It’s a common theme.  ‘I found my daughter with an older boy, and I want her checked to see if she had sex and I want to file a rape charge!’

Invariably, the girl looks away, sometimes tearful, sometimes impassive.  Her responses are flat, limited, of little use.  She is a desert of useful information.  And so, the history and exam is a wasteland as well.  Inside, in her girl-heart, she may be thinking fondly of the young man I’m now possibly gathering evidence against.

I ask her, and she responds:

‘Did he force you to have sex?’  ‘We didn’t have sex.’

Virgin and Child, Raphael

Virgin and Child, Raphael

‘Have you changed clothes since you had sex?’  ‘We didn’t have sex.’

Have you used the restroom since you had sex?’  ‘We didn’t have sex.’

‘Did he use a condom?’  ‘We didn’t have sex.’

Now, maybe they did and maybe they didn’t.  It’s hard to say.  Odds are, if they were undressed together in bed, well, you don’t need calculus to figure that one out.  And as father of a daughter, I understand the parents’ frustration, fear and anger.  He may be 17 or 18, 19 or 20.  She may be 13 or 14, or even 17 herself.  There may be a real mismatch in maturity.  There may even be a kind of subtle, or overt, predation.

But even though the law may call it statutory rape, or contributing to the delinquency of a minor, or some other technical descriptor, she didn’t view it as an assault.  Of course, she’s  immature and vulnerable; she needs the protection and clarity of her adult guardians as well as the law of the land.  Still, she may have seen it as affection which she lacked, or an introduction into maturity or popularity that she craves.  Rape it may have been, either broadly or narrowly defined, but the problem is, I feel as if I’m assaulting her by examining her!  And I feel as if I’m often being used just to answer the question ‘did she have sex?’

Still, however it goes down, I’m left with a sullen, angry, emotionally overwhelmed girl-child (as we say in the South) whose mother insists that I examine her.  Which  means…

Nurses take her clothes, swab her skin, swab her mouth, collect hairs; I perform a pelvic exam as she lies still and quiet, wishing she were anywhere but under the sterile lights of the exam room.  Possibly wishing that she, or I, were dead.

Her mother insists on antibiotics, in case she was exposed to an STD.

The police arrive, pressed into the situation as surely as I.  They collect the evidence, take the statements and move on.  The parents are unsatisfied but feel vindicated.  The questions are not answered.  The girl goes home, having been taken to a place she did not want to go to have an evaluation she did not want to have, in order to prove (or disprove) that she  had sex with someone she (for better or worse) probably likes better than everyone she meets in the ER.

I feel for her.  She was the victim of a young man who should never have even had the opportunity to have sex with her.  She may have been the victim of inattention by her family, or simply the ‘busyness’ so common in modern families.

She was absolutely the victim of a culture that thinks of purity and virginity as laughable, charming, antiquated and finally barbarian traditions that need to be disposed of as soon as possible.  She was the victim of song-writers and performers, actors and actresses, magazine editors and writers and friends who led her to experiment, (or appear to have experimented) with things for which she was not emotionally prepared.

And she, child, virgin or not, was the victim of law and medicine, both of whom assaulted her before she left to cry in her bed at home.

I feel sorrow for her.  Sorrow that she may have been used, then put under the microscope to evaluate how she was used.  I feel sorrow for the damage that may have been done to her relationship with her parents.  I feel sorrow for her parents, who want only the best for their girl and then find that a lost society is trying to drag her down as it drags down so many; one at at time.  I even feel a little sorrow that a young man, only a little older than this girl, could go to prison or be forever labeled a sex-offender for acting on his immature impulses or misplaced Romeo and Juliet fantasies.

But to be quite honest, I feel sorrow for me.  Because I feel as if I have harmed her as well.  It was probably the right thing to do.  Still, her resigned acceptance  her fate, her hollow stare, her stiff smile all made me feel complicit in something that, however right, felt wrong.

God bless and heal everyone involved.

Me too.

Edwin

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