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Barriere Bits, Issue #006 -- Consensual sex or sexual assault?
November 20, 2007
Welcome to Barriere Bits, the child abuse information e-zine that will provide you with current child abuse information and articles.

In this issue:

Expect your next issue of Barriere Bits in your Inbox Tuesday, December 18, 2007.



What I've Been Doing

It's been such a busy month! I finally . . . FINALLY got my husband, John, to see the light. He agreed we could sell off several pieces of rec room furniture that haven't fit the space since we moved into our house four and a half years ago, including our intrudingly massive 5-piece oak corner office ensemble. I no longer have to share my treasured but restricted workout space with the 8-foot by 6-foot interloper. After 15 years of loyal service, the massive beast has found itself a new home with friends; they hauled it away last Friday, which means the albatross around our necks is gone. I can now make use of my self-acclaimed decorator and handy-woman skills to finish the basement lower level in our home. In less than a month, we have a brand spanking new sofa and loveseat being delivered—a la Ashley's Furniture Store—that will finally replace the one our friends were also good enough to take off our hands. Now I need to find the time to replace the flooring; paint the walls; paint the ceiling; paint the crown moulding and trim; find or sew curtains and possibly valances for the four windows that do love to let the sun shine in; re-purpose a hideous 1980s style coffee table into an ottoman with much-needed hidden storage and an upholstered and hinged top to park our feet and seats on. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it's time for me to dust off my hammer, measuring tape and handy-dandy leather tool belt!

Yes . . . well . . . all that will have to wait until I get my next exciting website project off the ground.

I've been working diligently on a system that will open up FREE space on my website for visitors who would like to get details and information about their child abuse cause out on the Net. It's still in the designing stage, but I want you, my subscribers, to be the first to learn the particulars.

Here's how it will work:

  • "Open Space" will be available on my site—consider it website real estate—for which I'll create a page I'll call "Safe House" (name subject to change).

  • "Safe House" will be made up of "rooms" (links to individual pages) that are created by me for use by applicants who have a child abuse related cause that I believe is a good match with my site.

  • Applicants who want space to promote their child abuse cause will be required to apply to occupy one of these "rooms" by stating their cause and providing a personal profile. Once approved, I will create a "room" (page) for that applicant.

  • Each of these "rooms" will be occupied and operated by the applicant with the child abuse cause, under the terms and conditions I set out for the appropriate use of my website. I will not be opening these "rooms" to authors and publishers; only to applicants with a child abuse cause.

  • Along with some details about the applicant (nothing highly personal) and their cause, a submission form will make up part of each "room," using the same system I currently use for story and article submissions. All approved submissions for that "room" will appear as links in that "room" (page).

  • "Room-holders" can submit daily blog-like postings, updates, articles and commentaries that relate to their child abuse cause. All submissions will be subject to approval by me as the webmaster. Once approved and posted, visitors will be able to comment on those postings in the same way they do now for stories, commentaries and articles on my site. Visitors will also be encouraged to submit their own articles and stories that are related to that particular "room."
If all this sound a bit complicated, don't worry. It will make more sense once I develop "Safe House" and the corresponding "rooms." Over the next few weeks, I'll be contacting a few of my regular visitors and subscribers, who I know have a particular child abuse related cause, to offer them an opportunity to create their own "rooms." The best part of all this is that it is FREE!

In the meantime, I extend a very happy, healthy and safe Thanksgiving to my American visitors.



Feature Article

Consensual Sex or Sexual Assault?

A 13-year-old boy from Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada, accused of the sexual assault of a 14-year-old girl was a case of consensual sex, according to provincial court Judge Hermann Rohrmoser.

At the conclusion of last month's trial, Rohrmoser cited a lack of evidence that the girl said no to sex, despite the fact that she went to her doctor, upset and distraught, and reported she'd been sexually assaulted. Despite the fact that a medical examination determined she had injuries consistent with that of sexual assault—the doctor also concluded the sexual experience had likely been her first time.

The teenagers reportedly met over the Internet through an online chatting service. They exchanged numerous emails over the course of a few weeks, and then decided to meet at a local theatre.

