Laws are crazy things

Kaitlyn-Hunt-300x300

Sex offender or misguided and uninformed teenager?

Whether we like them or not, whether they make sense to us or not – many laws are in place that need revision or need to be thrown out altogether. Putting kids on sex offender lists for having an underage girlfriend or boyfriend in high school is one of those laws that needs revision. The question is how to do it and let kids be kids and how to keep kids safe from adult predators. So here is the story if you haven’t heard it already:

Kaitlyn Hunt is an 18 year old in Florida who was charged with a felony for engaging in a sexual relationship with a 14 year old girl. The minor’s parents who were fully aware of the relationship prior to her turning 18 pressed charges against Kaitlyn when she turned 18 because (allegedly) they don’t like the fact that their minor daughter is gay. The outrage from the LGBT community is good because it brought this national attention – however this is not a new problem, and Kaitlyn is not the first “victim” of these laws or overzealous parents who don’t like who their kid is dating and she won’t be the last.

Kaitlyn is facing 15 years in prison for her crime (and she did commit a crime whether you like it or not) – she was offered a plea deal of 2 years house arrest and having to register as a sex offender. She has denied the plea deal and will take her fight to court to let a judge a jury decide. While it is sad that she has become the new poster child for revising these laws – there is a distinct possibility that she will go to prison. A judge will look at the law, look at her actions and rule accordingly. Kaitlyn has no real defense. The two girls admitted to police that they had engaged in sexual behavior after Kaitlyn turned 18. I’m no lawyer – but Kaitlyn is guilty. It is really just a matter of fighting her sentence. While I think anyone can agree that 15 years is excessive in this case – there are many young men who are in prison for the exact same offense. This is not a gay/straight issue. This is an issue of responsibility for all sexual relationships between adults and children.

There are reasons for these laws to be in place. It isn’t to persecute kids in high school, these laws are there to protect children from predators.  The only revision to the law I would like to see is how we determine what is predatory behavior and what isn’t. I am an advocate of the sex offender registry – however the abuse of this registry makes it pretty much useless because you don’t know if the person on that list got drunk and urinated in public or if they molested children. I don’t think the drunk guy should be on that list, and neither should Kaitlyn; or a ton of young people who have landed on this list because of a high school relationship.

Part of the problem I see with these situations is that we fail to prepare kids to become adults. We fail to teach them the responsibility that falls on them the SECOND they turn 18. When you are talking about high school relationships – 18 years olds are still in school – and they still have children as their peers. It all looks different when you use the words children versus adults doesn’t it? Children are going to school with adults. They share the same classrooms, they change in the locker room together and participate in team sports. They study together, they party together, and in many cases they think they are in love with one another.

The way I see it, there is a simple solution for these situations. Put Kaitlyn on probation until she is 21 with a stipulation that any further activity with a minor will land her on the sex offender registry and result in a possible prison term. She broke the law – however, in situations like this one she needs to learn the lesson of adult responsibility. To lock her away for 15 years to teach that lesson is excessive (especially since the relationship existed before she turned 18). Also, the minor parents were supportive of the relationship until she turned 18 – so it becomes a witch hunt by the minor parents (which I think should be illegal as an abuse of the judicial system) , and isn’t because of predatory behavior. Kids need to be taught this stuff. We don’t turn 18 and understand sexual predator laws – because we don’t teach them in school. We don’t teach 18 year old adults who are in school with minors about the serious ramifications of having a sexual relationship with their now minor peers (even if they have been dating for a year or two before one of them turned 18). All it takes is one pissed off parent and your life is ruined forever. That just isn’t part of the curriculum and thousands of young adults have been prosecuted (9/10 of them have been young men) for their high school relationships.

The laws are imbalanced and need revision. The sex offender registry should be used for sex offenders – not high school kids in high school relationships, or other nonsense stuff that lands people on the registry. As someone who was sexually abused by adults – I see a distinct difference between Kaitlyn and my abuser and the the law should allow for those differences. If we are going to prosecute sex offenders with this kind of vigor – our prisons should be FULL of priests right now but they aren’t. They are full of young people who engaged in consensual sex. We can argue consent – the minor can’t give consent legally but we all know how we were in high school. We think we can consent. We do consent and our parents may or may not like or even know about it. As a 16 years old I was very aware of what sex was consensual and what sex wasn’t.

