Tucker has filed a bill to close one loophole in the sexual crime and age laws that have created problems for prosecutors.
Those laws made it illegal for, say, a 19-year-old to solicit a teen for sex, while making it legal for them to actually have sex, given a certain age span."[Prosecutors] have had to tell parents of a young lady that if only the guy who she had a sexual relationship with had solicited the relationship -- we would be able to prosecute," Tucker said.
"But, if later, the parent came in and disclosed to us that it wasn't a neighbor, but an uncle, then that would change how I had to look at the relationship."In most cases, Patterson said, where the issue is weighing on a teen's mind enough to disclose it, the care team would refer the teen to counseling to try and deal with the underlying issues and learn more about how the relationship is affecting the teen involved.
Ultimately, because of her position as a substitute, she was charged with sexual assault.
Is there anything that has been coercion or manipulation that the adolescent may not even recognize? "Many times these teens are not at a place, maturity-wise, to recognize the risks the relationship can have, and sometimes it's our job to try and tease that out, and talk to them about what this relationship really means."If they're able to determine what that means, they turn to their knowledge of state laws within the criminal track, which you can read here, and the Child Maltreatment Track, which you can view here.
"There were kids that, yeah, absolutely didn't see their relationship as something as a problem or dangerous," said Jennifer Patterson, Social Work Family Services Manager at Arkansas Children's Hospital.
The decision to call is not always an easy one, Patterson said, because the therapist has to weigh issues of confidentiality and the impact the notification will have on the therapist's relationship with the patient.
Patterson noted that therapists and other reporters often have to make the tough call regardless of those considerations if they believe a child is in danger."I think sometimes kids can fall through the cracks because individuals don't understand the law," Patterson said.