While in the theatre, the two were allegedly kissing and fondling each other. The girl testified that the boy forced her to perform oral sex on him; the boy testified it was initiated by her.

The couple then went into one of the theatre's washrooms, where they locked the door and had intercourse on the floor. The girl testified she did not consent; the boy said she had.

Judge Rohrmoser chose to believe the boy.

During the trial, one piece of information that was brought forth and taken into account in Judge Rohrmoser's ruling was the declaration that "a trip to the washroom is the apparently universally recognized by young people precursor to sexual activity."

In his decision, Rohrmoser noted that although the girl had signs of injury that were consistent with sexual assault, he deemed the medical evidence as "not definitive." He stated that because the girl made no attempt to break away from the boy on their way to the washroom, it left open the possibility that consent had been given. He also chastised the boy for his conduct, stating that the boy was too focused on himself and not focused enough on what the girl may or may not have wanted.

This is a difficult case, indeed. These he-said/she-said cases are always complicated. It's a situation of which party is the most believable. But is this one of those situations?

I find myself wondering if this particular case is more about a judge's personal beliefs interfering with what our Canadian consent laws dictate. After all, judges are human beings. They make mistakes. Sometimes their rulings are based on prejudice, rather than the intent of the law.

In Canada, consent laws decree that each sexual act must be consented to, AND that a person has the right to change his or her mind about saying yes or no during any step of the sexual activity. As soon as the person says no, then consent ceases. This latter facet of the law was instituted, partly in order to address the ridiculous notion that "no means maybe," a defence that was successfully employed by just about every defendant accused of sexual assault before the law was changed.

I'm disturbed that the judge so readily dismissed the medical evidence of sexual assault. I'm equally disturbed that he determined that the girl's actions of going into the bathroom implied consent because of the so-called universally recognized meaning behind the trip to the washroom.

Based on his logic, I have to ask if this judge would conclude that a prostitute "implies" consent because she IS a prostitute. Would he rule that being a prostitute is universally recognized as providing sexual favours; therefore, being a prostitute implies consent? Prostitutes can be raped, and CAN claim sexual assault, because Canadian consent laws declare that each and every act of a sexual nature must be consented to. Prostitutes have the right to say no.

I realize that comparing an adolescent choice with a prostitute's might offend some people's sensibilities, but I've done so to demonstrate that consent laws must—and do—apply equally.

There is no doubt there are lessons to be learned here. If you are a teen who has reached the age of consent, no matter where you live in the world:

  • Clearly communicate your limits and be assertive about those limits. "Yes" means yes. "No" means no. "Maybe" shouldn't be a part of the equation. If you're not sure, the answer is "NO!" So say it, mean it, and walk away.

  • Be clear about what you want. Don't be ambiguous.

  • If your partner is wavering, the answer is NO. Pure and simple. Don't get caught up in the possibilities; you could end up facing a sexual assault charge. If you're found guilty, your life will never be the same. But even if you're acquitted on all charges, your life will be miserable for a very long time. Don't take the chance.

  • If your intuition is telling you something isn't right, believe it. All of us have a little inner voice. It's the hair-standing-at-the-back-of-your-neck or that sick-feeling-in-the-pit-of-your-stomach situation. This is your built-in warning system. Don't ignore it.

  • Don't put yourself in compromising situations.

  • Make choices that lead you to where you want to go.
If you are a parent OR grandparent, don't be neglectful in this technological age we now live in; your children and grandchildren need your wisdom and guidance more than ANY generation ever has.
  • Monitor and limit your child's or grandchild's Internet activity. And remember, computers at home are not the only Internet access they will have. Consider messaging services on cell phones and other hand-held technology, school computer labs, computers in the homes of friends and family members, and don't forget to pay close attention to your child's use of webcams, digital cameras and cell phones.

  • Do not allow a child or youth to have a computer with Internet access in his or her bedroom or somewhere in the house that offers privacy. Make sure the computer is in full view ALL THE TIME and that an adult is always watching their Internet activity.

