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3 Things We Learned From The Kaitlyn Hunt Statutory Rape Case

Image via Flickr user dmaleus.

High school seniors, stay away from the freshmen - or else you might be arrested and sent to prison. Or labeled a sex offender. Or both.

Think we're kidding?

Kaitlyn Hunt, an 18-year-old former high school cheerleader from Florida, is facing 15 years in jail for having sex with a 14-year-old girl.

The parents of Hunt's girlfriend - or victim, depending on your point of view - are pressing criminal charges. Hunt rejected a deal that would have required her to plead guilty to child abuse, and the authorities said no to reducing the charges to a misdemeanor. So the felony case is going on.

If convicted, Hunt could go to jail, be labeled a sex offender for the rest of her life, and lose her right to vote.

The arguments on both sides

The arguments on Hunt's side - which has quickly become known as #FreeKate - include these:

  • She is being unfairly targeted because she is in a same-sex relationship.
  • The laws of consent are unrealistic and too rigid.
  • The criminal charges are too strong - there's a difference between the letter of the law and the spirit of the law.

On the other hand, many are arguing that that statutory rape is exploitative, wrong, and illegal no matter what the gender or age difference.

Image via Flickr user LNSmithee.

Some also say she's getting a free pass from supporters - and the media - because of the LGBT context.

Is Hunt being prosecuted because of anti-LGBT bigotry or out of adherence to laws that ignore the realities of teen relationships? Or does law enforcement have to throw the book at her after charges were brought? Should statutory rape laws better reflect the complexities of young relationships? Or continue to protect young people from inappropriate sexual contact?

There are so many questions here. It's tricky. We have no idea what will happen, but here are 3 main takeaways from the Kaitlyn Hunt case so far.

1. Just because you feel ready to have sex, doesn't mean you can legally.

https://twitter.com/kaymarie0901/status/337922857604636672

Why? State laws dictate when you can legally give consent. That's what statutory rape really means - sexual contact that qualifies as rape not because it was forcible or unwanted or both, but because it violates a state statute that dictates when someone can legally give consent.

Engage in sexual behavior before you reach the age set by your state, and your consent doesn't count - and your partner can face legal consequences.

In the state of Florida, you have to be 16 years old before you can legally say yes to sex.

Most age of consent laws in North America - which vary state by state - say you have to be between 16 and 18 years of age to give legal consent.

But despite what the law says, one out of three high school freshmen in the U.S. say they have had intercourse. And that's not counting the millions who have oral sex.

That means a lot of teens are having sex illegally.

2. Age isn't just a number.

Photo from Free Kate Facebook Page.

Well, according to the law, it is. Especially when it comes to things like voting, driving, and drinking.

But age can be much more nuanced and complex than the law allows. Should that come into play in how statutory rape laws are applied?

Many say no.

Some go so far as to call her a pedophile (which, under the law, she might be).

In the affidavit, Hunt said she did not think about the age difference because the younger girl "acted older."

But age of consent laws don't recognize maturity levels. Or appearance. Or intention. Or ignorance. Or celebrity status.

In reality, though, teens mature emotionally, cognitively and physically at different rates. Should that come into play in statutory rape cases?

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is backing Hunt, claiming that her behavior is "common" not "predatory":

"Such behavior occurs every day in tens of thousands of high schools across the country, yet those other students are not facing felony convictions (and, in Florida, the lifetime consequences of a felony conviction) and potential lifelong branding as sex offenders."

Some suggest that the age of consent might be better judged on a sliding scale. And indeed, some states take into account the age difference between the two people in question. Florida does not.

Other ideas for addressing cases like this include imposing financial penalties, rewarding teens' positive sexual decisions (like taking safe sex pledges), and adjudicating "consensual" statutory cases in alternative youth courts.

3. Gender might matter in statutory rape cases.

Image via Flickr user Chelsea Lyn Roden.

Let's face it: sexual relationships happen between freshmen and seniors all the time and go unprosecuted. So why is the Kaitlyn Hunt case any different?

Hunt's parents believe she is being targeted entirely because she and the other girl were engaging in a same-sex relationship.

