POLL: Are statutory rape laws fair to teenagers in consensual relationships?

Kaitlyn and Steve Hunt

Chances are good that as a youth worker you’ve had  conversations with students and parents about statutory rape laws, the age of consent to a sexual relationship, and what to do about it.

When I talk to youth workers, most agree, this is a grey area we don’t feel comfortable having a blanket rule for. (Whereas the law is fairly concrete, most prosecutors and law enforcement don’t seem interested in pursuing cases unless the family of one party is particularly demanding.)

In my own ministry, the furthest this ever went was for the parents of all parties to get together and talk about it. The most common response, even among really upset parents, is that parents don’t want to talk about the sex lives of their teenagers any more than they want to talk about their sex lives. So while they talk about it with their own child very little comes of it in the long run.

Where it gets interesting for us, as paid and volunteer youth workers, is that in many states our role means that we are also a mandatory reporter. So if we know that a crime has been committed, particularly one where a minor has been involved sexually, not reporting it or at least documenting it could lead us into areas of liability or even prosecution.

Talk about murky waters!

A current case, involving two female high school students, one a senior and the other a freshmen, is bringing this whole discussion into the national spotlight.

Like so many teenagers before her, Kaitlyn had sexual contact with a younger peer. She engaged in a consensual, sexual relationship with a female student who was 14 at the time, 15 today. Now, Kaitlyn faces two counts of lewd and lascivious battery, punishable by up to 15 years in prison each. Presumably, both will be questioned by prosecutors in a trial about the specifics of their physical relationship.

Source

This particular case is drawing attention primarily because of the sexual orientation of parties involved. There’s little question that the couple engaged consensually, but as Slate points out, there’s a question about whether this case is about statutory rape and the subsequent label for the high school senior as asexual predator or if this case is going forward because the alleged victim’s parents disapprove of their daughters sexual orientation. (I told you these were murky waters. I’m bringing it up because so many of us are in these murky waters on a day-to-day basis.)

With all of that said. I’m curious about your opinions as a youth worker. The poll below is anonymous. But I think it’s interesting to gauge where we are at as a tribe. After you submit your answers you’ll be able to view the results. 

Poll

Sorry, this poll has closed.

4 Responses to “POLL: Are statutory rape laws fair to teenagers in consensual relationships?”

  1. Sean June 7, 2013 at 7:26 am #

    My family had a nice debate about this, we all came down on the side of, even if its consensual it’s still statutory. These laws are there to protect our children, and once you’re legally adult you are held responsible like an adult. Would we be having this discussion if it was a 21 year old male and a 14 year old female who both consented to have sexual relations, or would we be talking about how the male is just a predator?

    • Dj Butcher June 7, 2013 at 12:36 pm #

      I think the rub here is that many of us wouldn’t consider an 18 year old an adult. Legally? Of course, but mentally and emotionally not at all. I absolutely agree that the laws are meant to protect our children, but there also has to be some common sense involved. Do I approve of a 15 year old and an 18 year old having sex? No. But I wouldn’t object to that same couple in a dating relationship (assuming it was pure).

    • Adam McLane June 7, 2013 at 12:37 pm #

      I think the gender issue is really interesting. Like I wrote in the piece, the vast majority of instances of things that might qualify either occurred without the parents knowledge (or care) or if parents were upset they settled it among themselves. I find it almost impossible to believe that a judge would sentence a female who is 18 for a relationship with a 15 year old. I suppose it happens, but it’s certainly not as common. And I think that most people recognize that there is a difference between a 21 year old and an 18 year old classmate in high school.

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  1. Top 3 Youth Work Blog Posts Of The Week - Jun 8 - Youth Workin' It - June 7, 2013

    [...] The Youth Cartel: Are statutory rape laws fair to teenagers in consensual relationships? – A challenging post by Adam this week that looks at whether statutory rape laws should apply [...]

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