I just think we need to look for real solutions. I think we need to leave the sex offender registry for those who are actual sex offenders. I think we should teach kids (and give them a grace period if they are still attending high school) the ramifications of having relationships with minors. Turning 18 isn’t some magic thing that happens where we have our birthdays and understand what being an adult is all about. Ignorance of the law is not a defense – however, when was Kaitlyn taught the law and the ramifications of dating a minor? This is her first lesson in adulthood. So while she broke the law and should be held accountable to it; it should not in this case  – or the many cases like this one ruin this kids entire future. It isn’t what is needed here. What is needed is to use this as a teachable moment. We can use this to teach young adults how to be adults, but we don’t have to ruin their lives in the process.

Do you think Kaitlyn should spend 15 years in prison and be placed on the sex offender registry for life? Do you think the law is right in this situation? 

 

 

22 thoughts on “Laws are crazy things

  1. My answer is no. Yes, Kaitlyn should suffer some consequences for her actions, but this is not it. Her crime would have been considered a misdemeanor in years past and that’s where a situation like this belongs.

    • Yes I agree. A misdemeanor with probation until she is 21 (a FULL adult and not a teenager) would be appropriate. She wouldn’t “get away” with breaking the law, but her first decision as an adult won’t ruin her entire life. I actually think there should be a whole separate system for people between 18-21. That is your learning curve time – unless it is blatant abuse or murder or something serious that even children understand as being wrong. Having a high school sweetheart – regardless of sexual orientation and age should not be worth 15 years in prison.

  2. This is happening right in my backyard!
    The story has changed a few times but the basics are still there…
    The parents of the minor child VEHEMENTLY deny that the girls being gay has anything to do with it and never said that Kaitlyn “Turned their Daughter gay”. They stipulate that they were aware of the relationship, but were not sure of the age of kaitlyn when it started. As they said in an exclusive interview, which has NOT been covered by the national media, they have no issue with their daughter being gay, their problem was with the changes they saw once kaitlyn was in the picture. They say that they told BOTH their daughter and Kaitlyn to end the relationship on three different occasions due to the age issue and the fact that they did not want their daughter dating ANYONE because they feel she is not emotionally grown-up enough to handle it…Both of these CHILDREN continued the relationship which also had the minor runaway from home and she was found at Kaitlyn’s house which her parents said was the last straw… So BOTH children are at fault but because Kaitlyn is legally an adult, she was charged. I would have to say that the school district should be listed as an accomplice to the charges since they put these to girls in classes together and allowed them to play on the same sports team, EVEN after the minor’s parents let the school know that they did not want them in school classes & activities together…
    The plea deal she turned down yesterday DID NOT have her registering as a sex offender. It was a “Lesser” charge but still a Child abuse Felony that could never be expunged. There have been PLENTY of cases down here (straight & gay) and most have ended with a misdemeanor charge since the defendants complied with the law. I think the extenuating circumstances (the three warnings and that she was hiding the minor from her parents) have a lot to do with the charges.
    Most of this info comes from the minors parents interview, which was shown on a local news station here in PBC which is the local “Metro” .

    • Thank you Aaron for commenting and sharing your perspective! I wrote about this briefly in another post and said that even without knowing the whole story – that these charges were probably not brought on suddenly or that Kaitlyn was unaware (I assumed the parents of the minor had expressed at some point their objection to the relationship) and the two teens ignored the warnings – because they are teenagers and that’s what teenagers do. It is a parents RIGHT to press charges against an adult having sexual relations with minor children regardless of circumstance and that law needs to stay in place. However, I feel that the punishment under the law in these circumstances are excessive and ruin lives that don’t need to be ruined.

      I am glad the media on this is bringing attention to the issue – and I do not think that Kaitlyn should “get off” – but I also believe that we need to live in reality and understand that kids in high school do stupid shit and do not fully understand the potential consequences of their actions.