Is statutory rape less serious if it's between two girls (or two boys) than between a boy and a girl? More serious? The same thing?

In half of U.S. states, consent laws either do not address homosexual sex or consider it a crime.

The online hacker group Anonymous called the Florida government's prosecution of Hunt "selective enforcement."

Some feel that Hunt's sexual orientation should not affect the prosecution.

But others believe this is precisely why she is being prosecuted in the first place.

Do you think Kate should be prosecuted?

HOW TO TAKE ACTION

Take a safe and responsible sex pledge >>

Sign the petition to drop charges against Kate >>

See myths and facts about sex >>

Ask a question about sex on Scarleteen >>

Check out TrevorSpace, a social support network for LGBTQ youth >>

See how to protect youth from sexual predators >>

Donate to the Free Kate legal fund >>

Images used under Creative Commons licensing.

Jennifer Cain

Jenny Cain is a freelance writer from Orange County, California, and former banana slug, or UC Santa Cruz alum. She teaches classical and jazz piano to high school students and audits classes at UC Irvine. Inspired by Beyonce, Sheryl Sandberg, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and the Supreme Court’s 3 badass lady justices, she’d like to see the U.S. elect their first woman president. Like, yesterday.

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6 Responses

  1. Kaintie says:

    This is disgusting. This IS a gay issue AND a rights issue.

    Kaitlyn was 17 years old when she began the relationship with the, now 15, girlfriend.

    The three year gap law allowed that to be completely legal. Literally a few days after Kaitlyn had turned 18, the girls mother and coach had “mysteriously” found out and called the police.

    To “gather evidence” the police bugged a private phone call between Kaitlyn and her girlfriend, in which her girlfriend asked if they would always stay together to which Kaitlyn referred back to their previous YEARS relationship (mentioning sexual relations). So far the phone call, as examined by defence, seems to contain nothing incriminating AFTER she had turned 18, leaving Kaitlyn being arrested for a non-existent retroactive “crime”.

    The gap year laws, commonly referred to as the “Romeo and Juliet laws”, were created to SPECIFICALLY protect innocent teens like Kaitlyn from being arrested for something that was legal when they started.

    Kaitlyn is only now 18. They started a relationship at 14 and 17, which was LEGAL. The moment she turned 18 she was arrested. Yet now her girlfriend is 15 and their sexual relationship is ONCE AGAIN LEGAL.

    Explain how that isn’t violating her rights? It’s not a matter of “the law is the law”. The law actually specifies this is legal. The law allows tremendous leeway for cases like this because of the circumstance.

    “But hurr she shouldn’t be dating 14 year olds anyways!”

    Kaitlyns girlfriend was IN HER YEAR and CLASSES, having been skipped ahead, in her same teams and they were seeing each other LEGALLY.

    “But durr how is this gay rights?”

    Because the Sheriff and the Judge in this case have LET HETEROSEXUAL BOYS GO in this EXACT same situation. Many of them even when the girls have been younger than 14.

    It’s a blatant violation of Kaitlyns rights as the law protected her and still protects her, especially as the girlfriend is now 15, in the face of seemingly retroactive evidence (highly illegal to charge someone over) should be stood up to.

    The BLATANT homophobia in this case, from the girlfriends mother, the school and the law officials involved, is an even bigger reason to stand up since they will ensure this poor innocent girl cannot get a fair trial.

    • StormyWeather1 says:

