Why Do They Get Away With It?

two night ago, i was in the kitchen making hot chocolate for J, with his brother who was making coffee. we started talking about Desperate Housewives.

it’s a show we both love, and we were trying to figure out whose death the women were responsible for, and then tried covering up. after thinking for a bit, we both remembered it was the stepfather, who was an abusive piece of shit, and from there we talked about how Carlos’ mother got ran over after finding out about Gabby sleeping with the underage gardener.

massively problematic and something that should’ve definitely been spoken about further in the show, instead of just forgetting that a grown ass woman had sex, multiple times, with a minor.

of course, it was explored a tiny bit and mentioned by the kid–John Rowland–‘s mother, but it was quickly glossed over and pushed into the background by other character arcs and storylines. in later seasons, Gabby became one of my favourite characters, but looking back it’s hard to not realise how predatory her behaviour actually was toward him. she became likeable and seen as flawed and humanised, and whilst she is human and we see more sides of her as the show progresses, and learn about her past and the hardships she had to venture through, she is still a grown woman who took advantage of, and exploited, a young boy, a high schooler’s crush on her to satisfy what she lacked in her marriage.

it’s a topic that needs to be talked about, especially considering it is an awful thing that happens in real life. at the time it appeared on the show, it was definitely shocking but not enough to cause a huge outcry or backlash, there isn’t even anything on google that i came across even briefly mentioning the problematic themes in Desperate Housewives. it’s not just problematic, but glamorises statutory rape. if it was the other way round and Gabrielle was a rich man, and John Rowland was a teenage high school girl, there would’ve been more of a reaction to it.

double standards.

realising this about Desperate Housewives has definitely knocked it a bit off my ‘favourite shows’ list. i know it’s been over for years but it is a massive, and important, issue that definitely needs to be spoken about, otherwise it will allow other people, adults, to think it is acceptable to have sex with, or even coerce, underage kids/minors, and get away with it.

the attitude surrounding this topic is one of shame and awkwardness, quickly racing to change the subject when it is brought up, or attempting to find excuses for the adult in the situation. “yeah but the kid didn’t say no”, “it wasn’t wrong because it was consensual”, “they’re a good person, everyone makes mistakes or does something silly at some point in their life” – ok, but uh . . . a big big 30 something year old banging a 17/18 year old doesn’t raise red flags for you? even if he was 18, which is i believe the legal age in a few states in America, it doesn’t make it any better. because just a few months prior, they were 17, and turning 18 does not automatically make that person an adult. there is a vast difference in the mental and emotional development of someone who is 18, and someone who is in their late 20s, 30s or 40s. and there must be something severely wrong if the grown women or men can’t get someone their own age. it’s bad enough that Gabby cheated on her husband (and yes, we all know she wasn’t entirely happy in the relationship and loved the lifestyle from being with him), but to do it with a child? it’s actually gross, and she faced no repercussions for it.

this brings me onto the next part of this post. i won’t name the school, but a 23 year old teacher was jailed for having a sexual relationship with a 15 year old boy. shes first added him on Facebook, then after asking him to delete the request, followed on Instagram. they had sex at her house as well, and went out to hotels and Olympic Park.

police was contacted by the boy’s mum which is actually what should’ve happened to Gabby as well, and as of the last report in 2018 she’d been working on a zero-hour contract delivering parcels to Amazon. she should’ve been jailed for years instead of this, despite the boy having consented. he was a child, 15 years old and she was in her 20’s.

it’s a thing that is actually sensationalised and glamorised by many men in particular, saying “oh he’s lucky”, “it’s every boy’s dream” — comments that dismiss the severity of the situation. the teacher was in a position of power and abused her authority to pursue and have sex with an underage boy. although she is branded as a pedophile and is on the sex offenders list and will never ever able to work with children, and probably struggle with getting a job with her qualifications, it isn’t enough of a consequence for her actions.

there have been more stories i have heard of teachers getting away with taking advantage of students and sexually assaulting and harassing them. in one school, a teacher used to sexually assault his female students, and the students were told to not dress or act in a way that would attract the teacher. in classrooms, the girls would all sit at the back of the class to avoid him. it’s terrible because nothing happened to him. he even said to one girl, when she said she would report him, “whose word will they believe? you or me?”

there have been far too many stories and cases of abusers getting away with abusing, coercing and taking advantage of kids, knowing they have the power. it definitely needs to be discussed further and action needs to be taken, and of course sexual assault and harassment are sensitive topics and one must proceed with caution when addressing such issues in conversation.

nonetheless it is definitely a conversation that must happen. it will be hard and maybe even uncomfortable, but the only ones who should feel uncomfortable with the discussion are those who are the perpetrators. by bringing more awareness to it, it gives a voice to the young girls and boys and helps them to see what is happening is wrong and should not be happening. they may be mature but no matter their maturity, it is not an excuse to be in a romantic or sexual relationship with an adult, or someone in a position of authority or power. age, when it comes to things like this, does matter.

Sumaiya, x

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Sumaiya Ahmed is a freelance journalist and writer, aiming to break down the boundaries of cultural stigma and shame attached to mental health and sexuality within the South Asian culture, and bringing marginalised topics to light.

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