Sexual harassment and felony sexual assault are serious crimes in society and the bent of most reasonable people is those found guilty of those infractions must pay a harsh penalty in the loss of face in the community and serious jail time and a lifetime branding for some as “registered sex offenders.”
What happens, however, when the social norms and the ongoing tradition of a sub-culture in a community accepts anti-social behavior and inappropriate touching as a normal interactional expectation?
Is the following scenario felony sex abuse or not?
Two middle-school students
in Oregon are facing possible time in a juvenile jail and could have to
register as sex offenders for smacking girls on the rear end at school.
Cory Mashburn said he and Ryan Cornelison slapped each others’ and
other kids’ bottoms every Friday. “Lots of kids at school do that,” he
Cory and Ryan were brought to the principal’s office Feb. 22, where
they were questioned by school officials and a police officer. They
were arrested that day and taken in handcuffs to a juvenile detention
Court papers said the boys touched the buttocks of several girls, some
of whom said this made them uncomfortable.
The papers also said Cory
touched a girl’s breasts. But police reports filed with the court said
other students, both boys and girls, slapped each other on the bottom.
“It’s like a handshake we do,” one girl said, according to the police
The boys were initially charged with five counts of felony sexual
abuse. At a court hearing, two of the girls recanted, saying they never
felt threatened or inappropriately touched by the boys. The judge
released the boys but barred them from returning to school and required
that they be under constant adult supervision.
How should the law handle sub-cultural norms and the values of the young?
Should teenagers be held to the same standards of the law as adults?
Are the following adult cultural exchanges felony sexual abuse or not?
- Handshakes that linger too long
- Winking and smiling
- Patting on the back
- Kissing on the cheek
- Kissing on the hand
- Caressing a hand
- Placing an arm around a shoulder
Where are the lines drawn between human affection, workplace respect, inappropriate touching and felony sexual abuse?
Are those lines imaginary, real or arbitrary — and where and how should they be drawn?
Is the intention of the “toucher” the determining factor?
Or does only the perception of the “touched” matter?