By Rob Watson
I did a double take when I first saw it. A teen girl was expelled and ARRESTED for having a relationship with another girl. I hunkered down in full fury mode reading the case. Then, my racing mind came to a screeching halt as it read the magic number . . . 18. A legal adult had been with a legal minor. Things just got complicated.
As a dad with 10-year-old sons, under no circumstances do I want their intimacies leveraged by predators or abusers. I would like to have my sons curtail their sexual experiences until they are at the appropriate emotional, spiritual, and maturely responsible time in their lives. Deciding when that time is likely to differ depending on whom you’re talking to. For the sake of argument, I penciled in age 30 for my boys, but I suspect they might find that a tad unreasonable.
All that being said, here are the facts. Teens have hormones and they are being sexual in some fashion, and in a big way. According to an ABC poll in 2006, “In terms of their own activity, 63 percent of 13- to 17-year-olds say they’ve kissed romantically, rising to 73 percent of those 15 and up. Forty-four percent report sexual touching; among older teens, it’s 55 percent. Nineteen percent of all teens, and 27 percent of older teens, say they’ve had oral sex. As many have had sexual intercourse. “ Birds do it, bees do it, and there is a fifty-fifty chance your kids are doing it, too. The point is, while the girls in this case were doing what half of all teen girls have done, all the activities described in the poll would violate the Florida “lewd and lascivious” law.
There are facts—and then there is Florida law. Unfortunately, the two are not necessarily synonymous. Age of consent laws vary widely from state to state, country to country , culture to culture, and time period to time period. The range for consent goes from as low as 12 years old to as high as 21 years old. For that reason alone, the objective logic and rationale behind these laws are suspect. Even “traditional” thinkers must pause and take note of the fact that the Virgin Mary was divinely impregnated, had given birth, and then had marital sex—all well before her 14th birthday. Under today’s tight scrutiny, Joseph, and possibly even God Himself, would be labeled as a great pedophile.
Online, there is a massive petition in support of Kaitlyn, and even celebrated author Anne Rice has come out in her defense. “It’s outrageous really that anyone would arrest a girl of 18 for relations with a girl of 15. I’ve never heard of a boy being arrested in the same situation, ever.” Anne is wrong, however; boys have been arrested. Anne later also commented, “To criminalize this girl, to force her to register as a “sex offender,” to threaten her with jail is monstrous, and it would be just as monstrous if she were a boy who’d been dating the underage one for two years, too. Laws that criminalize teenage dating like this should be reformed all through our country.”
Support notwithstanding, there is no disputing that Kaitlyn Hunt is in legal trouble and the goodwill may not help her. She was an 18-year-old who had sexual intimacy with a 14-year-old (not 15 as has been speculated). She has plead “Not Guilty”. Legal experts in Florida agree that she may have allegedly violated the laws on the books. She may qualify for the “Romeo and Juliet” exemption, which would not forgive her but would keep her from being labeled as a “sex offender.” That, however, is mostly denied by the courts. Even in the most permissive courts in the state, it is granted only about 24 percent of the time. She is not headed for one of those courts. Can anyone really look at the relationship of these two girls, even with some discomfort, and come to a conclusion that it is worthy of a felony and a lifelong stigma?
One of the other issues in terms of the Florida law, given that older teen and younger teen peers are intermingling frequently throughout Florida high schools, is to whom it is applied and when. County Sheriff Deryl Loar, pursuing Kaitlin’s case, is quoted as saying, “When you have vocal victims, that enhances the case.” So I decided to address the “vocal victims,” parent to parent, in an open letter.
Dear Mr. and Mrs. S:
I cannot honestly tell you that I know what you are going through. My sons are both 10 years old. As they grow up over the next few years, I do worry about what kind of relationships they will have and their moral, spiritual, and emotional health. I love them more than anything in the world and want only for their well-being, health, and ultimate happiness.
I cannot imagine that you want less than that for C.S. Obviously, you have had a good deal of contention evidenced by the fact that she ran away from your home in January. I imagine that your issue with her sexuality played a part of that situation, and even though I would not agree with your viewpoint that her sexuality is a “choice” as you see it, this letter is not seeking to discuss that issue or to change your views.
It is, instead, a hope and a plea for a reasoned response to her life and situation. Many families who go through the issues your family is facing end when children take to the streets, commit suicide, or experience other tragic results.
I understand that you do not approve of her relationship with Kaitlyn, or the fact that they have been sexual. I likely would feel similarly about one of my sons at 14 having relations with an 18-year-old.
I also understand that you have the law and all its resources on your side. You are not misusing it. It says what it says, and you are operating accordingly.
Here is a principle that I have used with people in life decisions, which I would like you to consider, however: “Would your rather be right, or would you rather be happy?”
I believe that is exactly the question before you right now. The happiness in question is not minor and it is not only your own, but extends to your daughter, her girlfriend, her girlfriend’s family, and the community beyond.
Your daughter was not molested by a preying predator. She was involved in an overly adultlike relationship with another teen. She was not targeted by someone wanting to do her harm. She was embraced, by someone who loved her and wanted good for her.
As I pointed out, you do have laws on your side, and they too can ignore the fact that no one wished to abuse your daughter. I’d like you to answer one additional question: “How can this end well?” If you pursue it as you intend, and you win, will you have created misery for all involved, including yourselves?
One young woman will be imprisoned and tainted with a label for life. Your daughter will have to wade through the quagmire of resentment toward you and how you demolished the tenderness of her first love. If that were not enough, she will have to fight feeling ostracized by all communities, unable to trust or be trusted in relationships, and be plagued by a confused sense of love and abuse.
I could never do that to one of my sons. I pray that you find it in your heart not to do it to your daughter.
There has got to be a better way to work this out. You have the power to be magnanimous and to effect a positive outcome for all.
What is legal is not always what is spiritually right. It is not what will inspire deep and abiding love and respect within your family.
Please find that kindness, fairness, and compassion. Drop the charges, determine a better way to communicate, and help your daughter start a rich and rewarding life.