This case is appalling on multiple levels. In the UK, 24-year-old man — a man who worked as a teacher — groomed a 13-year-old girl through the internet using a 15-year-old female alter ego, and then met her in person and raped her.
After Matthew Knott raped her, the girl reported the attack, and he has since been convicted on charges of grooming a child for sex on the internet and having sexual activity with a child (read: rape, because consensual sex with a child is impossible). I see no real reason to reproduce the details of the grooming and assault here; you can click through to read about the ways in which Knott manipulated the girl, and how he assaulted her not only through a lack of meaningful consent due to her age (more than enough), but also by obtaining her compliance through ordering her around in a threatening manner. He was sentenced to four years in prison, and is barred from working with children for five years.
Again, there are multiple levels of outrage here. There’s the fact that Knott committed this assault in the first place. Then there’s the fact that he did so as a teacher, someone who is entrusted with the well-being of children and adolescents every day, even if his victim was not one of his students. Further, there’s his mere sentence of four years in prison, which seems a bit short to me, though I suppose that it is in fact much longer than most rapists ever receive. And there’s the sickening knowledge that he will be able to legally work with children again in five years — I assume that means one year after his release? — even though he has raped a 13-year-old, and the school at which he taught at the time of the rape is for students age 11 through 16. One can only hope that no one would be so foolish as to hire him for a position that involves working with children, and certainly not for a teaching job.
Oh, wait, and then there’s this comment from the judge:
Judge Michael Henshaw told him: “It is perfectly clear to anybody here and those reading about these offences to see these were carefully planned calculated offences carried out in a devious way to enable you to meet this child for the purpose of having sex with her.
“The type of activity you engaged in is of enormous public concern.
“Parents throughout this country are no doubt worried sick what their offspring might be doing when they are using the computer.
“There are people like you who adopt identities to encourage children to commit offences.”
Yes, yes, mhm, agreed … what?
I keep trying to read that line another way. Maybe he meant “there are people like you who adopt identities in order to commit offenses through encouraging children”? Maybe, but that’s not what he says. Either way you read it, no matter how generously, the judge here frames grooming a child for sexual assault as “encouragement,” when in fact those two things are worlds apart. That is a big problem. And the way I’m reading it, he also frames the child who has been raped as having committed an offense.
No. No, no, no. Pretending to be a teenager and then telling an actual teen that they ought to go egg someone’s house is adopting an identity to encourage children to commit offenses. Pretending to be a teenager in order to obtain explicit photographs of an actual teen, and then to get her to meet you in order to rape her, is not encouraging children to commit offenses. It is victimizing a child, it is committing an offense, and the suggestion that the child has somehow been corrupted or merely been subject to a bad influence by someone who ought to know better is frankly disgusting.
Treating the rape of a child as just “having sex” that general society finds icky is a huge and pervasive problem. Pretending that grooming children is the same as seduction is a similar problem. And acting as though teenage sex is something just as fearsome, just as valid for parents to be concerned about as an adult raping a teenager, is something that regularly keeps victims marginalized and blaming themselves, and something which only encourages rapists — those like Matthew Knott.