In Oregon, when two teenagers "sext" by sharing explicit photos, they could face a felony charge and get a sex offender label. It's that or nothing. There's no middle ground. It's time to change the laws.
Two bills proposed during the 2011 Legislature tried to better scale the consequences. Both died in committee. State Rep. Jason Conger, R-Bend, plans to introduce legislation in 2013 to provide some middle ground. There are no details of the legislation, yet. (See related story on Page 11A.)
Oregon's laws are in place for a very good reason andndash; to stop child pornographers. But lawmakers didn't know that teens would one day be able to easily make and share explicit photos of themselves.
The law in Oregon became more of a problem in 2010 after the passage of Measure 73. Among other things, that measure increased minimum sentences for certain repeated sex crimes. So if teens exchanged explicit photos at two different times, the punishment goes to 25 years if convicted.
Legislators and prosecutors agree there is a problem. The author of Measure 73, Kevin Mannix, has said so, too.
It would be wonderful if teenagers would stop sexting. Because we can't see that happening, it's all the more important for parents to talk to their children about the consequences of shipping sexual images around the Internet.
Oregon needs laws that capture perverts. Oregon needs laws that protect teens. We can't imagine, though, the best way to deal with most teen-to-teen sexting is in court.
-andndash; WesCom Wire (Bend Bulletin)