We have previously discussed the continued prosecution of minors for engaging in sexual conduct under state laws. These laws have a sexist record of boys prosecuted for having sex with a minor where girls were treated as the victim, even when the sex was consensual and both were minors or close in age. There is a new case out of Indian River, Florida that is equally troubling. Kaitlyn Hunt, 18, is a senior in high school and is facing felony charges for engaging in a sexual relationship with another girl at her school. Despite an outcry against prosecuting Hunt for consensual sex, the prosecutor has refused to drop the charges of two counts of lewd and lascivious battery of a child 12 to 16 years of age. Assistant State Attorney Brian Workman has insisted that he will only agree to a plea deal where she would accept one felony conviction and a two-year sentence of home confinement. Such a plea would likely put Hunt on the sex offender registry for life.
The girls started dating when Kate turned 18 and the other girl was 14. When the other girl’s parents found out about the relationship, they called police. Police then tapped a telephone conversation in which Kate told the girl that she loved her.
Hunt’s mother believes the charges are the result of homophobia and intolerance for a lesbian relationship.
Hunt was previously selected as the “Student with Most School Spirit” and had a good record at Sebastian River High School. However, after the arrest, she was kicked off the school’s basketball team by her coach, who said that the school wanted to avoid “drama.” The school board then expelled her from the high school in her graduating year.
Consent is not a defense under the Florida law criminalizing sexual activity with a minor between the ages of 12 and 16. Bruce Colton, state attorney for Florida’s 19th circuit, has insisted that the case will go to trial unless Hunt pleads guilty. The second-degree felony charges can result in a 15 year sentence with registration as a sex offender. We have previously seen the disabling impact of such registration on young people convicted for statutory rape in consensual relations with other students.
As discussed earlier, some states like Ohio have struck down parts of their statutory rape laws.
The concern is that there are obviously many cases involving minors as young as 14 engaging in sexual relationships. Those cases are rarely prosecuted. Moreover, regardless of whether this is a homosexual or heterosexual relationship, it involved consent between two high school students. None of this condones what Hunt did. This was a 14 year old child and, regardless of Hunt’s feelings, it was clearly improper and presumptively harmful to have a sexual relationship with a 14 year old. The question is whether this could not have been handled with a restraining order preventing further contact as opposed to treating this as a criminal matter.
What do you think?