I am embarrassed that I only recently explored the story of Amber Cole, a 14-year-old girl who was recorded while participating in a sexual act in a Baltimore high school. The “Official Amber Cole Video” has now gone viral and a twitter search of the teen’s name yields some of the most deplorable statements I have ever read. Period.
After reading Jeff Fecke’s fearless critique of Jimi Izrael’s article, in which Izrael pretended to be Amber Cole’s father, I agree with Fecke that we should vocally defend Cole and use this case as an opportunity to discuss a wide range of issues, including how African American women who are sexually active are often viewed differently than their white counterparts. However, I disagree with Fecke when he writes:
If you were really Amber’s father, the first thing you’d have written would be names- three names, to be specific. Yes, they’re minors, but so’s your daughter, and the whole world knows her name now. I’d be screaming the names of the boys who violated her. Telling them to anyone who would listen. I’d tell people this should be the called Adam, Billy and Chuck video. Wasn’t Adam a partner in the sex act? Wasn’t Billy watching? Didn’t Chuck hold the camera? Why aren’t they getting attacked?
Although it is likely that Fecke’s statement was written simply to illustrate how unjustly girls are viewed and treated during these types of incidents, I do believe this “eye for an eye” perspective is unhealthy, even if the intent of this specific illustration was not for literal interpretation.
The boys who participated in this act are also children who should not have their human rights violated by dragging their names through the same mud as Amber’s. Instead, they should be taught why their behavior is wrong, why it is “okay” for child pornography to be circulated as entertainment, and why society is so twisted that an internet search for Amber Cole’s name yields an “Official” video when the only thing official about the video is that consumers who “know better” are OFFICIAL FREAKING IDIOTS WHO DESERVE OFFICIAL CHILD PORNOGRAPHY CHARGES AND OFFICIAL TIME IN JAIL.
As a researcher who studies the prevention of the commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) and a school psychologist who often uncovers physical, emotional, or sexual abuse in boys who are dismissed as “bad” or “delinquents,” I hope the boys involved in this case will receive the much needed mental health assessment and, if necessary, services to address their needs.
It is a fact that no one has been hurt as much as Amber in this situation. And let me be clear that I am by no means defending the act, or saying that the young men involved in this case do not deserve to suffer consequences for their actions. However, we cannot forget to examine and address the root causes of the boys behavior, which could be partially to blame for Amber’s victimization.
Erin Harper is a school psychologist and doctoral student in School Psychology at Georgia State University. She is also a professional cake eater, with an expertise in cream cheese icing.