    • Had there been any coverage of this case in your local media between Kaitlyn’s arrest and charging in February, and the whole Facebook page/petition a week or so ago? It seems possible that Kaitlyn’s lawyer and parents, having tried and failed to get the prosecutor to lower the charges to a misdemeanor, decided to go public to exert some pressure in the court of public opinion. And it’s the parents of the younger girl they are accusing of being “homophobic”, not the prosecutor, which seems odd if her case is being handled differently than other, similar cases.

      • As more information comes out obviously more of these questions will be answered, but I do think the “outrage” is a purposefully generated defense tactic. That doesn’t change my opinion though that this stuff needs to be looked at on a nationwide scale and that charging kids for HS relationships as sex offenders is just going too far.

        • If the jury agrees with you she may walk. That may be what her lawyer is hoping for – they don’t agree with the penalty, so it’s not guilty.

          • Well she is going to plead guilty. There is no question here of guilt or innocence, and by declining the plea deal there will be a minimum sentence imposed. There will probably not be a jury in this case – unless she tries to plead innocent, but she has already confessed to having sex with a minor. I am not sure what the min. sentence is for this, but I know the maximum penalty is 15 years in prison. She is definitely going down – it’s just a matter of for how long. My hope is simply that this case with the media attention it is getting may spur people to look at what causes these issues in the first place – and it isn’t because these kids are sexual predators.

        • However, I do agree with you about the “sex offender” label. It’s being used as a weapon against kids as young as 6, for crying out loud.

  3. Where are the responsibilities of the parents in this situation. As usual we see children doing wrong and NOBODY is putting any of the responsibility on the parents, which is where it all belongs.

    • YUP! IMO from what I have seen, the minor’s parents are trying to protect their child from emotions that she isn’t equipped to or hasn’t been taught to deal with yet in an adult sexual relationship. According to their interview, they gave Kait ample warning and chances, and went so far as to contact her parents and the school they both attended… Seem Kait parents failed to step in and the school failed them both by continuing to put them together in classes & extracurriculars…
      I find that the most interesting… I don’t seem to remember having freshman in my senior year classes and the like…

      • Yes Aaron, from the information you gave and a few other articles I have read it seems the only ones who actually did the right thing in this case were the minors parents.

  4. So I feel the need to chime in here from the perspective of one who was a minor (14) with the much older (18) teenage love interest. I think this situation is the minor parents’ doing and here’s why: There is nothing so guarenteed to make a teenager rebel than forbidding him or her to see the person they are in love (or lust) with. They made it a sure thing that these two would continue to see each other behind the minor parents’ backs. They laid the foundation for everything that happened since and I think it’s unconscionable to punish Kaitlyn for this relationship.
    My parents could very easily have been as stupid as this but they were smart about handling out relationship. They trusted me within limits: when and where we could meet was carefuly controlled until I was 16. My folks talked with him and made sure he understood their boundaries; they spoke to and worked with his parents.
    I chaffed under some of it for sure but my parents went out of their way to make sure I was both safe and could take a chance on this relationship. He and I eventually married (and later divorced.) I am in awe to this day of how wise my folks were about it all.
    As a parent I understand parental concern and that people make different decisions but I think, whether consciously or not, the minor’s parents set this girl up. Allowing the law to ruin a girls’ life because of true adults’ stupid and perhaps bigoted choices is an abuse.
    I hope they are prepared for the shot storm the next few years with their daughter is going to be.
    And I hugely disagree with the comment that the school has any culpability in this. Now we expect schools to intervene in teenage romance? Really?! There was no evidence of abuse – just parents who disapproved.
    And yes ultimately I think either the age of
    Majority needs to be modified or the law needs to be changed. My son will likely be 18 through out his Senior year of high school – and with Ca K age requirements changing you’re now going to start seeing 19 year olds in high school more often! – and this shot scares the crap out of me. All it takes is one racist parent who doesn’t approve of my Chinese son dating his or her daughter (or a homophobic and racist parent who doesn’t like him dating their son!) to ruin his life. That’s simply not a society I want to live in.

