, because that is what the law says, or because that is the law of the land. Well, I am sorry, but these explanations just aren’t going to cut it with me. There is going to have to be a better explanation as to why the law should apply to Mary K. Letourneau.

Mary’s actions alone did not dictate why she should suffer any consequences. She alone was not the cause of anyone’s suffering. And, she is not the only one to have prevented it. Also, why as the only adult should she have prevented it? Why is it always on the adult’s shoulders to take full responsibility? Because a thirteen year old is a “child?” Because they are too immature to understand and make decisions about sex? I have heard of a lot of thirteen year olds that commit robbery and murder.

These “children” are being tried as adults and put in jail for the majority of their lives. If children can’t make mature decisions and aren’t responsible for their actions, such as stopping sexual acts with adults, then why are “children” held fully accountable for crimes in which they commit? It can be said that these “children’s” parents, teachers, or whoever should have known these kids were going to steal and kill. As adults, these people should have stopped these kids from committing these acts.

But I don’t see parents or any adults in charge of “children” being sent to prison for this “child’s” actions. It is never said as the only adult, these people should have stopped these kids from killing. Yet it is said, in a sexual relationship with a minor, an adult is fully responsible for putting a stop to such a relationship. If some minors can be held accountable for violent crimes, then some minors could and should be held accountable for preventing a sexual relationship with an adult. But if the law doesn’t want to work that way, then it shouldn’t go around and place the blame on the adult’s doorstep.

The only solution I can think of is, if the adult wants the relationship and so does the minor, and rape does not apply, then just let it be. I do believe that in this case, it is not about a predator preying on a victim. If one does not feel one has been hurt or violated, then they are not a victim. If someone doesn’t have malicious intent to harm another just to get what they want, they are not a predator. If a teenager wants to engage with a sexual relationship with an adult, why should there be a law protecting them?

Protect them from what?

I have asked this before, but I will ask it again, Why isn’t there a law forbidding two minors from having sex? If the law is so interested in protecting “children”, then why shouldn’t there be a ban on all sexual contact for everyone until they reach the age of 18? That means any 14 year olds that have sex with another 14 year old will automatically go to prison. Why can’t the law do that if it wants to protect minors so much?

Minors can dig their own holes and make their lives a lot harder by their choices. That is the way it is if a minor rapes or kills someone. Why is it an adult’s fault if a minor chooses freely to have sex with them? It seems a contradiction to me to hold a minor accountable for some things, yet say they are too immature to make decisions about others.

Chris Hale

Hugh Faulkner (May 17, 1998)

I have read that sex with a minor is illegal even if the minor wants it. I have heard that statement from just about everyone: Police, prosecutors, judges, the media, etc. No one has given a reason as to why it is irrelevant for a minor to consent.

It’s irrelevant because children of this age have little capacity to make such life decisions. You choose to turn a blind eye to the fact that and adult woman lifted her skirt for a 13 year old boy. Tell me, Chris, what chance does any boy in this situation have of making a decision based on right and wrong, of acceptable and unacceptable, of anything more than hormones? As the miniscule minority opinion, I think the impetus lands on you to explain how this is not detrimental. I’d like to see you lead a discussion on how sex between child and adult is not harmful.

Why does it not matter what an adults intentions are or what a minors intentions are? Why if a minor fully understands what sex is, knows they can become a parent, and has sexual feelings, and willingly participates in a sexual relationship with an adult that it is still illegal?

Again, what capacity does a boy have to make any decision when he’s experiencing orgasms with his adult school teacher?

Also, why as the only adult should she have prevented it? Why is it always on the adult’s shoulders to take full responsibility? Because a thirteen year old is a “child”? Because they are too immature to understand and make decisions about sex?

It’s hard for me to fathom that you’re so willing to say that a 37 year old – someone seasoned with experience and life is comparable to a 13 year old boy – particularly one who was tainted by his teacher. Yes, I think a 13 year old is too immature to fully understand the ramifications of parenthood and responsibility of this magnitude. You’re not suggesting a 13 year old can make an informed, mature, life decision on something like this, are you?

If children can’t make mature decisions and aren’t responsible for their actions, such as stopping sexual acts with adults, then why are “children” held fully accountable for crimes in which they commit?

