Sex between a stepparent and stepchild is illegal, even when it involves consenting adults, the Ohio Supreme Court said Wednesday. [...]
“... Parents do not cease being parents — whether natural parents, stepparents or adoptive parents — when their minor child reaches the age of majority,” the court wrote.
The majority rejected Lowe’s constitutional argument, saying the state has a legitimate interest in protecting the family unit. If Lowe had been divorced and was no longer stepfather to his wife’s daughter, the statute would no longer apply, they noted.
The original allegation against Paul D. Lowe, a former Stark County sheriff’s deputy, was that he raped his 22-year-old stepdaughter while she was unconscious. His defense, like in many rapes, was "It was consensual."
He might have thought that would give him a free pass, but that wasn't what happened. He later pled no contest on the lesser charge since consent wasn't a viable defense for that charge.
His defense attorney appealed based on a Texas ruling regarding a sodomy law banning contact between consenting adults. The Ohio Supreme Court's ruling clearly saw that there is a difference between consenting adults -- with no clear relationship power imbalance -- and this case.
Many people moan about statutory rape/incest laws which don't only protect small children because they supposedly interfere with people's freedom to make their own decisions. This case highlights the problem with that attitude. This so-called freedom is the freedom to exploit, abuse or rape.
Just because the person accused of rape, abuse or incest says that the decision was made freely by all involved doesn't mean that the statement is in fact true. Certain relationships are so imbalanced and ripe for exploitation that all sexual contact within those relationships must be illegal.
Last month a corrections officer was rightly convicted of raping a female prisoner and it was no surprise that this one inmate wasn't his only alleged victim.
The specifics of laws, including the sentences given for specific statute violations, do need to be reviewed so the sentence reflects the severity of the harm and the danger to the public. They also need to be reviewed carefully by a diverse group so there are no unwanted side effects.
The letter and spirit of the law need to match, but that's just a beginning. Public perception needs to match also. More people need to be able to recognize abusers for the harm they do rather than blaming victims for not avoiding that harm or for trying to minimize the harm done to them.
Hat tip: Sex Crimes
Technorati tags: rape crime politics sexual violence sexual assault feminism