Statutory rape is a crime of sexual intercourse with a minor, even if the sex is consensual and not forced. This is because the law considers a minor as too young to legally consent to sex or sexual contact.
The “suitable age” for consent or age defining a “minor” varies from state to state. Other factors considered in the case of statutory rape are
- Age difference between the minor and the adult
- To what extent the adult holds authority (e.g., coach, caregiver, teacher) over the child
What is the difference between rape and statutory rape?
Although most rape laws emphasize the forced nature of intercourse (penetrative or nonpenetrative), consent is not an issue when it comes to proving statutory rape. Statutory rape assumes that all sexual activities are always forced (coerced) if the individual is below a certain age. The laws of statutory rape define the age at which an individual is legally capable of consenting to sexual relations.
As an example, the Supreme Court of Idaho states that the ability to legally consent to sex is based on the ability to recognize the probable outcomes of sex and make an informed choice. Therefore, the court raised the average age of consent to 18 years old (it was previously 12 years old).
Is it legal for a 16-year-old to date a 13-year-old?
Although dating may not be an issue, sexual contact in any form between a 16-year-old and a 13-year-old may be illegal depending on state laws. This is more so because in some states, the minimum age requirement for a person to have intercourse is 16 years old (sometimes even 18 years old).
Additionally, the age difference between the victim and the offender is very important. An age difference of even 2 years could be enough in some cases for charges to be pressed. In other states, it is 3-4 years. The minimum age of the defendant in most states does not matter if charges are to be pressed.
What happens if a case of statutory rape is reported?
It should be noted that not all illegal sexual activity under a state's criminal law with a minor is child abuse. If two minors are caught engaging in sexual activity of any kind, action will be taken depending on their ages, age difference, and state in which it occurred.
Parents or legal guardians will be informed. This makes it difficult to apply the principle of informed consent and confidentiality in adolescents. It is more important to counsel the victim, conduct an examination, and provide treatment to avoid sexually transmitted infections, unwanted pregnancy, and psychological damage.
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Medline Plus. Sexual Assault. https://medlineplus.gov/sexualassault.html
Middleman AB, Olson KA. Confidentiality in Adolescent Health Care. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/confidentiality-in-adolescent-health-care?search=statutary%20rape&source=search_result&selectedTitle=1~2&usage_type=default&display_rank=1
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