In most cases, they aren’t. The two boys (one of them the same age as the boy Letourneau had sex with) who recently killed many of their school-mate are not being tried as adults. They will be free before they begin to grow facial hair.

-Hugh

Chris Hale (May 18, 1998)
Assuming you are correct and children of this age, thirteen have little capacity to make such decisions as sexual relationships with adults and becoming parents, why did this young man’s family and friends clearly state that he was physically and emotionally more mature than most of his peers? They said he was not an average, typical thirteen year old and never had been typical. Mary was not the only one to say he was mature. The source is, the Seattle Times, July 25, 1997. “Teacher’s sex with student shatters her family and his” The fact that other people than Mary have said he has advanced maturity for his age lends credibility to that statement in my opinion. It is not just an excuse by a “sex offender” just to justify their behavior.

I have mentioned this before, but I will ask it again: If sex with Mary as a 36 year old adult was harmful to this 13 year old “boy”, why has he said in interviews that he is not a victim? Why does he say that he loves her? Assuming he has been damaged, why can’t he see he has been violated? To me, one would have to be mentally retarded or they would be lying if they said they were never hurt or violated when they were raped. I don’t think this young man is retarded and I don’t sense he is lying. So what is the answer? He really means what he says: He loves her and he was never raped. Forget what the law says. The law just has it wrong in this case. What matters is what this person says. I think if he had it his way, he would ask for the charges to be dropped.

I am suggesting that because of his advanced maturity, this particular thirteen year old is able to decide about having sex with an adult. If he certainly was not ready for such a decision, if he knew he didn’t have what it took to be a father, that he was too young, that the ramifications were just too overwhelming for him, then why did he have sex with Mary? Remember, he said he told Mary that he wanted to have sex with her. If he wasn’t ready, he would have had to be on drugs to have gotten himself into such a thing as parenthood. HE had no business engaging in such an action if he wasn’t ready. So my question is why would he do it if he wasn’t ready? Because he was tainted by his teacher? What did she do to him to taint him? No one can make another do something they don’t want to do, unless they hold a gun to their head.

About children who commit crime and aren’t tried as adults, maybe most aren’t given adult punishments, but there are many people who think these kids should go to jail for the rest of their lives. Maybe it is time to stop calling an adult a rapist if a “child” says, I want to have sex with you please.

Chris Hale

Hugh Faulkner (May 18, 1998)
I guess there is just no coming to harmony on this. I, and seemingly much of society, believe that sexual relations between a child and an adult are wrong. You don’t.

I, and much of society, believe that 13 year old children have little capacity and not enough maturity to make decisions of this magnitude. You disagree.

I believe that regardless of propositions or pressure, an adult should be able to keep her legs together and to not engage in intercourse with a minor. You think it’s a fine idea.

I believe people are accountable for their actions and the consequences they receive need to be dealt with. You don’t. In your world, there should be no consequences. The boy should continue school, the children should be in daycare, the perpetrator should be a teacher. Everyone’s happy.

I believe that a woman who is willing to abandon her children and career to engage in ILLEGAL sexual relations with a boy, who is willing to again break the terms of her parole and get impregnated again by him, is a predator and a destructive force in the life of a boy who is already in a deep, deep hole. You think she’s a fine example and should continue being an example to teaching school children.

As you discount responsibility, accountability, the law and better moral judgement, insisting to place “love” and the sexual wants of a 13 year old above the laws of society, we stand at two ends of a chasm we will never be able to bridge.

-Hugh

Chris Hale (May 19, 1998)
I don’t believe my questions from my message earlier today have been answered. If this boy was raped, why does he say he is not a victim? Why wouldn’t he know if he were hurt or violated? If thirteen year olds can’t have the maturity or the capacity to make decisions to have sex with adults, then why did this particular thirteen year old initiate a sexual relationship? If he doesn’t have the maturity, then why do his friends and family say he is more advanced in maturity than his actual age and is not a typical thirteen year old? If Mary really did warp his mind, how specifically did she do it? Why is this rape?

