1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Seduction

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SEDUCTION (from Lat. seducere, to lead astray), a term generally used in the special sense of wrongfully inducing a woman to consent to sexual intercourse. The action for seduction of an unmarried woman in England stands in a somewhat anomalous position. The theory of English law is that the woman herself has suffered no wrong; the wrong has been suffered by the parent or person in loco parentis, who must sue for the damage arising from the loss of service caused by the seduction of the woman. Some evidence of service must be given, but very slight evidence will be sufficient, even making of tea, milking cows, minding children or any small household work. It is no bar if a daughter is out at work during the day time, provided she assists in the household when she comes home in the evening. The relationship of master and servant must, however, exist, and the action must be brought by the person with whom the seduced girl was residing at the time, whether in the capacity of daughter and servant, ward and servant, or servant only. It is so seldom indeed that an action is brought against a seducer when the seduced girl is a servant only, that what Serjeant Manning wrote many years ago is still painfully true: “The quasi fiction of servitium amisit affords protection to the rich man whose daughter occasionally makes his tea, but leaves without redress the poor man whose child is sent unprotected to earn her bread amongst strangers” (note to Grinnell v. Wells, 1844, 7 M. & G. 1044). This capricious working of the action for seduction is somewhat obviated in Scots law, under which the seduced woman may sue on her own account, but only if deceit has been used, and most often there is a difficulty in showing that the deceit alone was the cause of the injury. Although the action is nominally for loss of service, still exemplary damages are given for the dishonour of the plaintiff's family beyond recompense for the mere loss of service. An action for seduction cannot be brought in the county court except by agreement of the parties. As to seduction of a married woman, the old action for criminal conversation was abolished by the Divorce Act 1857 which substituted for it a claim for damages against the co-respondent in a divorce suit; but if a married woman were living apart from her husband in her father's house, and giving her services to her father in the slightest degree, an action for seduction would lie. Seduction in England is not as a rule a criminal offence. But a conspiracy to seduce is indictable at common law. And the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885 (which extends to the United Kingdom) makes it felony to seduce a girl under the the age of thirteen, and misdemeanour to seduce a girl between thirteen and sixteen (§§ 4, 5). The same act also deals severely with the cognate offences of procuration, abduction and unlawful detention with the intent to seduce a woman of any age. The Children Act 1908 gave a further protection to young people, enacting that if any person having the custody, charge or care of a girl under the age of sixteen causes or encourages the seduction of that girl he shall be guilty of a misdemeanour, and be liable to imprisonment, with or without hard labour, for a term not exceeding two years.

United States.—In the United States state legislation has generally modified the common law. In some states the father brings the action as the representative of the family whose purity has been invaded; in others the woman herself may bring the action. In many states there is a criminal as well as a civil remedy. The penal codes of New York, New Jersey, Louisiana and other states make it a crime to seduce under promise of marriage an unmarried woman of good reputation. Subsequent intermarriage of the parties is in most cases a bar to criminal proceedings. The state legislation of the United States is in remarkable opposition to the rule of the canon law, by which the seduction of a woman by her betrothed was not punishable on account of the inchoate right over her person given by the betrothal.