About the Research

 

Contents


 

Background

In 1999, the American Psychological Association and the United States Congress both issued statements declaring that “sexual relations between children and adults, are abusive, exploitive, reprehensible and properly punishable by law.”1 Both organizations define a “child” to include adolescents under 18 years of age.2,3

Eight years later, shortly after posting the intial results of its research on US sex laws in 2007, SOL Research was contacted by two young women complaining about dishonest and abusive treatment by the legal system when they were teenagers in relationships with adult men. Amber had recently turned 18 and asked for help contacting her boyfriend in prison, who had been 18 when she was 13. She said about her case:

It was definitely all blown out of proportion and twisted around to make it look like Terry abused me, or took advantage of me.

While she was still 17, Jennifer wrote about how she’d been treated when she was found at 14 with a 34-year-old man she’d met online.

Some cops came to see me. One of them got in my face, asking me if I was going to cry like a little juvenile. … They kept threatening to get me into trouble for being a liar.

Both of these young women disagree strongly with what the APA and Congress say about child sexual abuse. At 13 and 14 years old, they had both been well within the bounds of what the APA and Congress meant by “children.” Yet both women spoke of the men involved as important in their lives. They spoke of having deep feelings for them. And they were both adamant that they had never been abused by the men, but rather were abused by the police and the courts in pursuit of those men.

Another person who has expressed strong disagreement is gay activist and columnist Dan Savage. Shortly after Congress issued its resolution, he wrote:

My experience is not at all uncommon, especially among men, and it’s absurd to think that what I did at 15 (and what was done to me) would even be considered “child sexual abuse,” or lumped together with the incestuous rape of a five-year-old girl.

The comments of Amber, Jennifer, and Savage suggest that something is amiss. These three individuals have found that their private, intimate experiences bring them into conflict with two of the world’s most prominent organizations, which presumably both exist for the purpose of promoting and sustaining their well-being, especially when they were youngsters. But at least for these three individuals, the pronouncements of the APA and Congress, instead of contributing to their well-being, have become a source of angst and consternation.

SOL Research conceived the Consenting Juveniles study to investigate whether there are more people like Amber, Jennifer, and Dan Savage and, if so, to listen to what they have to say. Upon finding a good number of people who enjoyed physical intimacy as juveniles with someone older and hold it to be a positive experience in their lives, it seemed important that their voices be heard alongside those of the APA and Congress. That is the purpose of the Consenting Juveniles website.  

The Researcher

Marshall Burns

Marshall Burns is a physicist and technology entrepreneur who pioneered in the development of personal computers in the 1980s and 3D printers in the ‘90s. His career forte is the analysis and interpretation of complex data, which he learned to do in his PhD research on quantum chaos. In 2007, Burns’ focus shifted from technology to human issues, which led to his starting SOL Research.

For more on Burns’ background, see his personal website at MBurns.com.

 

Advisory Board

Burns is served by a world-class team of advisors with expertise in fields relevant to the work of SOL Research.

  • Alissa Ackerman is a professor of criminal justice in the school of social work at the University of Washington at Tacoma who did her PhD on the effects of the registry on recidivism and has since published a stream of papers on the effects of the registry.
  • Jeffrey Douglas is a criminal defense attorney who started his career in 1982 by representing Virginia McMartin in the infamous McMartin preschool child molestation case. He also serves as the chairman of the board of the Free Speech Coalition.
  • Charlene Steen is a retired psychologist who served on California’s panel that evaluates prisoners designated as sexually violent predators. She is the author of four books and serves on the board of directors of the California chapter of Reform Sex Offender Laws.
 

Endorsements

The Consenting Juveniles research is endorsed by a number of world-class psychologists. Click on the thumbnail image to read the original letter.

Consenting Juveniles endorsement

Alissa Ackerman is a professor of criminal justice in the school of social work at the University of Washington, Tacoma with a career focus on sex crimes and policies regarding people convicted of them. (Prof. Ackerman is also on the Board of Advisors of SOL Research.)

“[The] unprecedented … Consenting Juveniles [study] is a vital addition to the literature … puts a face and a voice to a topic that is timely, necessary, and, too often, ignored.”

Consenting Juveniles endorsement

Michael Bailey (Wikipedia) is a professor and former chair of psychology at Northwestern University. He is best known for his work on the influence of biology on sexual orientation and gender nonconformity.

“… research that … has gone where few if any academics have [ever gone]. … a fascinating, urgently needed, heartrending project”

Consenting Juveniles endorsement

Elaine Hatfield (Wikipedia) is a professor and former chair of psychology at the University of Hawaii and former president of the Society for the Scientific Study of Sex (SSSS). She has received the Alfred C. Kinsey Award from SSSS and and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Association for Psychological Science. She is best known for her pioneering work on the scientific study of passionate love and sexual desire.

“This is important research that makes a greatly needed contribution to the literature. … I urge other professional[s] in the field to pay close attention to this work and to think about how their work could build on what we learn from it.”

Consenting Juveniles endorsement

Although not a psychologist himself, California state senator John Vasconcellos (Wikipedia) dedicated his career to bringing principles of psychology into play in politics. In the California Assembly, Vasconcellos chaired the Select Committee on Ethics. In the Senate, he served as chair of the Public Safety, Education, and Economic Development committees.

In the year before his death, Vasconcellos expressed an intention to write a letter of endorsement for the Consenting Juveniles research. The linked file shows two e-mails from him about that.

Consenting Juveniles endorsement

Winston Wilde (Wikipedia) is a licensed psychotherapist who operates the Desert Center for Sexuality Awareness, a sexual health clinic that collaborates with the local health department to provide its Sex Education Enhancing Recovery program. He is a former regional president of the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality.

“… investigate[s] an area of human sexuality which is controversial, under-researched, and of utmost importance … unparalleled in any previous research. His investigations are somewhat anthropological in their rich case presentations, which give a face to an otherwise anonymous topic.”

 

Donate

A method will be provided here soon to allow interested parties to support the Consenting Juveniles research.