I also want to say I do not discount responsibility, accountability, or moral judgment, or the law. I have hardly ever questioned the morality or the law that I have been taught. I take a lot of things literally. But occasionally, there comes a time when certain individual cases just don’t fit the criteria or the category of a crime. Those are the cases that should be questioned. It should be considered if maybe the law has it wrong and what it says happened never happened at all. There aren’t that many cases that are questioned because they are clear cut and it is obvious that the accused did do the deed or that the deed truly is a crime.

This case involving Mary Letourneau is not clear cut to me. It is not clear cut that it is rape. It would be clear cut if Mary had one day suddenly touched this young man without his permission or knowledge in a sexual manner. If she physically forced him to perform a sexual act, and he tried to get away from her but couldn’t. If she really did raise her skirt to him and he only wanted to be her friend, or just a student wanting help with his homework, that would be wrong. If Mary had blackmailed him into a sexual act by saying he had to have sex with her or else he would flunk her class, or if she favored him above her other students because of their closeness, then yes that would be abuse of power. If Mary deliberately missed work to be with him, or if she made him skip school just so they could be together, then yes that would be unprofessional and most likely a sign that she was trying to control him mentally. But I have neither seen or heard of any such actions by her part.

Is it so irresponsible and immoral to question and doubt a few rules and values that you have been taught all of your life? Is it wrong to think, that on rare occasions, there can be exceptions to these rules? I have been told that I have thought in terms of black and white. Things are one way or another. Most people seem to believe there are only gray areas and relativism. To many, what is right and wrong, good or bad, is dependant upon circumstances and to the opinions of individual people.

Millions of people believe in moral relativism. Is it so terrible? Should everything be simplified and be one way or another? Should the law always be etched in stone and no matter what the circumstances or whether there were good intentions, if the laws don’t get exactly followed, then the person is branded as evil and wicked? That sounds like black and white thinking to me. Follow the law and you are good, don’t follow the law exactly, and you are evil. That is what is happening to Mary. She didn’t exactly follow the law, but what she did wasn’t terrible. But the world sees it as terrible. If most people in the world really believe there is moral relativism, then why can’t Mary’s relationship be tolerated? Why does everyone have to brand her a rapist?

I do believe in law and order. But occasionally, I do have doubts and questions on whether someone is really guilty and is as terrible as is claimed. I am sure thousands of people have wondered the same thing: whether someone is really wrong or evil. Many have doubted O.J. Simpson’s guilt. Does that mean these doubters discount responsibility, accountability, the law, and better moral judgment? The many people that believe in moral relativism don’t follow only one way of right and wrong. If that is immoral, then I suppose I am not alone. Maybe we can build a bridge over the chasm.

President Clinton has admitted to cheating on his wife once that I know of publicly. There have been millions of women a year that have abortions. There are people that shut off the life support of one of their family members or friends because that person is in a coma and might never wake up again.

There are some politicians that have talked of legalizing drugs such as marijuana. Two people of the same sex can get married and be considered a legal union and can adopt children. A long time ago, people that had abortions or turned off someone’s life support would have been put in jail. The President would have probably been disgraced by an affair and would have resigned. Anyone that talked of legalizing drugs would have been considered a drug addict.

And, two people of the same sex that talked of marriage and adopting children would have been either beaten up or placed in a mental hospital. Yet today, none of these people are held to account for their actions as they used to be. Abortion is legal, assisted suicide is not seen as terrible as it once was. Dr. Jack Kevorkian is still free in society. He hasn’t been put in jail for the rest of his life for his assisted suicides. Legalizing drugs is seen as a good idea by many. Same sex marriages are becoming more common. No one seems to care that President Clinton has had affairs. The President’s approval ratings are the highest they have been in a long time.

The public has stopped branding people that committed these once unthinkable actions as sick, and wrong, and cruel. My argument and my point is this: If we can give these people a break, even the President, then why can’t we give Mary Letourneau a break, and think again on whether her affair with a thirteen year old is really all that terrible. Once, people who did the things I have described were terrible, but not necessarily anymore. Shouldn’t we give Mary the same amount of favor? I think so.

