When is an affair not an affair? (Trigger warning)

// 3 February 2012

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A photograph of some stencil graffiti of an angry woman. It was taken in Lisbon Michael Yardley, a Police Community Support Officer, has been jailed after admitting raping a 12 year old girl, as well as four counts of sexual activity. His defence was that he had become “unhappy in his marriage”. Thankfully, most people with unhappy marriages do not console themselves by raping children, but this man did.

Yardley has been sentenced to 10 years in prison, and is on the Sex Offenders’ Register for the rest of his life.

You’d think the rape of a child would be fairly unambiguous territory. Yet in the Daily Mail‘s report on the assaults, journalist Graham Smith twice refers to it as an “affair”. He also describes the rape as them “having sex with each other on several occasions”.

The girl is reported to have told police that she and Yardley were planning to move in together when she turned 18, and she may well have meant it. This does not make it any less a case of abuse and assault. Children have elements of their own sexuality, some of which they may express towards others. If a child behaves in a sexual way towards an adult, it is the responsibility of the adult to not take advantage of her. The adult’s responsibility is to know that to respond in a sexual way is abusive, exploitative and highly inappropriate.

Hypothetically – because I know nothing of the victim in this case – a child expressing her sexuality overtly may be more vulnerable than most.

It’s quite simple really:

If a child has a crush on you, an adult, don’t rape them.

If a child tries to kiss you, don’t rape them.

If a child cuddles you, don’t rape them.

If a child sends you 200 text messages, don’t rape them.

And if a child is raped by a Police Community Support Officer, don’t write in a national newspaper that they had an affair. A child is not capable of “having sex with” an adult. Not ethically, not morally, nor legally.

(Hat-tip to @marstrina and @CathElliott for spotting and passing on the story)

[The image is a photograph of some stencil graffiti of an angry woman. It was taken in Lisbon by Manuel Faisco and is used under a Creative Commons Licence]

Comments From You

Shadow // Posted 3 February 2012 at 10:34 pm

There is a legal presumption that any child under the age of 13 is incapable of ‘giving consent’ because they do not have the capacity or maturity to ‘give consent.’ This means rape is rape when an older male and in this case, it is Michael Yardley, subjects a child under the age of 13 to sexual activity. Therefore according to the law Michael Yardley raped this 12 year old girl.

It also means Yardley’s defence counsel cannot make the common claim ‘but she didn’t say no therefore she must have “consented” to penetrative sexual activity.’

Yardley’s excuse that ‘he was unhappy in his marriage’ is a poor attempt at justifying his sexual predatory behaviour and as Philippa noted many men are ‘unhappy in their marriages’ but these men do not commonly rape a 12 year old girl. However, Yardley clearly believed this 12 year old female child was ‘a disposable sexualised commodity’ and he enacted his pseudo male sex right of sexual ownership of her body.

The Daily Mail’s journalist Graham Smith attempted to portray Yardley as having engaged in ‘an affair’ because it was essential Yardley’s accountability must not be recognised as that of a male sexual predator who abused his powerful position of Police Community Officer in order to gain the trust of this female child.

Male Supremacy commonly minimalises/excuses/justifies male sexual violence against women and girls and even more so when the male perpetrator commits sexual violence against a female child. Males who target female children commonly portray themselves as ‘engaging in a loving sexual relationship’ and commonly minimalise their accountability by claiming the female child actively encouraged him/and or the female child seduced him! That is precisely what Graham Smith was attempting to do – to portray the female child as supposedly partially responsible, whilst minimalising/ignoring Yardley’s total accountability and responsibility for his crime in raping this 12 year old girl. No one forced Yardley to rape this child instead Yardley made the choice to commit this crime and he like so many male sexual predators, attempted to hide his culpability by manipulating the 12 year old girl and telling her that when she reaches the age of 18 they can move in together. Most male child rapists do not use force in order to gain sexual access to the female child, instead they gain the trust of the female child and make the child believe they love her and once the male sexual predator has gained the trust of the child then he proceeds to rape her and justifies his sexual crime either by blaming the child or else by claiming ‘we are in love!’

Another common way male supremacy attempts to hide male accountability is by claiming the female child was ‘sexually precocious;’ or she she was a ‘nymphomaniac’ but commonly when female children display ‘blatant sexual signals’ the reason is always because the female child has been subjected to male sexual violence and she believes this is how she is expected to behave.


Rachel Nye // Posted 4 February 2012 at 12:41 pm

Well said!

Laurel // Posted 4 February 2012 at 4:19 pm

legally, very true, esp with the paedo-hating daily mail backtracking just to victim blame.

i would question though, how this article would read if it was legal. in spain and japan the age of consent is 13, and many countries have it lower than the UK. obviously this is for children of that age to explore their own sexualities.

as a nation we do not have rules on age differences, but perhaps whilst young, a rule on age differences would make more sense in the way that we have laws against people in other positions of power having sex with those under their authority. i would argue that there are many a happy relationship between younger and older partners even from a young age.

with that in mind, that doctors cannot sleep with their patients and teachers cannot sleep with their students, does it even make sense that police officers should be able to sleep with people they have legal authority over, such as the majority of civillians? let alone children?

its a horrible story and im sorry if im trivialising it, but i think its interesting to see where our morals on this issue come from and whether our cultural values are necessarily the norm or the right in order to improve things

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