  • You must take an active and proactive approach to your child's online access. Use software, but DO NOT rely solely on that software to control or limit where your child is visiting online. They are not always reliable.

  • When choosing software and technology to control Internet access, select programs that:
           • keep track of your child's computer use
           • block inappropriate websites
           • use passwords and locks in order to restrict access

  • Talk to your children about Internet dangers. Sure, they may roll their eyes and sigh impatiently, but their ears aren't closed. Studies repeatedly show that children and youth hear, understand and yes, even incorporate a great deal of what their parents tell and warn them about. Use this to your advantage.

  • Use cases in the media, such as the one this feature article is based on, as an opportunity for open discussion with your child. Ask your child what could have been done to avoid the situation from arising in the first place. Avoid name-calling and finger-pointing; focus on the facts of the case and use them as a life-lesson learning tool for your child.
We live in a society that legally allows children to make decisions they are not mature enough to make, decisions for which they do not have the adequate experience to predict the consequences. In Canada, we live in a society where the laws of consent are in response to the statistical data of when, on average, teenagers start engaging in sexual activity (14.1 years for boys; 14.5 years for girls). I'll note here that the current Canadian government is considering raising the age of consent from 14 years to 16 years. I'm all for that change.

Regardless of the laws of consent, the judge in this case plainly stated it is up to the individuals to conduct themselves in an appropriate fashion. The onus is therefore on parents to both inform and protect their children about abstention and the consequences of engaging in sexual activity. It is also a parent's responsibility to guide their children toward making healthy choices for themselves, choices that won't end up being argued before a court room judge.
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If you would like to comment on this article, feel free to do so on my Child Abuse Commentary page. Please make reference to the above article by copying and pasting Consensual Sex or Sexual Assault? somewhere in the body of your comments. I'll take it from there.

What do you think? Take the poll.

November's question: Should "Net Nanny" type software be legally required for school computers? Poll now closed.



Poll results from October's question: Do you believe that some parents specifically target a child for abuse?


  • 100% Yes

Thank you to all who registered votes in October's poll.



Ask Darlene

Again this month, I'm answering a question that has been asked of me many times and from a multitude of visitors and subscribers. Why don't you allow email addresses in comments?

I have a wide range of visitors that come to my site on a daily basis. Some of those visitors are adults who cover a broad range of ages, but many of my repeat visitors are children and youth. I am a violence and abuse prevention educator and the webmaster of a child abuse website; with that comes a great deal of responsibility, a responsibility I take very seriously. The last thing I want is for some unsuspecting child or youth to fall prey to a predator.

I do not permit the inclusion of email addresses in comments, or submissions, because it's a safety issue. I have no way to prevent perverts and pedophiles from coming onto my site, which means there is no way to know who is reading a person's email address. While story, commentary and article submissions do not go live until I approve them, comments DO go live on the Internet. I do remove any and all email addresses from comments the moment I see them posted—no exceptions—but I cannot do so until AFTER they appear live.

A couple of frightening statistics from the Canada Safety Council:

  • 43% of teenagers aged 15 17 have been asked by someone they have met online to meet in person. Of this group, 1 in 5 accepted; of that group, 1 in 5 went to meet that person ALONE.
  • One in five 11- to 12-year-olds reported receiving email messages that have upset or frightened them. Of this group, only 20% told an adult.

Knowing these statistics, being all too aware of the dangers of the Internet, I do what I must in order to ensure the safety of my contributors and visitors. Now that you understand my position, I hope that each of you will continue to abide by the rules of conduct for my website. For more information on those rules, visit both my pages Child Abuse Stories and Comment Do's and Don'ts.



Newest Website Pages

New since last month:

Don't forget to offer you own comments to the mix!



Darlenes Healing & Recovery Tip of the Month

This month's tip involves the "healing properties" of gingerbread and candy. Check it out at Healing and Fun with Gingerbread





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Author Bio

Darlene Barriere is a child abuse survivor, a violence and abuse prevention educator and author of On My Own Terms, A Memoir. She lives in semi-arid Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada with her husband, John.



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