Sunday, March 4, 2001
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Posted on: Sunday, March 4, 2001

Adjacent articles on separate issues

By Kelly A. Hill
and Adriana Ramelli

On Sunday, Feb. 11, The Honolulu Advertiser published two articles in the Focus section, one discussing the commercial sexual exploitation of children as presented by Sisters Offering Support, and the other the age of consent as presented by the Sex Abuse Treatment Center.

While we are grateful that The Advertiser sees the importance of these issues, we felt compelled to respond to the misrepresentations that have occurred as a result of these separate articles being positioned side by side by the newspaper under a shared headline which made it appear to the reader that they were dissenting arguments to the same issue.

This was not the case.

First of all, the commercial sexual exploitation of minors and the legal age of consent are separate issues. They were never intended to be combined or compared, nor should they be.

The Sex Abuse Treatment Center (SATC) took the initiative to submit commentary regarding the age of consent to the Island Voices section of The Honolulu Advertiser. SATC’s intent was for this commentary to run as a stand-alone piece as a way for the general public to become further aware of some of the ramifications inherent in changing Hawaii’s legal age of consent.

Sisters Offering Support on the other hand submitted testimony directly to the Hawaii State Legislature on an entirely separate but equally important topic of commercial sexual exploitation.

Unbeknownst to either of these organizations, these two documents appeared side by side as diverging options of the same topic in the Sunday paper. Again, they are not.

Commercial sexual exploitation is the use of a child for sexual purposes in exchange for cash or in-kind favors between the child, the customer, an intermediary or agent, and others who profit from the trade in children for sexually exploitative purposes.

The age of consent on the other hand is the legal age at which someone may make their own decisions regarding consensual sex acts. By assuming that Sisters Offering Support (SOS) was saying "yes" to the issue of consent and that the Sex Abuse Treatment Center was saying "no" misleads the public and misrepresents the position of both agencies.

To set the record straight, Sisters Offering Support proposes legislation that would prohibit the use or attempted use of a minor to provide sexual services in exchange for cash, in kind favors, or other compensation in which someone would profit from this exchange.

Sex Abuse Treatment Center (SATC) has worked for over a quarter of a century advocating for victims of sexual assault and serving as the largest provider of sex assault education, advocacy, policy development, crisis intervention and counseling programs in the state for these victims. SATC neither supports nor opposes the concept of an age of consent; the issue at hand is what is the most appropriate route to protect the victims of sexual assault.

Therefore SATC proposes the creation of a statewide interdisciplinary task force bringing together prosecutors, police, service providers, medical personnel, child support enforcement units, local military and other community/citizen groups such as those proposed by the American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law.

Both SATC and Sisters Offering Support believe that no adult or child should be the victim of a sexual victimization. While our focus may be on different parts of this same problem, both SOS and SATC support strong penalties for perpetrators and both will continue to work together as well as separately with the criminal justice system, the Legislature, social service and community organizations and private providers of victim services to that end.

Kelly A. Hill is founder and executive director of Sisters Offering Support; Adriana Ramelli is director of the Sex Abuse Treatment Center.

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