If Kris Bucher was raped by Jessica Fuller, should he have to pay child support? That’s the question that’s about to go before a Florida appellate court. The exact question has never been asked before. Read about it here (St. Petersburg Times, 7/31/11).
This is not a just a case of an older woman having sex with an underage boy, although legally it is that. We see that frequently and when children are conceived, the boy is required to pay support despite the fact that, in the eyes of the law, he was too young to consent to sex.
That happened in Kris Bucher’s case, because he was 17 and she was 18 when the incident occurred, but there’s more. He says Fuller forcibly raped him on the night of January 6, 2006.
Jessica remembers the exact date she first met him in the halls of Hudson High School. It was Aug. 25, 2003, her freshman year.
“You don’t know it yet, but you are my future boyfriend,” she said to him a day later.
The following morning, he was waiting for her at her bus and by lunch time, they were inseparable.
Kris had never had a girlfriend before. He wore glasses and was kind of geeky. She was outgoing and had auburn hair and hazel eyes. His world shrank. She was it.
Their relationship was tumultuous. They fought, broke up and always reconnected. In between, she dated other boys.
They joined the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps at their high school. They talked about one day getting married, having kids. They first had sex in early May 2005 in the back seat of his 1997 Mazda 626. He was 17, she was 17.
She got pregnant later that year, but miscarried two months later. She remembers the hospital, Kris standing there. He looked pale, scared.
That incident convinced both of them to refrain from sex. Into the bargain, a doctor told them in December of 2005 that “Jessica would now be particularly fertile, so they decided to avoid sex.” But that changed a short time later.
On Jan. 6, 2006, Jessica and Kris fought and she broke up with him again. He was in love, he said, and he begged her not to leave him. So she invited him to her church youth group meeting that night.
Their friends drove, but the church was closed, so they headed to Hudson Beach in Pasco County. The other couple went for a walk.
Kris and Jessica sat in the back seat. He said he was looking out the window at the smooth water when she got on top of him and said: “You know you want me.”
The passenger seat in front of him was tilted back at a 45-degree angle. She used one arm to pin him down, he said, the other to unzip his pants. At the time, he said, he was 5-foot-7 and 150 pounds and she was heavier.
“At any time do you make a statement to her about you will not have sexual intercourse with her?” asked his lawyer, Kerry O’Connor, at the hearing.
“I told her, ‘No, I do not want this.’ And that’s when she said, ‘It’s going to happen.’ “
“And did you specifically use the word ‘no’? “
“Absolutely . . . several times.”
He said he tried to push Jessica off. He said he tried to pull the door handle to open the car door. He said she slammed her hand over the lock. He said it was over pretty fast.
After a delay, Kris notified a sheriff’s deputy who seemed skeptical of his story, but promised to follow up. He never did.
A few weeks later, Jessica learned she was pregnant and she and Kris sat down with his parents to explain. They now say she admitted to forcing him to have sex.
How did this happen? his mother asked. The doctor had told them to be careful. They had agreed to refrain from sex.
Kris, his mother and his father all say that at that moment, Jessica admitted that she forced Kris to have sex against his will.
“I made him,” Connie Bucher recalls her saying.
Today, Jessica Fuller denies forcing Kris to have sex with her that night.
The two broke up and Kris has had nothing to do with the child, a boy, who was born to Jessica, and she’s never asked for his help or companionship.
But she is asking for his money to support the child whom DNA testing has proved was fathered by him. She moved to Michigan, but eventually started receiving welfare and that means the State of Michigan wants Kris’ money to reimburse it for its outlays to Fuller.
Kris and his attorney say he shouldn’t have to pay to support a child that was conceived despite his repeated “no’s.” So far, the Florida trial court disagrees. There’s no provision in the law to absolve a man or boy from paying to support a child his sperm helped produce when the sexual encounter was forced by the woman.
And in other jurisdictions, men have been forced to pay for children conceived when, for example, they were unconscious, or when the woman surreptitiously retrieved semen from a condom and used it to inseminate herself.
So my guess is that Kris Bucher’s odds of winning his child support case are slim at best.
Let’s be clear about some things. First, it’s a very common misconception that men or boys can’t become sexually aroused in a coercive situation. Anyone who’s ever been a 16-year-old boy knows that’s pure bunk. Here’s a good article by Tracy Clark-Flory that corrects some of those misconceptions (Salon.com, 8/3/11). Indeed, it’s long been known that women too can be aroused and even have an orgasm during rape.
In Bucher’s case, no criminal charges were ever brought against Fuller, and of course she’s entitled to the presumption of innocence. In family court, Bucher has the burden of proving that the encounter wasn’t consented to by him.
But at this point, we’re not dealing with the facts of the case. We’re dealing with the law that seems to hold that, even if Kris could prove beyond doubt that Jessica raped him, it would make no difference in his child support case. She could have held a gun to his head in front of 100 eyewitnesses and he’d still have to pay. Such at any rate is my guess, and the trial court’s decision corroborates it.
This of course is the logical extreme of what we see throughout American jurisprudence regarding fathers and their children. I’ve said it more times than I can count – mothers control fathers’ parental rights. We see it in divorce and custody cases, paternity fraud cases, adoption cases and child support cases. We say that parents have rights to their children, but in case after case, the exercise of those rights by fathers is placed, not in their hands but in mothers’.
What, after all, could be more controlling than what Jessica Fuller did to Kris Bucher, if she did?
And it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to figure out why. It looks suspiciously like Jessica Fuller wanted a baby and did what it took to get one. Remember, the doctor had told them she was particularly likely to get pregnant if she had sex, and she did, apparently over the wishes of the underage boy she was with. So she knew that she was likely to conceive.
Then there’s this:
They remained together, Jessica said, for about a month afterward, until Kris discovered that Jessica had had sex with another guy that same night. They didn’t see each other much after that.
So she had sex with Kris and then with another guy the same night. According to evolutionary psychologists, that’s a classic strategy to enhance the possibilities of pregnancy. It seems that sperm from different men tend to compete harder to fertilize an egg than those of just one man. That means a higher likelihood of conception.
I wasn’t there, so I don’t know for sure, but from here it looks a lot like Jessica Fuller’s earlier pregnancy and miscarriage likely encouraged her to try again. The doctor’s advice told her it was a very good time to conceive and she did what she wanted to do so. In short, this doesn’t look like an accident.
The law on child support relies mostly on biology, although not exclusively. If a child has a man’s DNA, he’ll be expected to pay, regardless of how that came about.
But should Kris Bucher suddenly decide he wants to play daddy to the boy his sperm helped produce, he’ll learn that biology isn’t so important after all. He’ll get acquainted with the term “best interests of the child,” and the fact that they require his virtual absence from the boy’s life.
In less highly evolved times, that was called a shell game.
And so it goes. Across the spectrum of family law regarding fathers and children, fathers find their parental rights given to them and taken from them by the actions of the mothers of their children. Nowhere else in law do we place the rights of one adult in the hands of another.
Until we stop doing that, until fathers have rights that they alone choose to exercise or not, we can’t pretend that we’re an egalitarian society.