      You’re so wrong, on so many issues, it’s just sad.
      Kate supporters base their supports on lies spreaded by the kaitlyn clan. How does it feel to be fooled and manipulated by a predatory teenager into supporting her criminal victimization of children, not to mention vile smear campaigne against her victim’s family?
      Kaitlyn turned 18 before she even met the victim. When kaitlyn was 17 the victim was still in middle school. Are you sure you’re okay with high school senior having sex with middle school children?
      Their age gap is closer to 4 years and definitely not three, a lie spreaded by kaitlyns father. At no point in the relationship was kaitlyn a minor, another lie told by Kate’s father.
      Every sexual assault kaitlyn committed was committed after she turned 18 and the entire time, the victim was 14.
      Relationship between 60 and 6 is legal, as long as they don’t have sex. Even if kaitlyn had been 17, it’s still illegal for her to have sex with a 14. Children as young as 13 had been convicted of sex crime for having sex with 12, “consensually,” except neither of them can consent. The only major difference is that punishment is less harsh in juvy court. At no point was kaitlyns predatory aggressive exploritation of the young girl legal. if she had been 17, she would simply be given more protection and much less publicity.
      Kaitlyn walked into another two girls having sexual contact in the school bathroom after she got arrested. She complained to police. The prosecutor dropped the case because the victim and her family will not testify and they don’t have a strong case. Note it’s another same sex case, not a hetero case as you suggested. So how do you feel about a woman who thinks only she can rightfully have sex with children but other same sex couples should be prosecuted?
      The only one being violated is the 14 year old girl, kaitlyn had done nothing but exploit the young girl, exploit the public wilth her lies, and more lies.
      It doesn’t take homophobia to prosecute an adult who takes a run away child, after having been warned twice to stay away, and take her home to have sex with her. I would throw the book at any adult who picks up a run away child to have sex. I would do everything in my power to prevent my young child from associating with such antisocial, nassicist, white trash family. Have you seen how kaitlyn and her siblings swear obscenity? Gang up on another girl violently? How they brag about their mother getting drunk? Have you seen the multiple brushes with the law on her convicted fathers part? How her parents were also underage when kaitlyn was conceived? The bad apple doesn’t fall far from the poison tree. Btw, most of the lies you’ve been fed came directly from her felon father, who has a long history of dishonesty and fraud. He is currently parading his daughter in front of the media, not for her own good, not to set an example for his younger children, but to gain monetary support. Do you have any idea how much money and gifts they have accepted since they’ve launched this public campaigne of lies?
      Romeo and Juliette law will not let her off the hook. It will not prevent her from being arrested, prosecuted, tried, and thrown in jail. She will simply be given a chance to appeal against being registered as a sexual offend, AFTER her sentence has been served, and only if she meets certain conditions.
      Frankly, I think kaitlyn needs to be on the registry. No children hospital should hire adult who have a history of child abuse. She confessed she knew what she did was wrong all along, but decided she can get away with it because the victim acted older. What if she became a nurse in charge of small children who acted older? As parents wouldn’t you want to know if nurses hired to watch your children had a history of sexually assaulting children, inserting fingers and foreign objects into children’s vagina repeatedly, in school, in public, and in her home? Wouldn’t you want your children to be safe from such criminally minded, sick people?

  2. Bubba8989 says:

    Some people apparently think that it’s okay for adults to be having sex with children.  there’s a word for those kind of people: pedophile.

