Amidst a year of horrific gay teen suicides young queers have yet more to worry about. Yesterday Willamette Week published a heart wrenching story about 19 year old Antjuanece Brown‘s battle against felony charges of sex abuse, creating child pornography and luring a minor.
The crimes that prompted Washington County to press these charges came only from a few suggestive cell phone pictures between Brown and her 16-year-old girlfriend Jolene Jenkins.
Among teenagers who have cell phones, more than one in seven say they’ve sexted, according to the Pew Research Center. “Acting stupid isn’t always a criminal offense,” says Multnomah County District Attorney Michael Schrunk.
Indeed, few find themselves in court over sexting. Antjuanece Brown was not so lucky. “I’ve never been in trouble in my life,” Brown says. “I’m not a sex offender.”
Both girls agree that the relationship was not only completely consensual, but that the 2 never even had sex.
Since 2009, a growing number of states have carved out exceptions to their anti-pornography laws to make sexting among minors a misdemeanor or juvenile offense rather than a felony but not Oregon. Instead, the decision has been left to the 36 district attorneys in each of this state’s counties. And in Washington County 19 young people were indicted in comparison to Multnomah County, which has almost 200,000 more residents,and just 4 indictments.
It seems plain that queer youth and youth of color can be arbitrarily targeted. This is pretty clear here as it was Jenkins’ mother, Carmen Brant, who took her daughter’s cell phone and turned it over to Tigard police. Though Jenkins says her mother never seemed to mind when she dated older boys, Brant could never accept Jenkins’ relationship with Brown, Jenkins says.
“I love my mother,” Jenkins says. “I thought she’d take it better, but she didn’t.”
Now it’s our job to make sure that parental homophobia or a prosecutor’s racism, bias, morality or zeal doesn’t ruin the lives of other young people already struggling to cope, make connections and come out in such a dangerous world.