Chris Hale

Hugh Faulkner (May 21, 1998)
Even if millions have abortions, or homosexual marriage becomes an accepted norm, or heroin is legally and readily available to our children, or 37 year old women fornicate with 13 year old boys, that doesn’t make it right. As unfortunate as it is that a president can be repeatedly tainted by sexual scandal, that doesn’t mean standards should be lowered to match. And I’m not quite so certain that the things happening in today’s society represent much progress. Maybe it’s bad that millions are killed through abortion. Maybe it’s unacceptable that guns are brought to schools or that drug deals happen within site of neighborhoods. Maybe, just maybe, perversion is wrong, regardless what popular behavior may condone.

Just because society dictates that cigarette smoking is an acceptable behavior doesn’t mean it’s good for you. It doesn’t mean it won’t kill you. Of course, in the case of Letourneau, you, not society, are condoning the actions.

As for Letourneau, even her lawyer said what she did was wrong. He blamed it, however, on a bipolar mental condition. Letourneau’s own lawyer said hers were the actions of a sick mind. Yet, you want to call them acceptable.

As a society, we don’t need to give a pedophile a break any more than we need to give a break to a murderer, an arsonist, or an embezzler. She could have waited five more years until he was of legal age. She could have resolved her problems with her husband, even if it meant divorcing him, so her children wouldn’t wear the scarlet letter because of the shame she’s brought upon them. She could have kept her legs closed, not because it’s easy, but because it’s right. Because she didn’t, she’ll now have to wait seven years and live with scarred lives forever.

She committed the crime of a pedophile and now is serving a pedophile’s time.

-Hugh

Chris Hale (May 21, 1998)
You talk of not giving Mary a break anymore than a murderer. How do you know that someone that has an abortion is not a murderer? Because the Supreme Court made abortion legal?

That person is still taking the life of their unborn child. It is a life growing inside of them, not a piece of trash, so in truth, anyone having abortions is killing off a life. Yet the Supreme Court gives these people a break by legalizing abortion. They aren’t disgraced or put in prison.

Also, people that assist suicides aren’t put in prison for the rest of their lives either. Assisted suicide used to be considered murder, and yet now, those who assist suicides are getting breaks. Assisted suicide isn’t murder anymore in the eyes of a lot of state laws. Even if many states still don’t condone assisted suicide, participants aren’t held accountable with jail as they once probably would have been.

So how do you know that Mary Letourneau is a rapist? Because the law says so? The law may say abortion is legal, but a case can be made that abortion is murder. Just because the law says something, it does not mean that that is the way it is. What the law says and what the truth is can be different. Many people break laws everyday by driving over the speed limit, running red lights and stop signs, jaywalking, and spitting in the street. These laws are broken a lot.

But is the truth that the people who broke these laws are dangerous, predatory, despicable individuals that deserve to be locked in jail and the key thrown away? Running a stop sign or a red light can possibly cause harm to someone else. But if it doesn’t, the violator might only get punished with a ticket. They aren’t seen as having terrible characters. Mary did have sex with someone under the age of eighteen.

But did she cause him any harm?

He says no harm was done.

So, should we judge Mary Letourneau as having a terrible character?

I still don’t think so.

Everyone treats Mary like a criminal and a pedophile. But there have been other people who have had relationships with teenagers, and they weren’t seen as criminals.

I read Elvis Presley was 25 years old and began dating his wife when she was 14 years old when he was stationed in the army overseas. They didn’t get married until much later, but the fact that Elvis was interested in a girl of fourteen didn’t have any effect on his reputation. Was Elvis called a pedophile? No. Was Elvis thought to be mentally ill because of his interest in a fourteen year old girl? No. Elvis was and is as popular as ever even with the knowledge of his dating a fourteen year old.

Another Rock and Roll singer, Jerry Lee Lewis, married his second cousin when he was 20 years old and she was 13 years old. It did cause him to have a slump in his career for several years, but he was never called a pedophile, mentally ill, or threatened with prosecution. Years later, he was still making records and even had several hit songs. Eventually, Jerry Lee Lewis was the first inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. To be inducted into a hall of fame is considered a honor. This was a man who was considered an adult and married a thirteen year old and was given a honor by being inducted into the hall of fame.

