I-Team: Double Standard With Rape Cases In Massachusetts?

By Joe Shortsleeve, Chief Correspondent for the WBZ-TV i-Team

TOWNSEND (CBS) – Hanging out at a friend’s house, that’s how a Townsend mom assumed her 13-year-old son spent a hot Friday in early July.

Instead, she says the boy and three friends went to the home of a 19-year-old woman.

“I was quite upset because I didn’t know where he was,” said the mom, who did not want to be identified to protect her son. “I would not have OK’ed for him to go over there.?

When she finally tracked the boys down across town, she loaded them into her car to take them home. That’s when one of the boy’s friends broke into tears and told the mom that her son had sex in a hot tub with the much-older teenager.

WBZ-TV i-Team Chief Correspondent Joe Shortsleeve reports:

“I was livid,” the mom said. “The anger I felt as a parent just overcame me.”

But this woman’s anger would only deepen when she called Townsend police and there was no arrest. That’s in spite of the fact that her son and the friends who witnessed the hot tub sex, confirmed the story to police.

The i-Team obtained a harassment ordered filed by the Townsend officers. It required the woman to stay away from the child, calling the incident statutory rape. Police also notified the Middlesex County District Attorney’s office. But the DA never contacted the victim’s mother until after the i-Team called the office to find out why the DA had not followed up on the case.

“I think that if this were a man and a 13-year-old girl that he would have been arrested by now,” the mom said.

Wendy Murphy, a former Middlesex County prosecutor and an expert on sex crimes agrees.

“If the genders were reversed, I don’t think there would be any question the perpetrator would be under arrest and there would be charges,” she said.

The law is clear. The age of sexual consent in Massachusetts is 16. That means sex between a 19-year-old woman and a 13-year-old boy is a crime.

Murphy explained that prosecutors often won’t file charges if the subjects are close in age. For example, they would probably not pursue a case between two 15-year-olds in a consensual relationship.

“The wider the age gap, the less discretion prosecutors should be exercising here, and this is huge. This is a six-year age gap. That’s not even a close call,” Murphy said.

But law enforcement has little experience with cases like this. According to the National Center for Victims of Crime, 70% of males who are raped never tell anyone.

“They are stuck in this culture of masculinity and everyone around them is saying ‘atta boy’,” Murphy said. “But we know that in the long run they suffer terribly.”

But this boy did speak up, so why wasn’t the accused person arrested? A spokesperson for the District Attorney tells the i-Team it was up to local police.

When WBZ-TV went to talk to Townsend Chief Erving Marshall, he wouldn’t talk to us on camera. In a statement he said, “There is nothing unusual or out of the ordinary in how this case was/is being handled.” He went on to say to infer otherwise, “…is disingenuous and an insult to the hardworking investigators.”

Still the boy’s mother believes an arrest would have sent an important message to the woman.

“I’m just amazed when she was done with my son, she is trying to get other kids to go over there,” she said.

When we asked what she would like to see happen here, she answered simply, “I just want justice for my son.”

The Townsend Police Department and the Middlesex County District Attorney’s office are adamant that there is no double-standard here. They insist the case would have been handled exactly the same if the sexes were reversed.

We have not identified the woman in the case because right now, she does not face criminal charges. The District Attorney is continuing its investigation. We’ll let you know what they decide to do.


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