The Student News Site of Marshfield High School

The Marshfield Times

The Student News Site of Marshfield High School

The Marshfield Times

The Student News Site of Marshfield High School

The Marshfield Times

One is 18. One is not.

a little bit of color

Under Oregon law, a teenager can be convicted of statutory rape if he or she is 18 and having sexual intercourse with someone under the age of 18.

By Sara Birrer & Ashley Barbian | Collaborative reporters

Masked faces and flowing gowns filled the Marshfield gym on May 16, 2011. One particular freshman had spent hours getting ready for the event. It was her first prom and she had been asked by a junior boy. She had never considered this particular masquerade would be one of the most impactful days of her life.

“The night all seemed so unreal,” Lauren*, a current student said.

After the dance Lauren proceeded to leave with her friends.

“I left with people I trusted because I had heard the stories of after prom from my older sister,” Lauren said. “I never could have imagined I would be the person the stories were about.”

Lauren later accompanied her friends to a party. There was underage drinking and drug use and Lauren ended up participating in the events.

“Everyone was doing it [drugs] and I wanted them to be impressed with me because I was a freshman,” Lauren said. “Somehow I ended up away from my friends with an older boy I didn’t know.”

Lauren was raped at the party. The young man was 18 years of age and she was 15.

Oregon’s age of consent is 18. Engaging in sexual intercourse with a minor is considered statutory rape. Laws are not gender specific. Neither the minor nor parents of the minor can give consent for illegal intercourse.

“I couldn’t remember most of the night,” Lauren said. “So at first he was charged with rape in the third degree.”

According to Lauren, the perpetrator’s friends harassed her for the charges she pressed.

“All I could do was blame myself,” Lauren said. “Because I couldn’t remember the night it made everything twice as worse for me.”

Lauren’s experience is one of a number of cases of sexual misconduct that have occurred involving Marshfield High School and the local community in recent years. According to The World newspaper in an article from June 26, 2012, a Marshfield basketball coach pleaded guilty to third-degree rape after having a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old Eugene girl. The World also reported on April 23, 2012 that Spencer Shimota, 19, and two other teens, Chay Gilbert, 18, and Jacob Frasier, 17, were charged for multiple sexual encounters they had with a 13-year-old girl. Even closer to home, as was the case with Lauren, MHS students or graduates have been accused and in some cases, convicted, for sexual misconduct with fellow students under the age of 18, when the accused had either turned 18 or was more than three years older than the victim.

Marshfield guidance counselor Wes Ferrin has seen this trend during his time working at MHS.

“Marshfield has had a larger percentage of this [sexual misconduct with minors] than anywhere I have worked,” Ferrin said. “Over the past several years there has always been at least one [sexual misconduct case] per year.”

As a result, in October MHS hosted an all-school assembly over a two-day period to provide information to students regarding sexual misconduct in relation to minors. A panel of local professionals who deal with such cases included Coos Bay Police Department Detective Sergeant Eric Schwenninger, Robyn Jacobson from Oregon Youth Authority, therapists and treatment providers Rama Eshelbrener and Molly Schroder, and Coos County District Attorney Karen McClintock.

The panel provided information about the consequences of illegal sexual activity involving minors or between people with more than a three-year age difference. In November 1994, Oregon voters passed Measure 11, which states that teens may be tried as adults in the court of law. North Bend’s Coastal Counseling Center often deals with convicted sex offenders post sentencing.

According to Lauren, sexual abuse cases involve multiple court appearances, prosecution, witness statements and social downgrading in school. The consequences can be severe and lifelong.

Lauren believes what she went through will always be a part of her, but she does not regret what happened.

“The things I went through during the case have made me the person I am today,” Lauren said. “I would be in a completely different place right now if it wasn’t for this case.”

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The Student News Site of Marshfield High School
One is 18. One is not.