Looking at consent laws in a state with a troubling history of sexual assault

Stephanie Custard (From APD)

ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - Alaska has a long, troubling history with sexual abuse and consent. The most recent high-profile case involves an Anchorage mother.

Stephanie Custard, 42, a mother of a South High School student, is accused of having sex with a 14-year-old boy and both soliciting and sending sexually explicit photos to and from other boys.

Custard appeared in jail court on Saturday for her arraignment on three charges, including sexual abuse of a minor in the second degree and two counts of unlawful exploitation of a minor, all of which are Class B felonies.

Charging documents presented at her arraignment show that at least two other boys, both 16, say they had sex with Custard. Charges have not been brought forward in those cases as no state laws governing the age of consent appear to have been violated.

That's because, in Alaska, it's legal for an adult to have sex with a 16-year-old unless the adult is in a position of authority, something like a coach or a teacher. A 15-year-old can't have sex with anyone who is more than four years older than they are.

"In Alaska, the general rule is that when you're 16, that's the age of consent for sexual activity," said Anchorage District Attorney Rick Allen. "So if you're 16, as a general rule, you can have sex with whoever you want to have sex with."

Despite that legal twist, it is illegal for an adult to take graphic photos of a consenting 16-year-old.

"The other thing that I think surprises some people is that even though the age of consent for sex is 16, an adult cannot take photos or disseminate photos of somebody who's under 18. I mean like graphic photos," Allen said.

Custard is the mother of a South High student, which is the same school where some of the activity was first reported to a school resource police officer. That begs the question, wouldn't a parent whose own child attends the same school, be seen as an authority figure?

"For the friends coming over, you're right, that's where it does get a little tricky," Allen said. "And technically, those people would not be in a position of authority over those kids."

Allen says it is unusual for a woman to be accused of having inappropriate relationships with young teenagers.

"It does seem like we're seeing more of those sort of incidents than we did before," Allen said. "I still think that the numbers pale in comparison to the number of times the men are the perpetrators."

Online court records show that Custard's husband posted her bail Monday.

Editor's Note: Custard's attorney Michael Moberly says that her name had been spelled incorrectly as Stefanie on the charging document and by police, and that the correct legal spelling is in fact Stephanie.



 
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