Everyday Victim Blaming

challenging institutional disbelief around domestic & sexual violence and abuse

“Underage” girls cannot “consent”

I have a number of serious concerns about the London Evening Standard's article "Police apologise to sex abuse girl" published on November 8th.

Firstly, the article is quite racist. It makes a huge production about the race of the perpetrators. Now, there are occasions were the race of the perpetrator and victim are important information, however we never see articles referring to white men as "white". It is always presumed that the man is white unless stated otherwise. This is racism.

It is correct that in this case the predators were mostly from the Pakistani community and that the victim was white but when do you the press mentioning the ethnic heritage of white men who commit crimes? Or, even reporting crimes against BME women and children by white men?

Here, the ethnic heritage of both the perpetrators and victim were important to note because it was a case of grooming from within a specific community. One could argue that the white men who committed years of sexual offences against children whilst employed by the BBC, like Savile, were part of a grooming network. The ethnicity of the men is never mentioned.

If we are going to protect our children from grooming we need to talk honestly about race and class. We need to start talking about white men raping children. We need to examine the white British culture which allows perpetrators to go unpunished for decades despite the crimes being reported. We need to talk about BME children being groomed and abused by white men.

There is research which suggests that sexual abuse within families is more likely to be committed by white men who are middle class. How often do we see this reflected in media reports? There is equally research to suggest that white men are more likely to commit sexual violence and not be held accountable for it.

This article in the Evening Standard simply reinforces white supremacist constructions of Black men as sexual predators whilst ignoring the reality of sexual violence.

Secondly, the article suggests that the 15 year old victim had a "consensual" sexual relationship with a friend of the men who groomed and raped her.

15 year olds cannot legally consent to sex with an adult.
A person who has been groomed and raped is not capable of consenting to a sexual relationship with a friend of their rapist.

The "friend" may not have been charged with rape but that is because we live in a culture which punishes rape victims and gives perpetrators a pass.

The "friend" knew that the girl was underage but still had a sexual relationship with her. How is this anything but rape? How can you separate the grooming of this child by other men from the "friend"?

The police have been forced to apologise to the victim for their failure to protect her despite the crimes being reported multiple times.

The Evening Standard could do with apologising for not understanding what child rape and grooming actually is.

The article is available here: http://www.standard.co.uk/panewsfeeds/police-apologise-to-sex-abuse-girl-8929310.html

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2 thoughts on ““Underage” girls cannot “consent”

  • HelenM says:

    I am a massive supporter of your project and link to it many times a week.

    However, I have to comment on the facts in this article. It is incorrect to say that 15 year olds can’t consent, at least under the law of England and Wales. Under 13s are not deemed capable of consent in law ie sexual activity with those younger than 13 is automatically rape. 13 to 16 year olds are capable of consent (and also of not giving it.)

    You have a brilliant project and I wouldn’t like to see it derailed by detractors focusing on details like that. Like I just have, I know.

  • Admin says:

    Thanks for your comment Helen – we are looking at the issue of informed consent – for example, a 13yo may consent to a sexual relationship with another teen of the same or similar age, but when we factor in a power differential, the consent is not informed, and is therefore invalid.

    So in theory, the girls in this case could ‘consent’ to sexual activity with boys of their own age, but if they consent to sexual activity where the boys are replaced with men, that isn’t a consent that we would consider acceptable.

    The issue with 13-15yo’s giving consent is one that contributes to the trope of ‘choices’ made by young girls – in my experience as a professional, I have heard other professionals discussing 13yo’s in sexual relationships with 19-20yo’s as ‘choosing a lifestyle’ or ‘choosing to be sexual active’. It seemed that not much investigation went on to investigate that ‘choice’ as a meaningful one.

    Thanks for your comment – it has made us think and do some additional research – we may write an admin post at a later date.