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Sexting: Does Little Suzy, thirteen, deserve to be branded a sex offender?

sexting image.JPG
You might want to think twice before you click, missy.
This week, legislators in Connecticut introduced a bill that would allow minors between ages thirteen and eighteen who are in a relationship and engage in sexting to be charged with a misdemeanor rather than a felony. This alteration would mean such teens wouldn't wind up being placed on the state's sex-offender registry.

Investigator Mike Harris, a member of the Jefferson County District Attorney's Office Child Sex Offender Internet Investigations unit, who recently sounded an alarm about the Chatroulette website, sees value in the idea. In fact, he confirms that his office is already taking a similar approach.

"We don't want Little Suzy, who's thirteen and who made a horrible mistake, to be labeled a sex offender for ten years," he says.

In Harris's view, some portions of the Colorado criminal code are woefully out of date.

"When we developed the sexual exploitation statute we go by, sexting wasn't even in the realm of thinking," he says. "And the problem is, when you have thirteen- or fourteen-year olds send nude pictures of themselves to each other, technically they're sending child pornography, even if it's them. But the intent of the law isn't to charge kids who are making a foolish mistake."

Were teens to be convicted under the aforementioned statute, the consequences could be long-lasting.

"They wouldn't be charged as an adult, but they could be charged with sexual exploitation of a child, which could be anywhere from a class three to a class four felony," he says. "And that could put them on the sex-offender registry for ten years. So even a fourteen- or a fifteen-year old would have to register until they're 24 or 25. And that's going to effect them trying to get into colleges, trying to get jobs. It's a horrible thing to carry if you were young and innocent and just made a mistake."

As an alternative to this approach, Harris says many teens in sexting cases "are put into a boundaries class, where they talk about what's appropriate and what's inappropriate even with texting, because that often talks about sexual things. And they talk about how these images shouldn't be sent to someone or received by someone. Because the concern isn't just for the sender. It's also for the person receiving it, because you never know if they're going to hold onto it or forward it to someone else."

Not that everyone in this age range is given the boundaries class alternative. Harris gives an example of his office's thinking based on a past incident.

"At a particular school, a young lady sent her boyfriend her picture, and he forwarded it to his two friends -- and they thought it would be cool to print out these pictures and paste them all over the school. The girl was devastated. She dropped out of school."

The punishments doled out? The girl and her boyfriend were put into a boundaries class, while the pair who printed up the photos and put them in public view for all to see "were adjudicated, charged as sex offenders," Harris says. "Because that was malicious, and there are times when we need to charge people who are maliciously forwarding things on, trying to hurt people."

Should Colorado officials assemble a bill of the sort that's been introduced in Connecticut? Harris understands that such a chore can be difficult.

"In 2006, we got a new statute for Internet luring, and when we were doing that, I learned so much," he notes. "You can't just say, 'Here's this bill. Let's enact it.' It's far more complicated than most people realize."

Still, Harris believes that issues like sexting "are growing at such a fast pace that we need to do something. When I go to schools to talk, I ask how many students have cell phones, and 95 percent do. And then I ask how many kids have received inappropriate images, and about 50 percent raise their hands -- and I'm not naive enough to think that there aren't other kids who don't raise their hands because they don't want some teacher to think, 'I need to talk to that kid.'"

As for Harris's imaginary Little Suzy, he thinks she can be taught to understand the risks of texting -- "but if she keeps doing this and doing this and doing this after she takes a boundaries class, then she might be filed on."

With sex-offender status serving as the message.


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12 comments
subseastickjockey
subseastickjockey

"Little Susie" ended my nephew's chance at a normal life. For what he thought was a 16 year old hottie in a public swimming pool ended up being an 11yr old Russian immigrant girl.  I don't condone his actions but as he was 18 and should of known better but his parents didn't exactly raise him for the real world and he has that whole ADHD thing going.  But it's heartbreaking to see put through the legal ringer even though the girl initiated it, stalked him  and got him to get with her because she was mad at her mom and was trying to get pregnant,  She had already had multiple partners.  She even told the sheriff she would screw him if he wanted too.  This girl was and probably is still a train wreck but my nephew is the one in the system that has it out for him since know he has been labeled  a sexual predator.  His parole officer (female) is quite content to keep him down in the gutter while the system protects this girl. Even the law used to prosecute him as written states it's impossible for the minor female to be culpable in any way of any intent whatsoever.  so apparently girls get their hormones on their 18th birthday and are incapable of solicitation in any form no matter how benign.

 

Just my vent here.  

 

15 will get you 20 used to be the joke,  I think it needs to be revised.

 

and I agree a can of worms 

 

 

productionmo
productionmo

omg what a can of worms.

 

If I remember correctly, in my adolescence we played "grab ass" and

"spin the bottle" a lot, boys and girls in my neighborhood.  We showed each other

our privates, look but no touch style, and we loved it.  I guess we were all child molesters

by modern standards, both girls and boys.  

 

Libido is ultra high for kids around 13 or 14, so maybe we should charge Nature

with child endangerment.  Yeah, that's it, let's incarcerate Nature.  

 

Annonymous 

rvs44
rvs44

After reading the article and the posts, it is clear that there is no hope for our children, and that concludes the eternal question of why Americans are just plain nuts.!!...

mbenjamin3032
mbenjamin3032

Let me just put it this way... 13 year olds who send either nude or slightly nude photos like the ones shown, should DEFINITELY be considered sex offenders. Lock them up in juvie for 5 years. Because young girls like to lie and therefore get young men into trouble, they should be held accountable too.

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

Simple solution = lower the age of consent from 16 to 13.

The_Yeti_Knows
The_Yeti_Knows

 @subseastickjockey You bet their smooth little asses they initiate... it's a different world and the girls are the line backer freaking predators now ! The system will never figure that out.. it's not politically correct.. besides being politically correct is adopting a doctrine that somehow it can be entirely possible to pick up a turd by it's "clean" end ! 

The_Yeti_Knows
The_Yeti_Knows

 @productionmo Nature wouldnt come in without a fight, maybe get Rosie O'donnel at the door with a can of her breath, nature would surrender peacefully then I'm sure.

jj_in_midmo
jj_in_midmo

 @DonkeyHotay I suppose you do not know any 13 year olds?  Because I've known 100's of them.  NOT ONE 13 year old is mature enough for sex.  Are you 13, Donkey?

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