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- There’s no evidence that people are trying to lower the age of consent to 4.
Unfounded conspiracy theories about public figures involved in child sex trafficking rings have lately adopted an urgent slogan: Save Our Children.
It’s a rallying cry that is sometimes connected to misinformation, like a recent and widely shared Facebook post about the age of consent.
"We can’t buy alcohol and cigarettes until we are 21, but there are people trying to make legal age of consent 4 years old," reads one recent Facebook post. "Let that sink in. #SaveOurChildren."
This post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)
It doesn’t say who these people are or where they’re supposedly trying to change the age of consent. But like several fact-checkers before us, we found nothing to support the idea that people — especially not elected officials or influential individuals and groups — are trying to lower the age of consent to 4.
The Department of Health and Human Services defines "age of consent" as the age at which someone can legally consent to sexual intercourse under any circumstance. In most states, that age is 16; in the others, it’s 17 or 18.
Back in 1890, the age of consent in the United States was 12 or younger in 38 states, the Smithsonian recently explained in a story on efforts over the years to raise the age of consent. In Delaware, it was 7.
"Men accused of raping girls as young as 7 could (and did) simply say ‘she consented’ to avoid prosecution," the story says.
Women later lobbied to raise the age of consent, believing it would better hold men accountable for their actions, among other benefits. All states now set the age of consent between 16 and 18. The article, published in August, makes no mention of an effort to lower that age to 4.
In 2018, the BJPsych Bulletin, a British medical journal, published an article that makes the case that lowering the age of consent from 16 to 15 or 14 in the United Kingdom would decriminalize "a large number of ‘underage’ young people engaging in sexual intercourse." It did not entertain the idea of lowering the age of consent to 4.
We rate this Facebook post False.
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Facebook post, Sept. 7, 2020
PolitiFact, QAnon, Pizzagate conspiracy theories co-opt #SaveTheChildren, Aug. 12, 2020
Department of Health and Human Services, Statutory rape: A guide to state laws and reporting requirements. Sexual intercourse with minors, Dec. 15, 2004
Britannica, Statutory rape, visited Oct. 30, 2020
Smithsonian, What raising the age of sexual consent taught women about the vote, Aug. 26, 2020
BJPsych Bulletin, Against the stream: lowering the age of sexual consent, August 2018
The Week, The ages of consent around the world, Jan. 23, 2020
AgeOfConsent, Age of consent & sexual abuse laws around the world, visited Oct. 30, 2020
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