Thursday, January 21, 2016

Where the registry’s involved, there are no winners.

I’ve just finished watching an episode of Law and Order, SVU.

Basic story: High school couple on first date at a school dance; they are both a little socially awkward and inexperienced. She isn’t at all adverse to “making out,” and they end up in the dark room where
he gets more aggressive than she is comfortable with and doesn’t listen when she tells him to slow down. There is some sexual touching and fumbling around, and he ejaculates on her dress. He is driven as much by peer pressure to "snag a virgin" as by desire. She is distraught but more embarrassed and humiliated. Texting and “sexting,” both before and after the encounter, play a part.

Under her parents prodding, she accuses him of assault and attempted rape. He appears to be sincerely unaware that she felt she had been a victim of attempted rape. In court he had clearly been coached to say the “right” things—“I know my attitude was disrespectful to women.”

Lines from the program that got my attention are: (I’m probably not remembering them with total accuracy).

The registry is very harsh.
We need new rules (governing sexual behavior today).
The rules need to be clearer.
In California they have passed affirmative consent laws. 
Response: Yeah, we’ll see how that goes.

One good thing about the episode is the clear message that the young lady in question would have, without doubt, accepted the young man’s apology and been happy to let it go, but that once the police and the district attorney were involved, she did not have that option.

But by far the most compelling message is that the registry is a bad, bad thing. Hopefully, this episode will open up dialogue even more for the discussion of the inappropriateness of the registry being part of the equation when it comes to juvenile and teenage situations.

The end result is not guilty for attempted rape or assault but guilty for unwanted sexual behavior.

Oh, and yes, he would be required to register. His future is over; she is pulled from the courtroom in tears while trying to tell him she is sorry. Good drama; lousy ending.

Two kids, almost forced by the system into adversarial positions, but no winners. When the public registry is part of the equation, there never are.