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On the Theory of Second Chances

John Summerson gets a new start.

Of John T. Summerson, the former teacher who admitted to attempted (statutory) rape of a teenage girl he was home tutoring, the girl's mother had this to say at the time of his sentencing: "Our lives are turned upside down. [My daughter] trusts no one. She'll never be the same."

Now that Summerson was hired at the Niagara Falls Water Board, one is inclined to wonder if the girl thinks what happened in her grandmother's room between her and Summerson was what made her "trust no one?"

She hoped at the time, one surmises, that what went on between her and her teacher would remain their secret. It is not known whether the girl engaged in sexual activity before. It was reported that a sibling told her parents about it.

After her parents found out, her father confronted Summerson. There was a fight between them which the girl reportedly witnessed. What followed was questioning by police; the arrest of Summerson; the publicity in the following days; the discovery, by her classmates (the whispering, the mocking, the laughter, the scandal, the facing them at school); the months awaiting trial; and the uncertainty over whether she would testify in court. Were these the cause of her world being turned upside down?

Not the crime, but the punishment?

After all, it is not sex that society wants to protect teenagers from.

Children are given condoms in schools.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a 2007 study concluded that 48.7 percent of high school students have had sexual intercourse. If you count other forms of sexual activity, such as oral sex, the number is far higher.

It is not surprising. The American media glamorizes and normalizes sex, virtually encouraging teens to have sex. A study found that more than 90 percent of TV episodes aimed at a teenage market had at least one sexual reference at an average of 7.9 references per hour.

Until recently, throughout history, with puberty came the age of consent. Following English common law, the age of female consent in America was between 10 or 12 until the late nineteenth century. About the time women were getting the right to vote, the age of female consent was raised to between 16 and 18, depending on the state. It is 17 in New York.

Many countries still follow natural law. In Mexico, Angola and the Philippines, the age of consent is 12. In Spain, Japan and Niger, the age of consent is 13. The age of consent is 14 in China, Italy, Germany, Brazil, Austria, Colombia, Ecuador, Bulgaria, Hungary, Albania, Paraguay, Estonia, Liechtenstein, Montenegro, Portugal, Serbia, Chad, Cape Verde, Malawi, Bangladesh, Burma and other countries.

Fifteen is the age of consent in France, Cambodia, Sweden, Laos, Denmark, North Korea, Syria, Greece, Yemen, the Czech Republic, Icel, Monaco, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, Costa Rica, Honduras, Aruba,

Sint Maarten, Uruguay and others.

So did this 15-year old girl (now 17 or 18) think she was a victim of rape, or a victim of a hypocritical, unforgiving and destructive culture?

Did the system make her a victim more than the adult she had contact with?

What would you do?

A 24-year-old man you hired to tutor your child went into the bedroom with your attractive teenage girl. Perhaps she encouraged him. It has been done millions of times before. But this is your child.

In fact, she is not quite a child. She is something between a child and a woman. Joan of Arc, Cleopatra, and Anne Frank were her age when they confronted the world.

So think twice. Do you call the police and open the floodgates of hellish scrutiny for your child?

In the past, sex outside of marriage could be a life-ruining event. If a girl got pregnant, her father came toting a shotgun and a marriage was performed, or a secret abortion.

If it was publicly discovered, it became a scandal because being no longer a virgin made a woman nearly ineligible for marriage.

But chastity is no longer universally prized. A woman does not need to be a virgin to get a husband.

Today the life-ruining event is the involvement of the criminal justice system.

In the meantime, some think Summerson should not have been hired at the Water Board. Some would burn off his pubic hair, make him a wanderer and a fugitive over the earth, with a mark set upon him, a red letter "R" for rapist branded by a hot iron on his cheek.

Summerson has eight years to go on his probation but, for long after that, wherever he goes, he will be known for this act. Wherever the girl goes, too, someone will know about it and whisper it.

Maybe Summerson should be given a second chance in life.

To forgive, for they will not, they will never forget.



Niagara Falls Reporter - Publisher Frank Parlato Jr. www.niagarafallsreporter.com

Feb 04, 2014