What is Statutory Rape?
Sex with a minor can be a tricky situation. Clearly, a 30-year-old adult should not be allowed to have sex with a 13 year old, but not all situations are so clear-cut. What about an 18 year old and 16 year old? That is technically having sex with a minor, but should it be illegal? Where this line is drawn varies by state.
Statutory rape happens when sex would be legal between two people, if age was not a factor. It is not forced sex, but is nonetheless illegal because the state has determined that people under a certain age do not have the mental capacity to actually consent. The laws vary greatly as does the punishment for offenders.
Although many people and some states use the term statutory rape, others simply refer to it as rape, unlawful sexual penetration, or a number of other terms. However, the law usually does not apply only to intercourse, but rather to any type of sexual activity.
Simply dating somebody younger is not illegal on its own; it only becomes illegal when sexual activity is introduced. Each state has its own age of consent, and once you reach that age, you can no longer be a victim of statutory rape. The age of consent in the United States ranges from 14-18 years old, with the most common age being 16.
Some states simply have an age of consent that must be followed. Other states take into account age differences between the people involved. For the most part, the more years there are between the two, the greater the offense. Some states have an age of consent but allow relationships that fall within a certain age frame, such as when one partner is only a year or two older. All states have laws against a person in authority (such as a teacher or coach) having a sexual relationship with minors they supervise, regardless of the teacher’s or coach’s age.
The victim, his or her parents, mandated reporters, and even the state can file statutory rape charges. This means that in some states, even if the minor and parents are okay with the relationship, the state can still step in to press charges. Some states put restrictions on the type of sexual activity allowed, such as oral sex or sodomy. In those states, the rules typically disappear at age 18; but, some states still have antiquated laws against oral sex or sodomy at any age.
Statutory rape situations can be very difficult on a family. Oftentimes, the victim does not see him or herself as a victim, and will believe they are in a happy and healthy relationship. Therefore, if the parent threatens to press charges, this can cause a huge rift in the parent-child relationship. Sometimes the victim might threaten to or actually run away to be with their abuser. Also, in some states, those found guilty of statutory rape are labeled sex offenders for the rest of their lives, which means they will not be eligible for certain jobs, might have difficulty finding a place to live, and will have to register as a sex offender each time they move. The ethics of this in situations where the offender and victim are close in age is widely debated.
Regardless, such laws are enacted to protect minors from being taken advantage of and exploited by older individuals. If your child is a victim of statutory rape, getting him or her the help needed to process the assault is essential. Many counselors and support groups are available to help you and your family through this process.
If you or your child has been abused, contact the attorneys at Wilshire Law Firm to schedule a free consultation regarding the merits of your case. Experts in the complexities of proving sexual abuse and substantiating damages for pain and suffering, mental anguish, and other injuries, our attorneys will recommend your best course of action to secure full compensation to pay for the medical treatment and counseling necessary for long term recovery.