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Statutory Rape: Things You Should Know

Updated on October 2, 2012
Statutory rape means different things.
Statutory rape means different things. | Source

Statutory rape is a sex crime with many definitions. Most people know it involves sexual activity with minors, but beyond this is where terminology begins to change. In fact, “statutory rape” is only listed as an offense in five states, although every state prosecutes this type of crime. There are many definitions of criminal sex acts applied to minors and other factors that come into play involving the crime.

Statutory Rape Offenders are:

2% strangers

7% family

29% boyfriends and girlfriends

62% acquaintances

Statutory rape is SEX with minors. Beware.
Statutory rape is SEX with minors. Beware. | Source

What is Statutory Rape?

Let’s begin with a thorough definition. Statutory rape involves sex (often meant but not limited to “intercourse”) between two individuals, one of whom is not old enough to legally consent to the behavior. Although sex is usually consensual, it may be considered a sex crime. Most states apply criminal codes that specify the legality of specific sexual acts and as applied to minors, for instance “felonious sexual assault” or “carnal knowledge.”

But there are other factors involved that alter the severity of the crime. States also delineate other definitions:

  • Age of consent. The age at which an individual may legally consent to sex under any circumstance.
  • Minimum age of victim. The age below which an individual may not consent to sex under any circumstance.
  • Age differential. The maximum difference in age between the victim and the defendant where an individual may legally consent to sex—if the victim is (at or) above the minimum age and below the age of consent.
  • Minimum age of defendant. The age below which a defendant cannot be prosecuted for engaging in sex with minors.

Let me give an example. In New Mexico the age of consent is 16. The minimum age of victim is 13. The age differential is four years. So by these definitions a defendant will avoid prosecution up to 17 years-old.

This type of reasoning characterizes what are termed Romeo and Juliet laws. They reduce and eliminate penalty in cases where age difference is minor and sexual contact is considered rape only because of the lack of legally recognized consent—what happens when two minors have sex?

But these definitions are not the same in every state and do not work the same. Minors that are sexually active should be very careful. For instance, 12 states have a single age of consent below which no individual can consent to sex under any circumstance (e.g., California, Massachusetts, Georgia). Two minors, in this case, could be prosecuted.

Statutory rape also refers to sex between sexually mature individuals. Relations with prepubescent individuals are defined as child molestation.

Age of Consent
France, Greece
UK, Russia
Must be married; illegal for gays
12; illegal for gays
Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan
Must be married; illegal for gays
United Arab Emirates
18; illegal for gays
16; 17 in South Australia

Statutory Rape Facts

Most U.S. states (29) set their age of consent at 16 years for straight and gay individuals; others are set at 17 (8) and 18 (13). (Nevada differs: age of consent is 16 for everyone except lesbians, 18.)

It is also interesting to see what age of consent looks like around the world (chart).

Now consider these sobering facts regarding statutory rape.

  • 95% of statutory rape victims are female
  • 99% of offenders of females are male
  • 3 out of 5 victims are 14 or 15 years-old
  • 94% of male statutory rape offenders are female
  • 70% of male statutory rape offenders are 21 or over, 45% of female offenders
  • There is 1 statutory rape for every 3 forcible rapes involving a juvenile victim.
  • The arrest rate is 42%. The probability decreases the older the victim. Boyfriends and girlfriends are least likely to be arrested.
  • 36% of statutory rape cases are cleared by arrest of an adult; 6% by arrest of a juvenile. The remaining 58% is cleared by the victim's refusal to cooperate or decline to prosecute.

Love never means coercion.
Love never means coercion. | Source

Important Phone Numbers

National Sexual Assault Hotline: 800-656-HOPE (4673)


Call 911 if in danger

Reporting Statutory Rape

Reporting varies by state but it is mandatory for certain individuals that encounter children and youth in a professional capacity. These professions include healthcare providers, childcare workers, teachers, and clergy. If there is reasonable suspicion that unlawful sexual behavior is occurring, especially at certain ages, some professionals may be required to report what they know.

If you are a minor and you engage in consensual sexual activity, be very careful for yourself and your partner. Your health and emotions are important and then there is the legality of it all.

If you are or have been involved in a situation where your consent has NOT been given, find the courage to report this to trustworthy persons, like parents or intervention specialists, who will get you needed help. You can also go directly to the police.

Sexual activity is a major responsibility and statutory rape proves its riskiness.


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    • lyns profile image


      5 years ago from USA

      You are welcome. I will lyns

    • ithabise profile imageAUTHOR

      Michael S 

      5 years ago from Danville, VA

      Thanks, Lyns. You have a great day, too!

    • lyns profile image


      5 years ago from USA

      Interesting hub, thanks for sharing. Have a great day, voted up. lyns

    • ithabise profile imageAUTHOR

      Michael S 

      6 years ago from Danville, VA

      Thanks for reading, Denise! Some of this was pretty eye-opening.

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 

      6 years ago from North Carolina

      Excellent information presented here with the table and charts etc. Well done in this controversial issue. UP/U/I shared

    • ithabise profile imageAUTHOR

      Michael S 

      7 years ago from Danville, VA

      It's a sticky situation, MsDora. I wondered questions like this while writing: Is statutory rape ever love? Can love be legislated? Or is it truly society's attempt to protect minors from being preyed on? It is indeed the latter, especially from adults. In fact, the original purpose of statutory rape laws was to protect girls from males who might impregnate them and runoff. The problem is often the minors who cannot see beyond their feelings to make right decisions. You're right: Reputations can get tarnished for life in sexual situations. As my mother always says, it pays to listen sometimes. Thanks for reading and sharing.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      7 years ago from The Caribbean

      Voted Up. This article is very clearly presented and should be made available for all minors (and possible offenders) to read. I'm sharing it. The situation described by Tamajaro is in total defiance of what the law is. At thirteen the child is misguided especially by a man who is old enough to be her father. The minors who get caught can have their reputation tarnished for life; wish they would think about that. Thanks for this information.

    • ithabise profile imageAUTHOR

      Michael S 

      7 years ago from Danville, VA

      You're right: It did refer to adults with minors once, but there are so many definitions now. I didn't even talk about parental consent. But what does it matter? Again you're right: the consensual part makes everything messy and probably gets into why the majority of cases are never "cleared." And great scripture reference, too. Thanks for reading. Your insight is always thoughtful.

    • Tamarajo profile image


      7 years ago

      It used to be an adult being sexual with a minor was illegal minus all the confusing details. The lines are becoming increasingly blurred to what I fear is the sexualization of our children.

      I have a friend whose 16 year old daughter was invited into a relationship with a 36 year old married man who used to be a youth leader in her church. They were discovered by law enforcement in a car. The mother of the girl was told that nothing illegal happened. He informed her that from 13 on up your child is free to have relations with whomevere they wish as long as it is consensual and as long as the adult party is not in a position of authority which he was not "at the time". Makes me wonder if he knew that and left his position for that purpose. Not that the 16 year old should have known better but it seems predatory to me that an experienced adult male would prey on a naive 16 year old girl which is the same problem in cases of molestation involving the same type of manipulation. It is the reason they dont tell because they are invited into something to which they may have agreed to. I personally think it all should be a crime.

      We also had a strange case in you community most recently with an 18 year old with a 16 year old. All was well until they broke up. The Newspaper article stated that this would not have been a crime if they wouldnt have broken up and had they not lived in the same household. It is either a crime or it isnt. Straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel near as I can tell.

      Your article was interesting and thought provoking and your warning to young people who are sexually active is warranted.


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