It doesn't take much for parents to become addicted to those sex offender registry sites. Who can blame them? The thought of some creep diddling my daughter is enough to make me blow chunks. But the story of a father of four who isn't able to coach his daughters' soccer games or get a job in corporate America because years ago he had sex with his own wife is a stark reminder that sometimes there's more to the story than a label from law enforcement.
Frank Rodriguez was convicted of statutory rape 15 years ago. He was 19 and a high school senior. The girl, Nikki, was 15. And 15 years later, she's his wife and the mother of his four daughters.
But he's a sex offender because the woman who would eventually become his mother-in-law was not happy that her 15-year-old was having sex. So she reported the teens to the cops. And today her son-in-law is haunted every step of the way because this family matter is out on the sex offender registry:
That was a hard story for me to watch because the age difference between Frank and Nikki is exactly that between my husband and me -- four years. And like the Rodriguezes, we started dating when I was a teenager. What makes us different? Not much.
I was older, yes. I was 16, almost 17, when my husband and I started dating in a state where the age of consent is 17. Still my father's friend, a man who is like an uncle to me, referred to me as "jail bait" for the first summer of our courtship. He was kidding. I think. Regardless, dating does not equal sex, and the age of consent came quickly.
Is statutory rape wrong? Illegal? Yes, and there are reasons for these laws. So that a 50-year-old doesn't have sex with an impressionable 14-year-old and try to pass it off as consensual ... when there's no way in hell a 14-year-old has the maturity to consent to such an act. So that innocent kids are protected from creepy adults.
But when we start to look at the smaller age gaps, the teen to teen relationships, the laws cease to account for reality and allow parents to enact revenge, allow parents to make up for their own discomfort with their kids' burgeoning sexuality by finding a cop who will agree with them.
The fact is, teenagers have hormonal surges and sexual urges. And many of them make use of them, which is HARD for us, as parents, to handle. But rushing our kids to the cops, alleging rape -- statutory or otherwise -- is not the way for us to deal with OUR issues over our teenagers having sex. It's disingenuous to say a girl (or boy) is being raped because we don't like what they're doing. And as the Rodriguezes have shown, this knee-jerk reaction can have disastrous consequences. A mom took her daughter's boyfriend to the cops because he was having sex with her kid, and now her grandchildren are suffering for her rash actions. Their dad is a sex offender, and he's subject to all the restrictions that come with it ... when all this mom really needed to do was TALK TO HER DAUGHTER about sex, why she was having it and how to be safe.
Does this dad deserve to be labeled a sex offender because his mother-in-law couldn't deal with her daughter having sex?
Image via MSNBC