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Greenwich Daily Voice serves Greenwich, CT

Greenwich Police: Age Determines Teen Sex Laws

Two male Greenwich teens were arrested last week on charges of having sex with younger girls, but these cases show how complicated the are laws, said Greenwich police Sgt. Mark Zuccerella. The department investigates two to three statutory rape cases a month, he said.

“The laws are misunderstood a lot,” said Zuccerella, head of the Special Victims Unit. “When I give talks to teachers and students, I always have my Connecticut Law Enforcement handbook with me.”

On April 15, a 17-year-old male was arrested after allegedly having sex with a 13-year-old girl. The girl’s parents told the police about the incident, and an investigation found the boy was older than the state statutory limit of three years for teens ages 13 to 15. The boy admitted to having sex with the girl when he turned himself in on a warrant charging him with second-degree sexual assault, a felony. “Even if it were consensual, under state laws the magic number is 16,” said Zuccerella. “When we get complaints, we have to look at each one according to age.”

Two days later, another male teen turned himself in on a warrant alleging he had sex with a female victim when he was 15 and the girl was 10. At the time, the two lived in the same residence. In this case, he was above the two-year statutory limit for teen sexual contact for children ages 10 to 12, under state law. He was charged with risk of injury to a minor and fourth-degree sexual assault, both felonies.

“We tell boys and girls to stick to kids their own age,” said Zuccerella. “Sometimes they’re upset when they find out they can’t do these things.”

With a rise in teen “sexting,” or the sending of sexually explicit messages or images via cell phone or other electronic devices, Connecticut’s legislature passed a law that went into effect last fall, known as Public Act 10-191. It applies to senders of “sexts” ages 13 to 15 and recipients of “sexts” ages 13 to 17, in regard to child pornography. The act downgrades the penalty for “sexting” among these age groups from a felony to a misdemeanor.

“Prior to this statute if a 15-year-old boy took a picture of his 15-year-old girlfriend and had at least three pictures, he would be in possession of child pornography, and would get arrested and go to a juvenile detention center,” said Zuccerella.

Typically, sexting complaints come from schools and parents. “The focus is always on the victim,” said Zuccerella. “We look at it as, ‘We have a video of a 15-year-old and her 17-year-old boyfriend having sex, what’s more important — having this kid arrested? Or getting the video, having it removed from computers and having this girl’s dignity restored?'”

“We can’t say the statute is working because we’ve never had anything before to base it on,” he said. “The best thing parents can do is have a talk with their kids about having sex and sending photos. Opening the lines of communication is vital.”

What do you think about the rise in sexting among teens? Do you think punishments are adequate? Comment below.

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