Stop blaming children for the behaviour of sexual predators

Malta Today

November 23, 2020

By Josanne Cassar

When it comes to young children who have been exposed to sex, we must also be concerned about what happens next and how this emotional trauma will colour their future

Two headlines this week have perturbed me considerably, not only because of the stories they refer to, but because it points to an alarming inability by some fellow members of the press to comprehend how important it is to report sex abuse stories using the right terminology.

This is not about being ‘politically correct’, which has become a hackneyed phrase, and is often being used with negative connotations, much in the same way we sneer at people for being ‘snowflakes’, i.e. overly sensitive and easily offended.

No, the issue here is that the way certain headlines are phrased, and the choice of language in the reporting, filters down to the public which is all too ready to blame the victims instead of the culprits. came out with this gem: “Raġel jistenna li jgħaddi ġuri dwar sess ma’ tifla ta’ 11-il sena” (Man expected to stand trial for having sex with 11-year-old girl”.

LovinMalta, not to be outdone, wrote this headline about the same story: “Preteen Rabat Girl Sexually Abused By 31-Year-Old ‘Family Friend’ She Met At A Party”.

An 11-year-old cannot “have sex” with a man because this is not some romance novel we are talking about here. How many times does it need to be emphasised that a minor cannot consent to sex and, without consent, it is statutory rape? When this government lowered the age of consent from 18 to 16, a decision I strongly disagreed with, I knew that it would only give licence to all sorts of predators to feel that they could get away with abusing children even more. At 16 we are not adults, and although physically our bodies tell us we are ready to have sex, emotionally and psychologically most cannot handle it, and it often leads to dysfunctional sexual relationships for life in girls who confuse lust and physical gratification for the need to be loved.

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