The message boards of local news outlets can be a scary place. They’re filled with dedicated commenters who seem to like having a smaller base of people to offend and disgust. My own local news comments frequently make me concerned as to who is living down the block. And while there are any number of examples to prove my claim, I’m going to point to one in particular.
It’s not even for a small news outlet. This story is appearing in The Chicago Tribune. But it’s a pretty basic crime report about a man and a woman who are accused with soliciting sex from a minor. The couple, Gina Cusimano, 25, and Kevin Pettitt, 21, were sending text messages to a 13-year-old girl and arranging a time for them to meet and have sex.
The teen’s mom was looking through her daughter’s phone when she saw the obviously disturbing messages and contacted the police. Officers then pretended to be the teen and set up the meeting, but arrested the woman when she showed up.
This sounds like a pretty straight forward case, albeit a disturbing one. Unfortunately, as the wonderful ladies of Jezebel have pointed out, the comments section on this piece is downright grotesque with victim-blaming. And not even just the victim, her mother gets a little bit too.
Commenters wonder how the couple got the teen’s phone number. They question what type of parent would give their 13-year-old a cell phone. (By the way, I got a cell phone the day I hit high school. I was 14 then.) They even bring up how teen girls dress like harlots these days, in their short skirts where you can practically see their underwear. There’s even a debate over what should really be the legal age of consent. I mean, girls used to get married as young as 13. You know, back in medieval times.
And then, there’s the whole double-standard debate, with some slut-shaming mixed in:
“If this had been a young male instead of female then the case aganst the couple would have been a bit more than a slap on the wrist. In the history of this country girls were of a marriagable age at 13, not uncommon at all. When you see some of the 13 year old young ladies strutting their stuff as they walk through the mall there is only one word of description, Jail Bait. So sorry I don’t feel bad about the 13 yr old, the young couple got burned badly and the girl walks away clean.”
love how people are so quick to judge the couple, but the 13 year old isn’t as innocent as you think she is. ill wager she was receptive to the attention and if she was considering sex, the parents have more to worry about than a couple enticing her…
This is a 13-year-old girl. That’s about 8th grade, definitely still in middle school. She was propositioned for sex by two grown adults. She is not the one who we should be “questioning” or debating. She is the victim. Grown adults made a conscious choice to try to have sex with a middle school girl. I do not know how to give those words more weight, but I wish that I could figure it out, because they don’t seem to mean the same thing to everyone.
To be fair, there were also voices of reason on those message boards who called out the victim-blamers and attempted to put them in their place. One awesome commenter responded to the blaming with this,
“Just because a 13 year old is “capable” of having sex does not mean that an adult couple should be trying to have sex with her. People are “capable” of a lot of things.”
Again, you wouldn’t think such a statement would need to be clarified, but apparently it must.
Sex and teens is a tricky topic. There are teenage girls who are choosing to have sex out there. It is possible that this young girl really wanted to participate in a threesome with two grown strangers. That’s something this young girl and her family will be discussing, I’m sure. Hopefully, they’ll talk about sex in a positive way, but also explain the importance of being ready and respecting your body.
However, none of that changes what this couple did. They are adults, not teenagers. They understand sex and are able to make choices about what they want to do. Teenagers are not yet capable of understanding all of the consequences of sex. That is why there are laws in place to protect them against this type of situation. Statutory rape is still rape. And this couple was prepared to rape a 13-year-old girl. That is not the young girl’s fault. It doesn’t matter if she was “receptive to the attention.” And making any excuse for this type of behavior is belittling the crime and shifting the blame from the criminals and onto the victim.