Ask Ava

Ask Ava, Episode 127: "If I'm 14 and have sex with a 16-year-old, is that rape?"

August 29, 2022 Ask Ava Season 1 Episode 127
Ask Ava
Ask Ava, Episode 127: "If I'm 14 and have sex with a 16-year-old, is that rape?"
Show Notes Transcript

Episode 127: "If I'm 14 and have sex with a 16-year-old, is that rape?"

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On today’s episode, we are answering a question from local teens about a 14 year old about having sex with a 16 year old who is more experienced.

This is Jessica Skultety. I am an Outreach and Prevention Manager at Safe+Sound Somerset. We are Somerset County, New Jersey's lead domestic and sexual violence response organization, providing services at no charge to survivors for over 40 years.  

Today’s question from local teens is: “Dear Ava, if I’m 14 and have sex with someone who is 16, is it rape?”

The second part of this question was, “What if the older partner is more experienced and is mean if I don’t want to talk about sex?”

First, if you weren't completely sure of what you were agreeing to, or you were threatened or forced to do it, that is rape, which is a form of sexual assault.

In terms of ages, in New Jersey, teens who are 13-15 are able to consent or say yes to sexual activity with someone who is less than four years older than them, as long as that older teen is not a family member or in a position of authority over them. A position of authority might be someone like a teacher, a coach or a babysitter. Every state has different laws though, so be sure to look that up for where you live. These rules are called the “Age of Consent” laws. If you are not in Somerset County, NJ, you can look online at RAINN.org, RAINN, or call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-HOPE, H-O-P-E.

But in the question we’re answering today, there is more going on besides a difference in age. And we want to be clear - you have the right to freely say yes or no to sexual activity, without threats or manipulation. If you don’t feel good about something, trust your instincts. We have kind and knowledgeable advocates available 24/7 to answer your call or text. They can answer your questions, listen supportively, explore options with you, and provide information or resources. You can reach Safe+Sound Somerset at 866-685-1122.

So why might there be a problem here? First, let’s talk about the kinds of sexual interactions that feel safe. When partners have a relationship or participate in sexual activity together, they should have equal power and control over their lives, or the ability to make decisions for themselves, to set their own boundaries or limits, and to give or take away consent or permission. 

Basically, each person has the right to decide what makes them feel safe and they have the responsibility to respect other people’s decisions and limits. This is when a relationship or sexual interaction feels healthy or safe.

There are some things that may make it easier to create an unequal balance of power, and then they control the other person. An age difference is one thing that someone may use to manipulate the other person into doing something they don’t want to do.

 If someone is more experienced sexually, they might also take advantage of your lack of knowledge to pressure or manipulate you into doing things you don’t want to say yes to, or you don’t fully understand

In the question above, it sounds like someone use using their age, their experience, and meanness to gain power over and manipulate the other person into saying yes to things they don’t want to do. That is wrong, and it can be illegal if they threaten or force you into unwanted sexual activity.  

 Also, being shown sexual content that you do not consent to or are not comfortable with is also a form of sexual harassment.

You have every right to say what you’re comfortable doing, and to have other people respect that  - no matter how old you are, or experienced you are, or how old they are, or experienced they are. Trust your gut, if something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t right for you. And know that you don’t have to deal with this alone. There are helplines like ours all throughout the country. Call or text us 24/7 at 866-685-1122. We can answer your questions, and, if you want, connect you with local resources. This is not your fault, and you are not alone.