A 17-year-old Manassas teen is facing felony charges for allegedly sexting his girlfriend, who was 15 at the time.
NBC4 reports that the teen was caught sexting with his then-girlfriend in January and "was charged with manufacturing and distributing child pornography. According to the Post, the incident started when the teen's girlfriend sent him nude pics, and then the 17-year-old responded with a video of his, um, private parts. The video was discovered by the girl's mother who then filed a complaint.
After the teen was arrested, police took pictures of his genitalia for evidence, the teen's aunt tells NBC4:
"He said they took him to a room and took pictures of his genitalia...I asked if they’re allowed to do that, and [he] said, ‘I tried to refuse,’” which he did, he didn’t want to do it. They told him if he did not they would do it by force.”
This isn't the first such case, but these prosecutions continue to strike me as bonkers. The Manassas police and the girl's mother are causing grave harm to these kids, especially to the boy.
The article asks and I wonder why only the boy was charged with making and distributing child porn. Perhaps this would be explained by some technicality related to age, but I'm left to wonder if there isn't also some weird gender bias at work.
Here is the Virginia child porn statute. I don't see a reason for charging the boy, but not the girl. Could be some other statute or a court ruling supersedes the statute. Or maybe this was driven by demands from the mother of the girl or something else we don't know about the people and relationships involved.
But then there is the problem of treating the supposed victim of child porn as a perpetrator. If a 30-year-old man shot the video with the 17-year-old voluntarily participating, would the police charge this 17-year-old with a felony or treat him as the victim of a crime?
I bet they would treat him as the victim of a crime. Yet when the 17-year-old makes the video, the victim and perp are merged. Now the victim is inescapably punished along with the so-called perpetrator because they are one and the same person. Is there no room for the law to recognize that kids photographing or filming themselves present a fundamentally different situation from adults creating nude images of children for sexual purposes?
Of course there is room to recognize the difference and authorities throughout the country recognize the difference. I've read about a number of cases in which police have publicly explained that they treat these situations as matters for parents to sort out, unlike the knuckleheads in Manassas, Virginia. I'm sure that plenty of police agencies understand that treating kids as criminals in these situations is far worse than the supposed crime itself.
Is there more to the story or are the police doubling down in reaction to nationwide ridicule? What's being reported is that the police want to take pictures of his erect penis, and they have threatened to take the boy to a hospital to inject him by force with a drug that would cause an erection. I can't imagine a physician would agree to do that, but if this is true, I'd suggest instead that doctors consider injecting the investigators with Haldol.