Courtroom vs. Classroom

My kid? A registered sex offender?”

Talking about sex with kids is hard enough. Having the sex offence talk might seem unfathomable.

Still, refusing to think or talk about a problem does not cure it. Ignoring an issue does not dispel it. Paradoxically, keeping students in the dark about sexual offences is exactly what our teachers are supposed to do this year.

On one hand, talking about sex crimes might seem too sophisticated and too dark for children.

However, sexual crimes range in severity. They can seem trivial at first glance. Indeed, many sexual offences have euphemisms:

  • A stolen kiss
  • Surprise butt slap
  • Drunk sex
  • Sexting
  • Peeping Tom

What makes these offences even trickier is that they are not always crimes. Is all sexting criminal? Of course not. Is sex after consuming any alcohol always rape? Nope. Do all students know where the law draws the line?

Does your child?

Here is the problem. Criminal law dealing with sex offences is complex. Sex offences are not just about stranger rape. Sex offences happen online, on phones, in grocery stores, at parties, amongst friends.

Courts and lawyers are still grappling with issues of consent, inebriation and sex, child pornography and texting, and sexual bullying.

All-things-sex are getting more complicated every year. This year, Ontario educators are being told to provide even LESS information on the topic of sex.

Pop quiz!

  1. When Johnny sexts a naked picture of himself to his girlfriend, is he breaking the law?
  2. When a high school senior hooks-up with a junior, is it a sexual assault even with clear consent?
  3. Is the explicit Sailor Moon cartoon that kids googled on the internet “illegal pornography”?

If you fail this quiz in real life, there is no re-test. A failing grade when it comes to breaking the law is a conviction. The punishment? Sex offender registry, minimum jail sentences, probation, prohibition from internet/parks/pools…

Surprised? With proper sex education you wouldn’t be.

Lack of information is a wicked trap. You can easily commit a crime you did not know existed. You can easily be found guilty of a crime you did not know existed. It happens all the time.

In the eyes of the court, the fact that a person did not know what they did was illegal makes them ignorant, not innocent. Ignorance of the law is not a defence to a crime.

Closing our eyes does not stop sexual offences, it abets them. The #MeToo movement aimed to open the public’s eyes to sexual offences we had been blind to. Shutting down reality-based sex education places the blindfold back on.

In every subject, students need to know material before they are tested on it. Educators must have an up-to-date and accurate curriculum to navigate these difficult and complicated issues.

The time to learn about the legal landscape of sex is not in the courtroom – it is in the classroom.

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