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Elmo puppeteer accused of sexual abuse, not an "underage relationship"

By Jeff Herman
November 13, 2012

Elmo puppeteer Kevin Clash has taken a leave of absence from Sesame Street to confront disturbing allegations of sexual abuse.

Clash, 52, is accused of having sex with a 16-year-old boy. He admits to having a sexual relationship with the accuser, but he denies the man was underage when it occurred.

The media investigation into this story is still in its very early stages, but I must say I am disappointed in the coverage so far.

From the Associated Press to the Wall Street Journal, some of the nation’s most well-respected media outlets have improperly labeled the allegations as “an underage relationship” or “an affair with a minor”.

Whether Clash is guilty or not, the allegation that a 52-year-old man had sex with a minor is an allegation of child sexual abuse—not an underage relationship.

To frame these allegations as a “relationship” or an “affair” is to imply that the alleged victim consented.

Right now, there are countless victims out there who are suffering in silence because their predator groomed, coerced, or shamed them into feeling like they physically complied with the abuse.

Skilled sexual predators know that if they are able to make a child feel at least partially responsible for their abuse, they are less likely to tell anyone about it.

But even if a child is a “compliant victim”, a minor cannot actually consent to have sex with an adult.

For the victims who continue to endure the suffering caused by their abuser, we must send the message that it was not their fault by calling sexual abuse what it is—abuse.

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