Everyone says the young man Mary was in a relationship with was too young to make a decision such as being in a sexual relationship with an adult. Many have said that this young man has been emotionally scarred and victimized. The responsibility of being a parent so young is too overwhelming.

I have read that country singer, Loretta Lynn, was only thirteen when she married someone much older than she was. She had four children by the time she was seventeen. She had many hit albums and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. This woman was successful in her life and had the responsibility of parenthood at an early age. She stayed married to this individual and didn’t seem to regret it.

In India, I have read of thirteen year olds being married. It is a custom of their people. Gandhi was married at the age of thirteen. Does that make the people of India criminals or pedophiles for arranging marriages between thirteen year olds. My point and argument is this: Is it fair for society to give out honors to people such as Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis when it knows both of them were adults either dating or marrying thirteen or fourteen year old girls? They weren’t put in prison or seen as sick or manipulative.

Yet the world sees fit to curse Mary Letourneau.

That doesn’t seem fair to me.

The world says thirteen year olds can’t consent to sex with adults or have the maturity to handle marriage or parenthood. Yet people like Loretta Lynn have success with their lives while having responsibility and they aren’t emotionally scarred or traumatized. In India, thirteen year olds are allowed to marry. People like Gandhi didn’t seem to become emotionally wrecked because of marriage. Gandhi became famous for helping India gain its independence from Great Britain. That is no small accomplishment for someone who was stuck with the responsibility of marriage at thirteen.

To me, that shows a few thirteen year olds do have maturity enough to handle marriage and parenthood, and still have a successful life. Their adolescence was not stolen from them. From reading about these people, Mary doesn’t seem to be a criminal.

Chris Hale

Hugh Faulkner (May 26, 1998)

Everyone treats Mary like a criminal and a pedophile.

She is. She admitted to and was convicted of the crime. Wish it away if you want, but it’s a fact.

Nice stretch comparing her to some who have married at extremely young ages. There’s that operative verb there, though, married. Apparently their acts weren’t criminal, as was Letourneau’s.

“Help me help myself.” That’s what Letourneau said before her first sentencing. I’m not quite certain why you think sex between an adult and minor is normal or fine, but I’ll leave that to you to explore.

Even under your “everyone’s doing it” mentality, that doesn’t excuse it. Many people speed and a few are caught. Just because the vast majority don’t get caught doesn’t excuse their actions or mean that they shouldn’t suffer the consequence.

Again, you and I have very different levels of expectations and all your efforts to point out what Elvis did (I assume this is before he left on the spaceship?) or what Letourneau feels for the boy she had illegal sex with doesn’t really matter. What she did was illegal, even if she is the only one ever to have been prosecuted. Beyond being illegal, however, I believe it was wrong.

-Hugh

Chris Hale (May 26, 1998)
Mary admitted to having sex with the young man. But she never said she was guilty of rape.

Yes, she pleaded guilty in court. But she doesn’t believe she is guilty of rape. Why did she plead guilty?

In my opinion, she was following the advice of her lawyer. Her lawyer most likely told her she would have to plead guilty because she had little chance of winning her freedom in a trial. Her lawyer, in my opinion, never wanted to fight for her freedom. Her lawyer has always thought she was guilty and even said in television interviews that Mary is a pedophile and has Bipolar Disorder. He has never believed in her innocence. That is the problem.

No one thinks Mary is innocent. But they overlook the actions of others. What exactly is the difference between what Mary has done and what rock and roll singer, Jerry Lee Lewis did. Lewis married his thirteen year old second cousin when he was twenty. Why wasn’t he considered a criminal? Yes, for a time his career was ruined, but he recovered his popularity. To me, it doesn’t seem fair that society is able to overlook what Jerry Lee Lewis did, but wants to destroy Mary Letourneau.

If most in society truly believe that marriage and sex between adults and minors is abnormal or terrible, then Jerry Lee Lewis should have been labeled a pedophile, put in jail, and never been inducted into any hall of fame. That didn’t happen to my knowledge. He doesn’t live with a black cloud hanging over his head as a sex offender. Neither did Elvis though he dated a fourteen year old girl at age twenty five. In my opinion, there is something wrong here and it isn’t my mentality.

Chris Hale

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