Men Who Prey on Young Girls Must Be Held Accountable

by Dee Rene

Fifty-seven year old Joe Morrissey, a former Virginia Lawmaker, recently admitted to fathering the son of his 19 year old former assistant Myrna Pride. The relationship hit the fan when authorities realized he became sexually active with Myrna while she was still a minor.

Joe Morrissey has since re-entered the political sphere and is hoping for another appointment with his blushing baby’s mother by his side.

And everyone should be disgusted.

Morrissey was not only an older man, but he was Myrna’s boss, someone with political power and we can throw in the race privilege and dynamic in there for good measure. He was in the position to influence her finances and well-being and took advantage of his position.
What young teen is going to say no to her boss as his touches became more lingering in private spaces?

According to Pandora’s Project, which provides resources for survivors of sexual abuse, child grooming is befriending and establishing an emotional connection with a child, and sometimes the family, to lower the child's inhibitions for sexual abuse.

You are more likely to want to believe and please a person who is in a position to influence you. Pleasing that person may include having a sexual relationship you aren’t ready to have yet. No matter how mature a young girl feels, those underage girls who can make adult decisions and fully understand and be prepared to accept the consequences of that action are the exception – not the rule.

Not all victims end up with smiling family photoshoots with their abuser on the front pages of blogs. Most young girls who have been exposed to sexual abuse become victims who suffer the consequences well into adulthood.

What has been most disturbing about this case and similar cases is the reaction to the victim. Comments in case like this usually blame the victim. On social media and in news comment sections that covered this story, there were phrases like:

She must have wanted it and came on to him

She looks like a grown woman.

17 is old enough. She was probably having sex already anyway.

This is what she gets for being fast.

At least he’s taking care of her.

Myrna put her trust into a man who should have only had influence over her employment, not her body. The thing about power dynamics between adults and youth is that in the end, the child or teen thinks they are making a choice on their own but they are not.

They are being influenced by someone seen as an authority. Even if they get uncomfortable with something that’s happening, at a young age, you are less likely to vocalize your opinions for fear of making someone upset, losing your job, or appearing “childish.” This leads to young people getting into compromising, abusive, situations because the person with authority over them to took advantage of that position.

This has to stop. It doesn’t matter if he’s taking care of the baby. It doesn’t matter if he’s public about their relationship. The stats are clear that not every woman that enters this type of relationship.

Older men pursuing teenage girls is not a new headline. In 2012, Minnesota saw an increase in men pursuing teens for sex. Research shows this can have damaging physical effects on girls. In a study led by University of Minnesota sociologist Ann Meier, she compared the mental health of teens who had sex with a partner at least two years older, and that of teens who had sex with partners of about the same age. "We did in fact find that teens who had sex with an older partner reported higher levels of depression and lower levels of self esteem," she said.

When you shine the limelight on one abuser and condone his actions by slapping him on the wrist, you open the floodgates to other people in a similar position who are preying on young women every day. This story will become one that’s told to the young intern who doesn’t want to disappoint her boss so she is talked into giving him sex. This will be an example that other young women look up to and decide they are “mature” enough to be with an older man and who believe that they’ll end up with the same unbelievable ending.

Maturity varies by age. But at some point we have to protect our young girls from the men who are in positions to influence them. We have to stop and remind them that older doesn’t equal wiser and no matter what positional authority someone has, they have no authority over your body.

Excusing Morrissey’s actions only perpetuates the cycle that it is okay to prey on young women as long as you can convince society you did it out of love. If it was really love he could have waited until she was an adult and when he was not in a position of authority over her. Society will stop excusing the actions of men who prey on young girls when we start holding them accountable.

Photo: Joe Morrisey

Dee Rene is a connoisseur of snacks and brunch. Her focus is holding onto faith in all the things that make us laugh, cry and cuss. Follow her on Twitter: @deerene_.

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