Another interesting moment in Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting that I’ve not mentioned yet in writing came during the very first item on the agenda, and not just because of the grim statistics about the 112 cases of sexual assault reported to law enforcement during the 2012-13 fiscal year in Calaveras County, or the many additional cases that come to the attention of the Calaveras Crisis Center. The item was basically a chance for represenatives from the DA’s Office and the Calaveras Crisis Center to do some education about the damage that sexual assaults cause, including the many children that are victims. The board voted unanimously to recognize April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
What caught my attention was a statement by Supervisor Darren Spellman about a non-assault incident in which an adult woman, a dance instructor in Murphys, pleaded guilty to having consensual sex with a 16-year-old boy. The boy himself stood up in court and said he was not harmed. The boy’s parents, however, publicly lobbied to have severe punishment for the dance instructor and said the incident had harmed the entire family. Spellman used Tuesday’s recognition of Sexual Assault Awareness month to tell the Calaveras County District Attorney’s Office that he believes it should more aggressively prosecute adult women who have sex with underage boys.
The dance instructor back in 2011 pleaded guilty to a single count of unlawful sexual intercourse. She was sentenced to probation.
What struck me about the dance instructor case is that it would appear that prosecutors were weighing the harm done and agreeing to less-severe punishment because of that. They are differentiating people who violently injure children from those who have consensual, non-violent sex with older teens. Spellman, in contrast, equates the two acts and also seemed to feel that women who do wrong with their sexual behavior somehow get a pass while men get harsh treatment.
Making the whole morning even more interesting was the next item on the agenda: Spellman asking his colleagues to honor a Christian anti-abortion group that educates women on the “blessings” of following the “teachings of Jesus.”
Spellman didn’t say so explicitly, but I believe his action on both items grows out of a conservative perspective on women’s sexuality and a belief that it is a dangerous force that must be controlled.
I see things differently. I don’t believe it is necessary or useful to tell women what to do with their bodies. I believe freedom is a good thing and women should have it too. And I believe that the sad evidence indicates that adult men are much more likely to sexually harm girls than adult women are to sexually harm boys.