Adolescent Development, Discrimination, and Consent Law
(University of Chicago Press, 2016)
Jennifer Ann Drobac
When we consider the concepts of sexual abuse and harassment, our minds tend to jump either toward adults caught in unhealthy relationships or criminals who take advantage of children. But the millions of maturing teenagers who also deal with sexual harassment can fall between the cracks.
When it comes to sexual relationships, adolescents raise particular concerns. Few teenagers possess all of the emotional and intellectual tools needed to navigate threats, including the all too real advances made by supervisors, teachers, and mentors. In Sexual Exploitation of Teenagers, Jennifer Drobac explores the shockingly common problems of sexual harassment and abuse of maturing adolescents by adults in their lives. She examines the neuroscientific and psychosocial evidence of adolescent development and uses it to explain why teens are so vulnerable to adult harassers. Even today, in an age of increasing public awareness, criminal and civil law regarding the sexual abuse of minors remains tragically inept and irregular from state to state. Drobac uses six recent cases of teens who suffered sexual harassment to illuminate the flaws and contradictions of this system. She skillfully shows how our current laws fail to protect youths and offers an array of imaginative legal reforms that could secure justice for adolescent victims of sexual coercion.
Following a change in California law prompted by Professor Drobac’s scholarship, Professor Drobac wrote a postscript to her book:
In November 2014, after I completed this manuscript, I spoke with Karen Foshay, a news reporter who was covering a case involving a California middle school student. Los Angeles School District lawyers used the girl’s consent to sex with her teacher to defend a civil action filed by her family. Then, after Arun Rath interviewed me on All Things Considered, I received calls from several California legislative aides regarding possible changes to California civil law. In July 2015, Governor Jerry Brown signed S.B. 14, effective January 1, 2016. This bill creates California Civil Code section 1708.5.5, which will prohibit the use of a minor’s consent in a civil action against an adult in a position of authority. It is not clear how this law will affect California civil cases involving adults who do not occupy positions of authority. Additionally, one cannot tell how this new state law will affect federal cases, and particularly those filed under Titles IX and VII. However, this postscript demonstrates that one person can make a difference. You can make a difference.
 Karen Foshay, “LAUSD argued middle schooler can consent to sex with teacher,” 89.3 KPCC, Nov. 13, 2014, available at http://www.scpr.org/news/2014/11/13/48034/lausd-argued-middle-schooler-can-consent-to-sex-wi/ (interview begins at 2:28) (last accessed Aug. 5, 2015); see also Larry Mantle, “KPCC investigation reveals questionable tactics LAUSD used to defend rape lawsuit,” 89.3 KPCC, Nov. 13, 2014, available at http://www.scpr.org/programs/airtalk/2014/11/13/40321/kpcc-investigation-reveals-questionable-tactics-la/ (interview begins at 4:19) (last accessed Aug. 5, 2015).
 Arun Rath, “Criminal Law Says Minors Can’t Consent—But Some Civil Courts Disagree,” All Things Considered, Nov. 16, 2014, available at http://www.npr.org/player/v2/mediaPlayer.html?action=1&t=1&islist=false&id=364538087&m=364561418 (interview begins at 3:44) (last accessed Aug. 5, 2015).
 Patrick McGreevy, “Gov. Brown signs bill closing loophole in sexual assault law,” LA Times, July 16, 2015, available at http://www.latimes.com/local/political/la-me-pc-gov-brown-closes-loophole-in-sexual-assault-law-20150716-story.html (last accessed Aug. 5, 2015).
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