    • Janice you of course are always welcome to chime in! I wish you would more often! 🙂

      I think the culpability on the school is from the perspective that the minor parents asked them to separate the kids and they didn’t – it really isn’t fair to the school though because then we REALLY need to change the rules and stop letting ‘adults’ be in the same classes and extracurricular’s as the children. The school can’t control who dates who, but they can control who mingles in classes together and who plays sports together etc.

      I was the older woman in a relationship like this one (I was trying to not be gay) but I was 18 and I dated a 16yo. His Mom though laid down the law on the whole thing, talked to us both about her expectations, and let us both know what the consequences would be if we broke her rules. I didn’t break any of her rules!!!

      Parents is where all of this starts, but then we have the nations laws, our flawed education system, and a society that frowns on consequences. Then we act all surprised when kids rebel, or fail to think things through.

      • Heh, yes, I tend to be a lurker. I just happened to have 45 minutes on my hands and a personal experience to share on this one. LOL!
        Anyway, I understand that the parents asked to have them separated but absent evidence of this being an abusive situation, why in the world should the school have honored this request? It’s neither practical – who has to leave what class? who has to leave the team? – nor imo desirable for schools to be required to separate highschool kids just because a parent asks the school to. (Lower grades and, again, bullying/abusive situations are a very different thing.) This request amounted to “we don’t approve of this situation so you the school should keep them away from each other for us.” Um… NO!
        Actually in most states kids have reached the age of consent by 16 so a 16 and an 18 year old are a slightly different ball of wax than a 18 and 14 year old. But the point is his mom was also smart and talked with you rather than interfering. I dare say things might have gone a bit differently if his Mom had tried to make you break up, neh?
        Heh, kids rebelling is hardly a new thing nor a special result of our current society. There are lots of issues but I don’t really think things have gotten any worse in that realm than in earlier times or other places. I think the use of the law as a bludgeon as in this case is a relatively new thing, and that scares me far more than the idea of my kid rebelling as a teen. Zero Tolerance and other such BS is driving a lot of these situations.
        At least that’s my opinion. I could be wrong.

        • The use of the law as a bludgeon is not a new thing at all – it is a new thing for it to be used against a homosexual relationship. Young straight men have been going to jail for years because of relationships like this where the parents simply didn’t like them. That is where I think reform is needed.

          • “Relatively new” being key here – I’m talking about 30-40 years. It was pretty much unheard of for prosecutors to take this seriously until we started taking rape etc seriously. These kinds of things were generally handled much more personally or perhaps by a knock on the door by the local constabulary in an extreme case.
            But I was more referring to the general trend of using the law to resolve interpersonal issues with children across the board. See the comment above about 6 years olds(!) going on the sex offender registries.
            It’s hard enough trying to raise a child without having to worrying that being caught playing doctor at 6 is going to land him a pariah for life! We seriously have to look at our “morality” laws and how we use the law against kids.

  5. Urgh, hearing about shit like this almost makes me wanna become a lawyer.

    What you’re saying is dead on. The laws are stupid, and I’m not sure there’s any way to fix them.

    In Australia for instance, it’s perfectly legal for a 16 year old to have sex with a fifty year old, but if a fifteen year old were to be having sex with an 18 year old, that 18 year old would be liable in the same way you’ve just highlighted. How on earth does this make the slightest bit of sense?

    People mature at different ages. Some 15 year olds are more mature than 20 year olds, and some are not. Laws don’t have any way of taking this into account. It’s not a scientific framework, and so it’s kinda doomed. Poor girl.

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  7. My thought this, of course kaitlyn will be caught and she did. She is beautiful girl and nothing wrong with girl. She has mistakes, we are all have mistakes and + she is 19 years, break a bad LAW? It is 15 years for future who knows? she is going to jail think the Possibilities For ONLY 30 days. Now the judge said don’t call her, text with her and don’t meet her because she is illegal but if you do it I will lock you down for jail 15 years.

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