This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.
Mercifully, the two Kitsap County deputies shot at the Port Orchard Walmart a week ago are out of the hospital and expected to recover.
The girl shot in the same gunfight, a Salt Lake City runaway named Astrid Valdiva, was not so fortunate. She was killed while running into the line of fire toward a man she reportedly called her lover, Anthony Allen Martinez.
Martinez: 31 years old. Valdiva: 13 years old. Sick.
Valdiva’s death with Martinez was rare, freakish and shocking. But the underlying pattern – adolescent girl hooked up with much-older loser – is not nearly rare enough.
The phenomenon got a lot of attention in the 1990s, after researchers discovered that many young pregnant girls – girls 15 and younger – were getting impregnated by men in their 20s, not boys close to their own age. Mary Kay LeTourneau’s case – a woman preying on a young adolescent boy – was unusual only because the sexes were reversed.
A 1992 study of teenaged mothers in this state painted a very grim picture. Of the 535 teenagers surveyed, two-thirds said they’d been molested or sexually assaulted before their first pregnancy.
Their mean age when first molested was 9.7; the mean age of their predators was 27.4. Forty-four percent of the girls had been raped by 13.
Girls in foster care are especially vulnerable to a knight on horseback who rides in and promises them affection, gifts, money, etc. The predators are often criminals (like Martinez), high school dropouts, immature and unable to attract women their own age.
It’s going to take a while to piece together exactly what happened between Martinez and Valdiva, but the twisted nature of their relationship is obvious.
By some accounts, Martinez had been a friend of Valdiva’s mother before the girl ran away with him the first time, in September. He was caught and charged with felony kidnapping; she wound up in a foster home.
After some mutual planning, apparently, she ran off with him again on Jan. 18 and was killed five days later – running to her “lover” as he was trading shots with deputies outside the Walmart.
This state and others have tough laws against sugar daddies who prey on adolescents. Unfortunately, the relationships are often accepted, even by the girls’ families, unless they get pregnant or injured.
Astrid Valdiva’s story may be shocking, but until she was killed, it was all too common.