How young, is too young?

This past month has seen the media bombard our tv screens and newspapers with the case of Jeremy Forrest, the thirty year old school teacher convicted of child abduction, after he went on the run to france with his fifteen year old student.

The decision to sentence him to a five and a half-year prison sentence has been met with much controversy and divided opinion.

I remain unmoved in opinion and remain strongly in favour of the sentencing that Jeremy Forrest received.

One of the key arguments I hear being thrown around by those against the sentencing, is that of the physical
aspect of the fifteen year old girl in question. With the argument being that it is impossible to distinguish between a fifteen year old and a twenty year old, referring to physical maturity. The problem with this argument is that this isn’t just a case of an unsuspecting man being duped by an underage girl into thinking he was having sex with a fully consenting adult. Jeremy Forrest was his victims teacher and she was his student. He was a man in a position of trust and he made a conscious decision to abuse those powers. Fully aware of the girls age, Jeremy Forrest took advantage of the situation and engaged in sexual activity with a minor even though he knew his job prohibited such actions.

No matter which way you look at this case and how you try to paper over it, Jeremy Forrest took advantage of a young, and impressionable girl who was under his trust. The law is there for a reason, as is the age of consent. And teachers are prohibited from any relationships whether that be sexual or not with their students.

Apart from just the physical act of engaging in sexual activity, I think it is important not to neglect the emotional and interpersonal aspects around being sexually involved with someone. Many argue that the girl was at an age where she is old enough to have sexual desires and therefore old enough to consent. But I feel this argument completely overlooks the fact that the age of consent isn’t just about being physically capable of having sex it is about having the mental capacity to be able to make an informed decision and fully understand the consequences.

Many will say age is nothing but a number. But the question is where do we draw the line?

For those who argue that there is no harm with how Jeremy Forrest has acted, arguing that they are in love. Your point is invalid. As someone who only left school five years ago, I can remember being in school. There was always one teacher that the girls would have a crush on. But that doesn’t give that teacher the go ahead to make an advance on you. The reason why, being because we were impressionable young girls who were experiencing a change in hormones and a change in sexual desires. Having an innocent school girl crush on a teacher, is not love. It is lust.

Which brings us back to the issue of ‘rape culture’. Which is the attitude that many women who are subject to sexual abuse, rape or sexual violence have ‘asked for it’ or ‘bought it onto themselves’. I am shocked to hear people condoning the ‘relationship’ between Forrest and the schoolgirl, with some people even wishing them well in the future. A lot of people have commented saying that the girl clearly knew what she was doing, but at fifteen years old it is not fair to be held accountable for having a sexual relationship with someone fifteen years your senior who was in a position of trust and who should have known better.

I am adamant that one of the main reasons so many are against the five and a half-year sentencing of Jeremy Forest is because of recent events regarding the sentencing of tv personality Stuart Hall. Hall, was only given a 15 month sentence after being found guilty of sexual offences on thirteen girls, with the youngest being only nine years old. I am completely outraged and disgusted by the ridiculously lenient sentencing of Stuart Hall, but that does not mean I will cut of my nose despite my face. The two cases are completely unrelated and although the sentencing doesn’t correspond, that does not make it ok, to lessen the sentence of Jeremy Forrest out of principle. I can understand people’s dismay, but it is ignorant to disregard the seriousness of the crimes that Jeremy Forrest has committed.

The whole case from start to finish is just fuelled with hypocrisy. People are claiming that the sentence is too harsh, and that at fifteen the girl is old enough to be able consent. Then on the contrary the school girl has won the right to anonymity as she is still a ‘minor’. There is no uproar about the girl being allowed to hide her identity due to her young age, as we all agree that mentally she would not be able to cope with the pressure from the public and the media so then why do people think that mentally she is able to cope with being sexually involved with a married man, fifteen years her senior.

The end line is that the legal age of consent is there for a reason. It is ultimately there to protect children from being exploited by adults for sexual gain and pleasure. Anyone who breaks the law is committing a crime, and all crime is subject to punishment. Jeremy Forrest is a thirty year old man who acted irresponsibly and unprofesionaly. It comes down to a total lack of respect and disregard of the law and his duties as a teacher in a position of power and trust. It is not just the physical act that is wrong. It is also the principle of the situation. The fact is, not only did Jeremy Forrest break the law by having a sexual relationship with a minor, he broke the law because he abused his position of power and trust.

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