The Age of Consent
My name is Zoë Grimes and I am 21 years old. I am very passionate about social injustice, feminism, and rape culture. I, unfortunately, have intense personal experience with these matters. When I was 16, I was sexually taken advantage of by someone who was 40+. I was groomed into thinking it was normal and alright. This, according to Maryland law, is perfectly legal. A 16-year-old in Maryland can engage in sexual intercourse with a person of any age. At 16 you can’t smoke, drink, vote, serve your country, or even get a tattoo without your parents being present. You can, however, consent to a relationship or sex with someone no matter their age. I am petitioning to make the overarching age of consent 18 in America (aside from exceptions, stated below) and removing the power to make this decision from the hands of the state. I personally know many young kids this has happened to, who have been failed by the system. It takes years to speak up, and only a few minutes to silence. I also discovered through research that if this crime were to have occurred in Florida, he would be charged as a statutory rapist and sex offender, as the age of consent is 18 in Florida. It concerns and frankly disgusts me that it is alright and legal in one state, but a heinous sex crime in another. At 16, you cannot mentally consent to the responsibility and commitment of sex, especially if you are groomed by someone much older. This is happening to children who are nowhere near mature enough to make these decisions, so we need to make the change for them.
There is another piece to this argument. I don’t want an 18-year-old who is dating a 16-year-old to go to prison. I do, however, want a 30-year-old dating a 16-year -old to be held accountable for it. There must be clear and concise guidelines and laws that umbrella over all the states, or these offenders figure out how to get away with it. I believe that this should also include Romeo and Juliet laws, as to where it is alright for a couple in which one party is underage is legal if it is within a certain amount of years. For example, a 16-year-old and a 19-year-old would, under this bill, be perfectly just.
It seems as if the only people who are privy to these laws are those who unfortunately intend to break them. Gray area leads to things not being seen. I aim to save children and make overarching age of consent laws intended to protect kids and make it harder for offenders to legally take advantage of those that the laws do not protect.
What advice would you offer to encourage others?
Stay strong and let it fuel a fire inside you. I hate my abuser, but part of me thanks him. I am stronger now. I have a fire in my heart to make a change. Find positivity in the hurt and beauty in the wreckage.
- Zoe, Survivor
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