TWENTY-year-old Briton Caroline Crouch was strangled in front of her 11-month-old daughter in her Athens home last month. Her husband Charalambos ‘Babis’ Anagnostopoulos, 33, told police that she had been murdered by burglars. He has now admitted that he killed her.
It was hard not to see such a revelation coming after several articles in the days following Caroline’s death bizarrely gushed over the couple’s relationship.
Anonymous quotes from those who know the couple included: ‘Their eyes met and it was love at first sight. Caroline was only 16 but Babis fell head over heels in love. He was a helicopter pilot and charming. They courted for two years until she was 18. And they married soon after she graduated from school.’
Why were so many of us keen to spin a fairy story narrative that involved a 30-year-old man ‘falling in love’ with a 16-year-old child?
Of course, human history has been riddled with inappropriate pairings, but we at least once had the excuse of our elementary understanding of psychology and biology. Whatever the law says (and it of course does note that a 16-year-old is not an adult in both Greece and the UK), scientists estimate that women mature mentally some time between the ages of 18 and 22, with men trailing along a few years later. Prior to this, the vast majority of our brains are simply not sufficiently developed to approach ‘adult’ relationships.
It is, of course, one thing for teenagers to romance with those on their level, but any relationship between an adult and a teenager is bound to be tainted by a grave power imbalance tantamount to abuse, as it obviously was in the case of ‘Babis’ and Caroline.
Yet our routine ignoring of the fact that teenagers are not ‘young adults’ but children is perhaps an inevitable follow-along from our tendency to vest complete autonomy in children à la Rousseau.
If Anagnostopoulos’s pursuit of a 16-year-old girl had not been socially sanctioned as ‘charming’, but immediately treated as abuse, he might have never had the opportunity to infiltrate her life and bring it to such a tragic end.
When we begin to act as if teenagers can be neatly planted into the adult world, as we are prone to doing with ‘child star’ celebrities with similarly dire consequences, we do not ‘liberate’ them, but shun our parental and communal safeguarding responsibilities and cast them out into an adult world where they are not safe, and do not belong.