He's 6. She's 5.
They were, as the phrase goes, "playing doctor."
Oh, My God! Call the cops.
Now, the good news is that, at least according to Sandy Cullen writing at Madison.com, a 6-year-old cannot be criminally charged in Wisconsin, not even as a juvenile. The bad news is that the wily Wisconsin prosecutors, recognizing a sexual predator when they see one, have figured out a way to drag the boy and his parents into court.
Instead, prosecutors have included the allegations in a petition seeking protection or services for the boy. Such petitions are typically used by parents or authorities to identify children under 10 who need services to change inappropriate behavior.
If a judge finds the boy committed a delinquent act, the court can order that he and his family receive services such as counseling or other treatment.
So, he can't be charged with a delinquent act because he's too young. But if he committed one, he can be "treated." Cool how that works.
He won't be charged with sexual assault, but he'll be hauled into court to answer for it.
And then . . . .
Do I need to say that 5 and 6 year old boys and girls have been checking each other out forever? Not for sexual gratification. But out of curiosity.
You probably did it.
So, gasp, did your parents.
It was not a precursor to rape. Nobody was psychologically harmed.
Until the parents got involved.
And the cops.
And the courts.
The problem is one we've seen before and that I've written about before. (See here, for instance.) We're terrified of the wrong things. And we think that the courts and the cops can keep us safe from our fears. But they can't.
If we're determined to see a monster behind every post, if we're convinced that all things which do not provide security are threatening, then we lose sight of the real risks.
Six or seven years ago, I was giving a talk about the Patriot Act and how it really did almost nothing to make us safer but went a long way toward invading our privacy and limiting our freedom. During the question period after, a man stood up and asked,
If you take away the Patriot Act, what can you do to make me feel safer when I fly?
The question was silly, of course. I can't take away the Patriot Act (would that I had such power). And, really, there's probably nothing I could have done (since reason and actual evidence weren't working) to make him feel safer. Frankly, I couldn't do anything actually to make him safer when he flew, either. (Again, my limited powers.) But sensible plans, realistic determinations of risk, there really are things that make sense.
And there are things that don't. When we respond with visceral fears, we make the wrong choice.
There's probably nothing wrong that 5 year old girl or the 6 year old boy.
But Oh, my God.
We can call the cops and change that.