11 year old boys cannot consent to sex with an adult
According to coverage in the Guardian, Jade Hatt has been given a "six-month jail term suspended for two years with supervision", placed on the sexual offenders registry for 7 years and received a " sexual harm prevention order banning her from having unsupervised contact with young boys for two years".
Judge Tim Mousley QC made the following statement in his summation:
“Having read everything before me, it was quite clear he was a mature 11-year-old and you were an immature 20-year-old so that narrows the arithmetic age gap between you.”
A statement by the child's father and read out by Hatt's lawyer said:
"He [the boy] is sex mad. He would have been fully up for this experience and in many ways sees it as a notch on his belt and is totally unaffected by it.”
The father had previously had a sexual relationship with Hatt.
We are very concerned about the messages this case sends; firstly, that an 11 year old boy is somehow mature enough to consent to sex despite the law being very clear that NO child under the age of 13 is capable of consent and those between the ages of 13-16 can only consent in specific circumstances. Secondly, we do not understand how the 'maturity' of the perpetrator is a mitigating factor when no adequate definition of maturity is presented. Do they mean that Hatt has a specific learning disability or a developmental delay that makes her incapable of understanding consent? If so, then could Hatt legally consent to a sexual relationship with the boy's father?
Thirdly, we're very concerned by the both the father and the judge buying into damaging stereotypes about masculinity and hyper-sexuality that resulted in the judge ignoring sentencing guidelines and the father minimising the impact on the child. Whilst sexual assault* by lone female perpetrators are rare, this does not mean that there are no long-term consequences for the victim.
As with Claude Knights, CEO of Kidscape who is quoted in the Guardian article, we also feel that the use of the term "sex-mad" implies that the victim is somehow to blame for their assault. We have to questions the messages and media this young boy was exposed to before the assault and the messages since which suggest that he should be proud to have been sexually assaulted because it makes him a real man.
More importantly, we are also extremely worried about whether or not this young boy will be receiving appropriate support following the sexual assault. Children are never responsible for their sexual abuse and we need to be clear that there is no excuse for sexually assaulting a child.
UPDATE: This article How not to report on child sexual abuse: An 11-year-old boy does not “have sex with” his adult babysitter by Mary Elizabeth Williams is an excellent summation of the appalling media coverage of this case. Thank you to Sian Steans for tweeting it at us.
*In England and Wales the crime of rape requires the insertion of a penis without consent. Sexual Assault is the charge when an object is inserted without consent or if a female perpetrator is involved. This charge carries the same tariff as rape in law.
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