…. It is certainly an abuse of power and reeks of sexual abuse grooming. Any discussion about the teen-aged girl and her “responsibility” in this scenario is shaming children for their sexual exploitation by adult men.
By Kate Hamilton Moser
Last week, news broke that a well-respected member of our state Legislature was exchanging messages with a 16-year-old girl. The messages were described as “unusually familiar and affectionate in tone.” What does that mean? Who determines what is “unusually familiar and affectionate in tone?” As a parent, I can tell you that any messages from an adult to my 16-year-old of any gender–particularly from an adult with significant power and authority–would need to be perceived as “professional and detached” in order for me to read them as appropriate.
When this state legislator was confronted by The Courant about these messages, he initially stated that he didn’t remember the girl.
He didn’t remember the girl? How is that possible?
He didn’t remember telling a 16 year-old-girl, “Really hun trust I think we going to keep a lot of secrets between us?” How is that possible? Does he routinely say these things to 16-year-old girls? Did he not remember because she wasn’t that important to him and because this is routine behavior for him? Are there too many messages with other underage girls to keep up with this one?
When the state legislator was again confronted, he told reporters to contact his attorney. His attorney stated that the elected representative “did not do anything improper, but will not comment further based on my advice.”
“Good night love and sweet dreams and thank you for coming into my life,” one text read, while others said: “I wish you were living in Hartford. We be hanging out all the times”; “You so beautiful and gorgeous”; “Really hun trust I think we going to keep a lot of secrets between us”; “Hope you know how to keep things to yourself when we conversate”; “I’m going to help your mom get that job in Hartford.”
Does that sound like proper communications from a 57-year-old man and state representative to a 16-year-old girl?
There is nothing improper about saying any of these things to a 16-year-old girl? What about “I’m going to help your mom get that job in Hartford”? In what world is it proper of an elected representative to discuss employment opportunities of a parent with a 16-year-old girl? What was asked of her and what sort of secrets did she need to keep in order for her mom to “get that job in Hartford”?
These aren’t messages that many of us routinely send to our friends that we forget about 2.5 years later. If you ask me if I remember complaining about something to a friend, or flirting with my spouse in a message from 2015, I probably won’t remember. If you ask me about messages that I sent to an underage child that were “unusually familiar and affectionate in tone,” I would certainly remember. Why? Because I did exchange messages with a 16-year-old boy last year, and I did so carefully.
These messages were about political events and issues involving town politics. I always communicated at a level where I would not be uncomfortable with any adult reading them at any time. I always imagined that I was exchanging messages with him AND his mother AND DCF. While I texted messages that I hoped were warm and funny in tone, it was always at the front of my mind that despite this boy’s intelligence and maturity, he was a 16-year-old boy. I respected him as a teen and my responsibility as the adult in the relationship.
This state legislator was immediately stripped of his titles, committee responsibilities, and asked to resign is role as state representative by the House majority leader. The governor and mayor of the town his district represents also followed suit. This state legislator did resign from his role on his town committee, but with a town committee election scheduled for Tuesday, March 6, the deadline had already passed to remove his name from the ballot.
Why hasn’t he resigned his role as state representative? Does he think that he can ride out this scandal and abuse of a child without any real consequences? Is someone whispering in his ear that all will be fine and to let it blow over?
Or is it something else? Is it because there is this idea that underage girls, if their bodies have developed, are ready for sexual relationships with adult men? Do they believe that she is “asking for it?” Did she flirt with him? Is she a fast-tailed girl? A bad girl? Did she use her years of experience as a 16-year-old to seduce and lure an experienced and powerful 57-year-old man into this relationship? Or is she merely part of the spoils of being an experienced and powerful man?
No. She is a child. Legally a child. A minor. There is nothing she could have said or done that makes this relationship and these messages “proper”. It may not be illegal, yet, but it is not proper. Not from any adult in our society and particularly not for a man elected to represent his district in the Connecticut General Assembly. It is certainly an abuse of power and reeks of sexual abuse grooming. Any discussion about the teen-aged girl and her “responsibility” in this scenario is shaming children for their sexual exploitation by adult men.
What will it take for this state representative to resign his position and change the culture surrounding the sexual exploitation and abuse of children in our communities? There is legislation being debated in committees in Hartford now that can address some of the legal holes that allow child sexual predators to abuse and exploit children without fear of any legal consequences.
Should the state legislator in question be allowed to vote on those bills? Should he be allowed to use his still considerable power and influence to negotiate with other members of the legislature in regards to these bills? Is that why we elect people to represent us and our interests at the Capitol?
Kate Hamilton Moser is vice president of legislative action for Connecticut NOW.