The lines blur, especially for adolescents

The St. Paul’s School rape case is such a deeply troubling and complex one (“Accuser gets a grilling in prep rape trial,” Page A1, Aug 21). After years of working with teen girls, leading intense discussions of what constitutes healthy vs. unhealthy relationships, what strikes me most is that, as a society, we struggle to reconcile anything that falls outside the boundaries of so-called stranger rape when, in fact, most sexual assaults occur between people who know each other. This is when the lines blur a bit, and we are quick to blame the accuser.

What's tricky is that most of life occurs within the blurred lines, especially for adolescents. They must navigate boundaries and personal relationships. This is when girls begin to learn that they are both valued and condemned for their sexuality, that it is a tool they must learn to wield and that the consequences of a single misstep can be earth-shattering.

Perhaps the accuser in the St. Paul's case was consenting to some of what happened, but at some point she became uncomfortable. All girls have the right to change their minds, to draw a line that should not be blurred.

Only this girl and the young man know what happened, and I can guarantee that they each have very different and valid perspectives.


Margot Phelps, Boston

The writer, a licensed independent clinical social worker, is manager of group mentoring at Big Sister Association of Greater Boston.