Should the Age of Consent Be Lowered?
This is a partial transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," December 12, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.
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BILL O'REILLY, HOST: In the "Factor Follow-Up" segment tonight, as you know, "The Factor" is aggressively promoting Jessica's Law, which requires a minimum sentence of 25-years in prison for any adult who commits sexual battery on a child 12 and under.
We're making good progress in this area. However, there's a move to lower the age of consent for a child to have sex with an adult to 14. Currently age of consent ranges from 16 to 18 in most states.
Joining us now from Seattle is Anne Bremner, a former children's sex crimes prosecutor, who's now a defense attorney.
In Italy and Canada, ages 14. Japan, 13.
ANNE BREMNER, CURRENTLY A DEFENSE ATTORNEY IN WASHINGTON: Uh- huh.
O'REILLY: Chile, 12.
BREMNER: And Mexico.
O'REILLY: I didn't know Mexico. Mexico's 12, too?
BREMNER: For girls.
O'REILLY: Is it? Twelve for girls.
O'REILLY: And now there are people here in the USA want to bring the age of consent down to 14. And we're not talking NAMBLA. I mean, we know they do.
ANNE BREMNER, FORMER CHILD SEX CRIMES PROSECUTOR: Not.
O'REILLY: But you know, so-called legitimate people. What do you think about it?
BREMNER: Well, I think it's wrong, Bill. We have an age of consent that's on average in the United States, 16. And for many years, many states, it was 18. You have to have a bright line rule.
And you can have different results and sentencing when you're looking at damage to children when you have female offenders versus male offenders/
But you've got to have a bright line rule. You know, I had the Mary Kay Letourneau civil case out here in Seattle. And the books that were written about the two of them were sold as crime stories in the U.S. and is love stories in Europe.
O'REILLY: Yes. You know, but there's a lot of countries that culture kids' get married very young. We just had this gorgeous think where a 13- year old married a 14-year old, legal in Georgia, by the way.
But the guys who case up in Albany, New York, teacher, Catholic school involved with a 16-year-old. And then, that would be an — but you still got criminally charged.
And then we had Debra Lafave...
O'REILLY: ...from Hillsborough County, Florida. I mean, two good- looking women got a lot of media attention. And you know, this is what's driving this deal.
There is a — Ms. Lafave, who you know, got off fairly lightly.
BREMNER: Got off fairly lightly.
O'REILLY: If it were a guy, a man doing what she did to a girl, a man would have gotten a lot more jail time. Why do you think that is, Ann?
BREMNER: Well, I think there was a saying in the Mary Kay Letourneau case, you know, if you squint your eyes, it all makes sense. It was romanticized. It was in a lot of ways scandalized in a way that made people very interested in the cases.
And frankly, the "Summer of '42", Bill, every school boy's dream, hot for teacher, homework was never quite like this. All of those kind of cultural attitudes play into.
O'REILLY: What about physical strength, though? Do you think that the system says, well look, the boy can fend it off, whereas the girl can't because the man is strong? Do you think that that's in play?
BREMNER: I think it's in play, Bill. And also, can a woman physically rape a man? That's what Mary Kay Letourneau always said. "I can't be guilty of rape," she said.
O'REILLY: Yes, but it doesn't matter whether she's raping him or not.
BREMNER: That's right.
O'REILLY: It's a statutory rape.
BREMNER: That's exactly right.
O'REILLY: It's a kid. It's a kid.
O'REILLY: You're taking — look, particularly if you're a teacher.
BREMNER: Yes, a kid's a kid's a kid.
O'REILLY: Taking advantage of a kid. Look, come on.
O'REILLY: Interestingly enough, Professor Bruce Ride at Temple University, he's one of these guys that says, to set the bar higher than 14 is mostly to ignore research and hormones. He's another academic. Hormones, like hormones? The law is supposed to fit into the hormones of teenage boys?
BREMNER: Well, yes, the hormones are here.
O'REILLY: More insanity.
BREMNER: Well, the hormones are here. And their minds catch up a lot later in terms of what the consequences are.
O'REILLY: Another Professor Carol Shackshaft (ph) of Hofstra University, teachers are always — you know, he's — I don't know. Its just — the whole thing is tawdry. And I think we should keep it at 16, 18, you know, 16, 18. OK.
BREMNER: If you talk to my mother, she would have said the age of consent should be 26 when I was growing up.
O'REILLY: Well, of course, of course. But in our society today, to allow a 14-year-old to make a decision about having sex with an adult is insane.
BREMNER: It's unconscionable, it's insane.
O'REILLY: All right, counselor, thanks. We appreciate you coming on in.
BREMNER: Thanks, Bill.
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