  3. Waywayholierthanthou says:

    Stormyweather1 you are so right. Personally, I’m glad the law makers chose 36 months as the cut off for the Romeo and Juliette law. I’d be the first to defend Kaitlyn if she was 35 months and 29 days (depending on whether its a leap year) older than her (practically) infant victim. Like you, as soon as we move into thirty six months, I make the leap to dangerous recidivist pedophile. As the government law makers clearly know, every child matures at the exact same rate on the exact same dates. As most people in the southern states can attest, every person is also born heterosexual and God fearing. Therefore thanks to the wisdom of our lawmakers we’re. Able to brand one person an incurable deviant and another a hormone charged but appropriately so, romantic, based on the calendar event of their birth.
    It does raise some mathematical issues however. For example, what if Kaitlyn had been born two months premature and her victim was born a month late? How would we know that Kaitlyn was a deviant? Would she still be one? I’m unclear. Perhaps we should approach our lawmakers for clarification?
    Perhaps we should go from date of conception, to minimize the variables.
    All of this leads to a bigger question. Why are we allowing these children to go to school with adults at all? Maybe we should make a separate school system for kids when they turn 16. That way there would never be three years between students. On the day of their sixteenth birthday we could transfer them to a different “sex-ready” school. In that way they would know that who ever they became attracted to for their personalities, interests, and orientation was now sexually available to them.
    Having said that, I’m not really comfortable with the idea. Perhaps gender segregation and age segregation is the ticket. Of course gender segregation wouldn’t have helped us here would it? How about home schooling for all females? Too Taliban? Hold on,I’ve got it! How about we separate the all those old enough to consent from those who aren’t, separate the genders and make it mandatory for all those who LGBT students to be home schooled?
    I also agree with your enlightened and informed take on the genetics involved in the creation of this deviant. Obviously it’s all her parent’s fault.if I had my way, they’d all be burned as witches!!
    I want her on the registry now! For the safety of my children and grandchildren. I’d also like to get my children’s paediatrician on the registry. His name is Doctor Frank Gillen and I’ve had my suspicions about him for a long time. He went to my high school and in grade 12 he dated a grade nine girl for almost eight months and I definitely saw them kissing. I don’t know what else they got up to but I have my suspicions. Coincidentally, he was on the footballteamand she was a cheerleader! Gross!! For the past eight years he’s been married to a girl who is twelve years younger than him and I know they’ve “Done the deed” because they have three “KIDS” all under 5 years of age!! Coincidence? I don’t think so!! To top it all off, he went out of his way to study and practice in a field of medicine which deals entirely with CHILDREN! His parents drank beer and also were married young so I think I’ve made my case that he too is a deviant to be feared!!
    If I wasn’t so sure that the governments arbitrary timeframe on Romeo and Juliette was absolutely correct in every way, as they have assured me that it is, I might be tempted to treat each case indiviually and use some common sense. Luckily, that burden isn’t put on you or me.
    Can you imagine there are those who feel that this type of thing is a natural outcome of putting hormone charged adolescents into an environment where they are encouraged to socialize, join teams, go to dances,and interact on a daily basis? Don’t they understand that adolescents are well known for their stable mindedness, reasoned thinking, maturity, understanding of consequences, and above all else self control! One thing is for certain, people never rise above the mistakes of their youth and every questionable deed they perform as a adolescent will become the hallmark of their entire existence when they mature into adulthood. Therefore it is only right that we should brand them for life! I’m glad I never did anything untoward as a child or adult!
    Like you I see no difference between Kaitlyn falling in love with a member of her basketball team and a sixty year old man cruising kindergarten playgrounds looking for children to abduct. All those people who think that being kicked off the basketball team, then out of school, then publicly shamed, then charged with a misdemeanour, then charged with a felony, is enough punishment clearly voted for Obama! Keep your foot on the neck of people who make mistakes forever if you want them to become productive members of society!! Forgiveness and moderation is for losers! As the bible says “Judge others harshly as you are above reproach is every way!”
    God bless you for keeping the faith! ( unless you’ve ever liked anyone more than thirty six months younger than you or you’re one of those deviants who has ever put anything in your or anyone else’s vagina, I which case you should clearly seek to be added to the sex offender registry too!! For my safety of course. Also please never even look at one of my kids!!)

