Social media campaign #MeAt14 talks age of consent after Roy Moore allegations
New allegations emerged Monday against Roy Moore, the Republican Senate candidate in Alabama.
Beverly Young Nelson says Moore sexually assaulted her when she was 16-years-old after he offered her a ride home from the restaurant where she worked.
- CBC News:Alabama Republican Roy Moore says sexual misconduct allegations are intended to derail his Senate bid
Her account comes on the heels of a Washington Post story last week detailing allegations of sexual misconduct by the 70-year-old politician against teenagers decades ago. One woman says Moore sought out a sexual encounter with her when she was 14 and he was 32.
Initial allegations were downplayed by Moore's supporters, suggesting sexual contact with the 14-year-old could have been consensual.
What was more disturbing to me were the number of people who were willing to justify his behaviour.- Catherine R. L. Lawson
Then North Carolina lawyer Catherine R. L. Lawson posted this on Twitter and started a movement with #MeAt14.
Can’t consent at 14. <br>Not in Alabama.<br>Not anywhere. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/MeAt14?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#MeAt14</a> <a href="https://t.co/AFUw1Ru4X2">pic.twitter.com/AFUw1Ru4X2</a>—@catlawson
After the allegations in the Washington Post were made public, Lawson says the reaction was disconcerting to her.
Children should not be exploited and teenagers fall within that category.- Catherine R. L. Lawson
"What was more disturbing to me were the number of people who were willing to justify his behaviour — either to imply that it could have been a consensual relationship or to even say that even if the allegations were true that it wasn't the type of thing that we should be concerned about."
Lawson says she was compelled to post her tweet as a way to "affirm that we all share a common social value, that children should not be exploited and teenagers fall within that category."
"[I] thought that sharing a picture would be a way to illustrate that there is no acceptable version of the story. Teenagers can't consent to a relationship with a grown adult."
When asked, Lawson says she's not surprised by the number of people adding their personal experiences to the #MeAt14 movement.
I think their stories were always there. They just were looking for an opening and a way to be heard.- Catherine R. L. Lawson
"This type of behaviour, it's existed since the beginning of time," she tells The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti.
But Lawson does hope there is a tipping point where people feel safe enough to come forward, where they feel believed.
"I think their stories were always there. They just were looking for an opening and a way to be heard."
Roy Moore is not the first public figure in the news facing allegations involving young teens.
Actor Kevin Spacey has been accused of sexual misconduct and assault by at least 15 people, including two actors who say they were 14 at the time of the alleged incidents.
- CBC News:Kevin Spacey apology, coming out slammed as 'distraction' from alleged sexual advance on minor
Spacey has either denied or declined comment on the various claims.
The allegations against Spacey and Moore have shone a light on adults who are sexually attracted to pubescent children, aged 11 to 14 — referred to as hebephilia.
'They didn't ask to be attracted to children' - James Cantor
"We automatically write these people off as evil. We merely need to throw them in jail and keep them there forever," says clinical psychologist James Cantor, who has interviewed many hebephiles.
"When we're talking about child molesters that, of course, is a very, very easy judgment to make," Cantor tells Tremonti.
"But when we talk about people who just discovered that they're attracted to children, they didn't ask to be attracted to children any more than the rest of us asked to be attracted to adults, or any more than gay and straight men asked to be attracted to men or women. They figure it out as life goes on," he explains.
They want help keeping away from temptation. They feel drawn to it. They know that this poses harm to the kids, and they ask for assistance.- James Cantor
Cantor says clients come in asking for help when they realize they are attracted to a person under age, who are unable to consent.
"They want help keeping away from temptation. They feel drawn to it. They know that this poses harm to the kids, and they ask for assistance," says Cantor, who adds that one of the most effective ways is sex drive-reducing medication that essentially blocks the action of testosterone in the body.
- CBC | Kevin Spacey apology, coming out slammed as 'distraction' from alleged sexual advance on minor
For the clients who are not of the mindset that their attraction could pose harm to a kid, Cantor says, "they fooled themselves into believing what they wanted to believe."
"They convinced themselves that a particular child was more precocious or had a better idea of what was going on," he tells Tremonti.
"So a lot of the therapy we do with these people is helping them to see the interactions really for what they actually are."
Listen to the full conversation above.
This segment was produced by The Current's Idella Sturino, Ashley Mak and Ines Colabrese.