Statutory rape laws are designed to keep young people safe, and a quick gander at any newspaper will show that there is a very real need for these kinds of laws. What happens though, when the legal terminology and parameters of a law comes into direct conflict with a more nuanced reality?
Though it sounds like the kind of annoying hypothetical question law students are asked in their ethics courses, this concept became a very serious reality for an 18 year old girl named Kaitlyn Hunt from Sebastian, Florida.
Kaitlyn, a high school senior at Sebastian River High School, fell for a freshman attending the same school. Most of us can remember at least a few couples with similar age gaps from our high school days, so what makes this case so different? Well Kaitlyn, who was voted by her peers as being the student with the most school spirit, is now being charged with two counts battery of a minor for having a relationship with this freshman. The other component to the story is that the freshman in question happens to be a girl, a girl with very conservative parents.
Here’s where the story probably divides people based on their views of “the gays,” in an almost Shakespearean twist to the story, Kaitlyn’s parents are claiming that the parents of the freshman girl conspired with the police and waited until Kaitlyn turned 18 to pursue any kind of legal action against her, presumably because they would not have had a case until after she turned 18. They could also have been waiting for the punishment to get more sever, which if that is the case, they may be on their way to getting what they were after.
The situation gets worse. Even after two judges ruled that Kaitlyn has a legal right to finish her senior year at her high school, the parents of the freshman girlfriend petitioned the school board until they expelled Kaitlyn formally, and sent her to an “alternative” school to finish our her academic year.
Despite public testimony from the 15 year old freshman she was dating, explicitly stating that their relationship was consensual, and according to some sources the initiated by the freshman, Kaitlyn now faces multiple felony and abuse charges, up to 15 years in prison, and could be required to register as a sex offender for the rest of her life.
Now it’s true that if she was a boy, the law would have treated the situation the same, what the people of Florida need to ask themselves is whether the case would have been reported had she been a boy, and what that says about the effectiveness of this law. Is this particular policy protecting children or creating additional victims?
If you happen to side with Kaitlyn on this issue – check out the change.org page
her dad started.