Regarding Betsy Karasik’s Aug. 31 op-ed, “Sex happens, even in school,” which argued that sex between teachers and high school students should be decriminalized:
Sexual activity between teachers and students is a profound ethical violation. The authority placed in teachers, coaches, counselors or other instructors creates an inescapable responsibility to maintain appropriate behavioral boundaries. A teacher crossing those boundaries betrays the trust bestowed by the student and the community.
A student’s willingness to engage in a sexual liaison with a teacher cannot eradicate this truth. As Richard Gartner, a pioneering psychologist in the treatment of men sexually abused as boys, has written, “Even seemingly consensual situations may turn out to have long-term negative effects. . . . There’s no way for an adult to know whether a particular child — even if he seems happy to participate — will be affected negatively by taking part in sex acts. And the very last person we can expect to be objective about the needs and best interests of a child is the adult who sexually desires that child.”
Decriminalization would wrongly signal that teacher-student sexual encounters are not harmful, leading to more students being sexually abused. It would also effectively empower perpetrators of sexual abuse and make it more difficult for many victims to get support. Ms. Karasik is right to be concerned about the stigma and pressures that victims face in the legal system, but decriminalization would not solve those problems and certainly would not provide the support that all victims of sexual exploitation and violence deserve.
Christopher Anderson, New York
The writer is executive director of the nonprofit group MaleSurvivor.