Julia Gazdag
May 23, 2013 9:20 am

High school is rough. Dating in high school is rough. Getting arrested for dating in high school is… well, at least it gets you out of gym class?

Kaitlyn Hunt, a high school senior in Florida, is facing a choice between going to trial and potentially serving up to 15 years in prison as a sex offender, or accepting a plea of two years under house arrest and a year on probation. All this for dating a girl in her school who was 15 years old. Her parents assumed that her girlfriend’s family was aware of the relationship, but apparently things were a bit more complicated.

With no previous attempt from Kaitlyn’s girlfriend’s family to communicate their disapproval of the relationship, the 18 year old high school student was arrested in February, in her home, and taken away in handcuffs. The lack of attempt at talking things out one family to another, and the very serious felony charges brought up against Hunt (lewd and lascivious battery on a child ages 12 to 16), seem to point to a hysterical outburst of homophobia on the part of her girlfriend’s parents upon finding out about the relationship. Your first reaction to your daughter’s fully consensual relationship isn’t to call the police, unless you’re in the middle of a freakout. Most rational people will at least try to have a conversation first.

“Use taxpayers’ money to prosecute REAL criminals, not a high school student who has never been in trouble a day in her young life, all because she had a mutual consenting relationship with someone who has bigoted parents,” said Kelley Hunt Smith, Kaitlyn’s mother. The irony of this case is that, in asserting statutory rape laws, Kaitlyn Hunt is being held to equal standards as anyone else would be in a heterosexual relationship. Of course, that equality is lost when it comes to marriage rights for many same sex couples across the country.

As for rape of any kind, let alone statutory, since 97% of violent rapists never go to jail, it seems a bit arbitrary to consider sending anyone to jail who was in a completely consensual and non-violent relationship. The thought of a criminal justice system in which police will handcuff an 18 year-old girl and haul her away like a violent criminal, while so many actually violent criminals walk free, is frankly disturbing. Two girls, three years apart, in a consensual relationship warrants an arrest and potentially 15 years in prison? The Steubenville rapists were only given one year, just for being minors, because apparently before you turn 18 you’re an impressionable idiot but on the day of your 18th birthday the Adulthood Fairy comes and taps you on the nose with the Magic Wand of Accountability and Maturity. We underestimate youth too much sometimes.

While statutory rape laws are indeed there for a reason, they also come with a lot of problems. Statutory rape laws are complicated, because while they are meant to protect minors, they also restrict a lot of freedoms. A relationship is more influenced by shared bonds, such as culture and maturity, than by age, because age has limited influence on the intellectual and emotional aspects of a romantic connection. An 18 year-old high schooler dating a 16 year-old is someone who still lives at home, and is part of the same culture as their partner. An 18 year-old in college is someone who probably lives in campus housing, and has a much more independent and adult life than even an 18 year old who is still a high school senior.

In the end, this isn’t a unique case, it just involves a same-sex couple. This kind of press doesn’t happen when a parent calls the police on their 16 year-old’s slightly older partner. In a way, it’s refreshing to see so many people allied with Kaitlyn, because her case seems so strongly tinged with homophobia. There’s a Change.org petition to help Kaitlyn’s family with legal fees. This is a good time to rethink not only bigotry, but how accountable minors are, as well, and perhaps to stop underestimating them.

Featured Image via RawStory

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