By KAITLIN MAYHEW
In a recent study including men from the age of 18 to 29, 69 percent know an adult who has had sex with a minor, and 51 percent of them know five or more.
These statistics, found in a study done by MWC alumnus Bob Franklin for the Virginia Department of Health, show that statutory rape is still rampant in the world today.
A 1992 graduate and former psychology major, Franklin made a speech last week entitled “Isn’t She a Little Young?” at UMW to present his research on various topics such as social marketing, statutory rape, and the psychology of men.
“It’s not a poster, it’s not a stand-alone solution, it’s part of a program,” Franklin said.
Social marketing or influencing human behavior on a large scale is the basis for the Virginia Department of Health’s “Isn’t She a Little Young?” ad campaign and research with which Franklin is involved.
The main focus of this influence is men, however, not the actual perpetrators of violence against children, but the bystanders who witness the violence but don’t say or do anything about it.
“We need a movement to help men understand they aren’t different,” Christopher Kilmartin, professor of psychology, said.
By targeting this audience instead of the actual offenders or victims, Franklin believes the campaign will be more successful. The difficult part, he says, is to help men overcome their own stereotypes and the challenge to their status and masculinity that comes into question when they ridicule a friend.
“There’s a term for that,” Franklin said. “It’s called cock-blocking.”
According to Franklin, most people fail to realize how much these non-violent adults can affect statutory rape.
“They don’t think that bystanders have anything to do with violence,” Kilmartin said.
The Virginia Department of Health released a controversial ad featuring a young boy in a baseball uniform that Franklin showed in his presentation. The aim of the ad was to gain awareness that children start to learn behaviors at a very young age. However, it was misconstrued as offensive my many onlookers according to Franklin.
“He made me realize how hard it would be to treat such issues with sensitivity and still get the point across,” sophomore Rachel Owen said.
This is a frequent occurrence with ad campaigns that Franklin and his co-workers have tried to release.
“I’m trying to sell something that maybe the public doesn’t want,” Franklin said.
The Virginia Health Department’s sexual violence website www.varapelaws.org, developed in part by Franklin.
The website, along with the message gained an immediate following, with 3,000 hits in the first day it was launched. The company also received calls from and appeared on many major television companies.
“This is an issue on a lot of people’s minds,” Kilmartin said.
The website deals with a variety of topics, from what to do if you know of violence taking place against a minor, to the specifics on the rape laws in Virginia.
“In our survey most men overestimated the severity of the laws,” Franklin said.
Today in Virginia if a 35 year old has sex with a sixteen year old that he met online, or if he is her caregiver, it is a felony.
“But if he meets her at the mall it’s a class one misdemeanor,” he said.
The over 50 audience members who gathered in Trinkle Hall to ranged from members from the community, professors, and students.