Beyond the Headlines

Teen sex and the skewed world of Facebook

Posted: Nov 18, 2013 4:03 PM ET Last Updated: Nov 18, 2013 4:03 PM ET

It is one of the dozens of court cases that wind their way through our justice system that usually go unnoticed by anyone but the parties involved.


But in the case of Her Majesty the Queen vs a young person known only by the initials J.T.C., veteran provincial court Judge Jamie Campbell offers some insights into the moral values of some young people, the role social media plays in their lives and the sad course of events that can lead those young people to appear in his court.


The case involved a 17-year-old boy who was charged with aggravated sexual assault for not telling S.N., a 17-year-old girl, that he was HIV-positive before they had sex.


Campbell begins his 40-page judgment with this observation:


"At least some of the young people who come into contact with the youth criminal justice system appear to inhabit a different moral universe. That is especially true when it comes to the sometimes fleeting relationships that quickly become intensely sexual," he wrote.


"All too frequently those "hook-ups" result in immature couples becoming parents before they are capable of exercising the kinds of judgments, personal restraint and sacrifice that are fundamental to parenthood. Seeing how their lives have been shaped, it is little wonder."


Then Campbell details the sad circumstances of J.T.C.'s young life: being sexually assaulted by his mother's then partner when he was 3 or 4 years old, an attack that left him HIV-positive. His mother's death a short time later. Life with elderly relatives that didn't work out and then a string of group homes.


It was in one of those group homes that J.T.C. first met S.N. Through various moves they lost contact until one day, when they were both 17 years old, he saw her on a bus with her infant daughter.


The pair "reconnected" and began a relationship on Facebook, which Campbell describes as "a social media site that first turned "friend" into a verb and then appears to have ground the word into meaningless dust."


Within days of that meeting on the bus they were referring to each other on Facebook as "my sexy husband" and "my sexy wife." Campbell said that flirting soon turned explicit. He described it this way: "Over the next few days the sexual banter back and forth was relentless and almost numbingly graphic."


All that Facebook sexting resulted in the teenagers having sex a few days later in a public washroom at a Zellers store.


The couple had sex a couple of more times in a friend's apartment, once without a condom, before J.T.C. told her he was HIV-positive.


But according to court documents J.T.C. didn't simply wake up one day deciding to do the right and moral thing. He only told S.N. he was HIV-positive after a social worker with the Department of Community Services found out about their relationship and told him if he didn't tell her immediately, they would.


That revelation ended their relationship. S.N. testified that after J.T.C. called her with the news she was "so distraught she threw up."


A year later, J.T.C. - who by this time had a daughter by another woman - took to Facebook to reach out to S.N. and apologize.


For the record, Campbell found J.T.C. not guilty for two main reasons. One, doctors testified that although he is HIV-positive, his viral load is so low there is little chance of a partner becoming infected, even without a condom. And when S.N. was asked if she would have had unprotected sex with J.T.C. if she had known that, she said yes.


Reading this judgment, it's easy for those of us who live quiet middle class lives to condemn these two young people and the reckless attitudes toward sex and relationships that brought this case to Campbell's court.


But as Campbell aptly observed, "Seeing how their lives have been shaped, it is little wonder."


Think about what J.T.C. has gone through in his short life. Raped while just a toddler, left HIV-positive, then left to grow up in a series of group homes after his mother's death.


We don't know much about S.N.'s life but we know the couple first met in a group home, so we can assume her life has been anything but rosy.


By her 17th birthday, S.N. had a baby. A few months later, J.T.C. fathered a girl with another woman.


Two teens who, through no fault of their own, appear to have little or no life skills, now find themselves parents.


And so the cycle continues.


You can read Judge Jamie Campbell's full decision here.

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About the Author

Brian DuBreuil is a veteran journalist with CBC News. He has won two Gemini awards for his work, and neither involved dancing or singing on a reality show.

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