Rethinking W.Va. Age of Consent

Why do some predator priests escape imprisonment? Here in West Virginia, the age of consent — that at which voluntary sexual contact is legal — is 16 years in most cases.

At the same time, state code recognizes that “intimidation, expressed or implied, by another person who is at least four years older than the victim” can be a factor in sexual assault and abuse.

People in many walks of life — police officers, teachers, employers and yes, members of the clergy — are capable of intimidating victims. Being convinced one’s immortal soul is in danger if one does not comply with a predator’s demands certainly ought to qualify as intimidation.

Perhaps state legislators should take another look at the age of consent when such intimidation is a factor. We insist on protecting those under 18 from purchasing cigarettes, after all. Why not protect them against coerced sexual contact, too?

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