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Editorial - The consequences of sex

November 04, 1996

Editorial - The consequences of sex

When it comes to teen pregnancy, teachers who provide family life education in local schools see a pattern: Teenage girls who are physically mature for their age and men in their 20s (or older) who are a little bit immature mentally.

The combination may not hold true for every relationship, but it does hold up often enough that Pennsylvania officials have tried to craft a law that would hold adult men responsible if they have sex with underage girls. But despite what seem (to us) like mighty harsh penalties, it doesn't seem to be working.

How tough is the law? Adult men convicted of having sex with girls under 13 are guilty of rape and face a 20-year prison term. If the girl is 13 to 16 and the male is more than four years older, the crime is sexual assault and there's a 10-year-term attached.

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But the men in these cases aren't being punished, in part because, according to Franklin County Assistant District Attorney John Lisko, teenage girls don't tell their parents and parents (if they find out who the father is) don't tell police, perhaps because they don't want the trauma of an unexpected pregnancy complicated by a trip through the court system.

We agree with Lisko, who says he's not sure the criminal justice system is the way to stop teen pregnancy. Certainly there must be laws in place to deter sexual predators, but in a free society, there are too many opportunities for sexual activity to depend on the law to prevent every encounter. Someone has got to convince the girl who believes that a quick sexual liaison won't lead to pregnancy that it can happen to her.

That "someone" should be a girl who's been in the same situation, someone who's had a baby and experienced rejection from the man whose "love" lasted only until the sexual act was complete. Perhaps if such a girl (or girls) could share those experiences during a female-only school assembly, more girls would realize that an older man's whispered promises don't guarantee that he'll still be there when it's time to comfort a crying baby in the middle of the night.

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