  4. Waywayholierthanthou says:

    Bubba8989 you too are so right.
    Personally, I’m glad the law makers chose 36 months as the cut off for the Romeo and Juliette law. I’d be the first to defend Kaitlyn if she was 35 months and 29 days (depending on whether its a leap year) older than her (practically) infant victim. Like you, as soon as we move into thirty six months, I make the leap to dangerous recidivist pedophile. As the government law makers clearly know, every child matures at the exact same rate on the exact same dates. As most people in the southern states can attest, every person is also born heterosexual and God fearing. Therefore thanks to the wisdom of our lawmakers we’re. Able to brand one person an incurable deviant and another a hormone charged but appropriately so, romantic, based on the calendar event of their birth.
    It does raise some mathematical issues however. For example, what if Kaitlyn had been born two months premature and her victim was born a month late? How would we know that Kaitlyn was a deviant? Would she still be one? I’m unclear. Perhaps we should approach our lawmakers for clarification?
    Perhaps we should go from date of conception, to minimize the variables.
    All of this leads to a bigger question. Why are we allowing these children to go to school with adults at all? Maybe we should make a separate school system for kids when they turn 16. That way there would never be three years between students. On the day of their sixteenth birthday we could transfer them to a different “sex-ready” school. In that way they would know that who ever they became attracted to for their personalities, interests, and orientation was now sexually available to them.
    Having said that, I’m not really comfortable with the idea. Perhaps gender segregation and age segregation is the ticket. Of course gender segregation wouldn’t have helped us here would it? How about home schooling for all females? Too Taliban? Hold on,I’ve got it! How about we separate the all those old enough to consent from those who aren’t, separate the genders and make it mandatory for all those who LGBT students to be home schooled?
    I want her on the registry now! For the safety of my children and grandchildren. I’d also like to get my children’s paediatrician on the registry. His name is Doctor Frank Gillen and I’ve had my suspicions about him for a long time. He went to my high school and in grade 12 he dated a grade nine girl for almost eight months and I definitely saw them kissing. I don’t know what else they got up to but I have my suspicions. Coincidentally, he was on the footballteamand she was a cheerleader! Gross!! For the past eight years he’s been married to a girl who is twelve years younger than him and I know they’ve “Done the deed” because they have three “KIDS” all under 5 years of age!! Coincidence? I don’t think so!! To top it all off, he went out of his way to study and practice in a field of medicine which deals entirely with CHILDREN! His parents drank beer and also were married young so I think I’ve made my case that he too is a deviant to be feared!!
    If I wasn’t so sure that the governments arbitrary timeframe on Romeo and Juliette was absolutely correct in every way, as they have assured me that it is, I might be tempted to treat each case indiviually and use some common sense. Luckily, that burden isn’t put on you or me.
    Can you imagine there are those who feel that this type of thing is a natural outcome of putting hormone charged adolescents into an environment where they are encouraged to socialize, join teams, go to dances,and interact on a daily basis? Don’t they understand that adolescents are well known for their stable mindedness, reasoned thinking, maturity, understanding of consequences, and above all else self control! One thing is for certain, people never rise above the mistakes of their youth and every questionable deed they perform as a adolescent will become the hallmark of their entire existence when they mature into adulthood. Therefore it is only right that we should brand them for life! I’m glad I never did anything untoward as a child or adult!
    Like you I see no difference between Kaitlyn falling in love with a member of her basketball team and a sixty year old man cruising kindergarten playgrounds looking for children to abduct. All those people who think that being kicked off the basketball team, then out of school, then publicly shamed, then charged with a misdemeanour, then charged with a felony, is enough punishment clearly voted for Obama! Keep your foot on the neck of people who make mistakes forever if you want them to become productive members of society!! Forgiveness and moderation is for losers! As the bible says “Judge others harshly as you are above reproach is every way!”

  5. The truth755 says:

    SO many stupid belligerent people saying Kaitlin is some sort of monster. We’re talking less then 4 years people, that’s all i should have to say. It’s not like the victim is 9. Get a grip. Change the laws, this is so messed up.   I can prove all the defenders of this wrong, easily, right with this :In a decent amount of states the age of consent is 14 as long as there is less than 4 years difference, this is fair, it isn’t possible to be a pedophile  while being a teenager. By definition, that is someone who is an adult, who preys on people significantly younger. Not a teenager dating a teenager…..  These laws were made to prosecute creepy old guys who prey on little girls that are like five. Not to throw teenagers in prison! That’s laughable guys.  Also, whoever says “14 cannot legally consent” but i gaurantee you so many 14 year olds are consenting to people also 14, so now we should throw them both in prison too? I mean everyone is saying “it’s still a crime”  so then if two 14 year olds engage in anything, that would be legally prosecutable, throw them all in prison right?!And believe me that DOES  happen. Well, in ALOT of places it wouldn’t be a crime! Florida is too harsh. Period. Free this GIRL. The average female doesn’t stop fully maturing until early 20′s, about 23 i believe. So in the law she may have been an “adult” but well, anatomy wise, she wasn’t full grown. I say that has power over some law that ONCE AGAIN, is meant for prosecuting guys that are like 30+ who do this stuff.Not kids.

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