“My daughter Kaitlyn is a wonderful 18-year-old who is not guilty of anything other than a high school romance, but is being prosecuted for 2 felony counts of ‘lewd and lascivious battery on a child 12–16 years of age,’ because she has a girlfriend who is 15.”
This is the introductory sentence on a Change.org petition calling on Florida Assistant State Attorney, Brian Workman, to drop a case against 18-year-old Kaitlyn Hunt. Kaitlyn is currently facing criminal charges stemming from a relationship she had with a 15-year-old girl at her high school.
Kaitlyn — known as Kate — began dating another girl from the basketball team at the beginning of the school year. Both girls attended the same high school, but Kate was a senior and her girlfriend was 15 and in a lower grade.
According to Kaitlyn’s mother Kelley Hunt-Smith, when Kaitlyn’s girlfriend’s parents learned of the nature of their relationship, they went to the police to press charges — but first, they waited for Kate to turn 18. Cops arrived at Kaitlyn’s home on Feb. 16th, put the teen in handcuffs, and eventually charged her with two counts of felony lewd and lascivious battery on a child. The prosecutor later offered a plea deal of felony child abuse, with two years house arrest followed by one year probation.
Hunt-Smith wrote in a Facebook post:
(…) These people never came to us as parents, never tried to speak to us, didn’t try to get the school involved to speak to us and tell us they had a problem with the girls dating, not one single word. Instead, they set out their vengeance and had my child arrested on FELONY charges. (…) Those parents wouldn’t give up. They were out to destroy my daughter, they feel like my daughter “made” their daughter gay. They are bigoted, religious zealots that see being gay as a sin and wrong, and they blame my daughter.
Today, the girls are 18 and 15. We will not discuss the specifics of their relationship or when contact took place between them for their legal protection. Kate’s girlfriend has taken no part in her prosecution and denies she is a victim, but the law grants her no rights in this matter. Kate has offered to permanently cease contact and leave the state if charges are dropped, but that offer has been rejected by the prosecutor and the girlfriend’s parents.
Kate’s family say that while they generally support age-of-consent laws,
… we believe it is ludicrous that a 23-year-old can date a 16-year-old, but two students in the same school and on the same basketball team cannot be in a relationship because of arbitrary age limits. The law needs to change, not only to protect Kate, but to protect the millions of teenagers, boys and girls, straight and gay, whose lives are regularly ruined because parents disapprove of their children’s sexual choices. We want justice for all 18-year-old high school seniors who have undergone criminal prosecution for exercising poor judgement in their dating life. Such students are not predators. They’re just kids.
Kate has been expelled from her high school, but her troubles have just started — if convicted, she could end up in jail or live under house arrest, will have to register as a sex offender, and live her life as a convicted felon. Kate’s family is hoping that public pressure will motivate the State Attorney to offer a different plea deal.
Over 40,000 people have signed the Change.org petition for Kate, and on Facebook, more than 13,000 people have joined the Free Kate group to support the family. It’s clear that a lot of people feel that the charges should be dropped or lessened, and I agree that in this case the punishment truly doesn’t seem to fit the crime.
Still, the fact remains that having sex with a minor is against the law. The ground movement to help Kaitlyn Hunt is clearly focused on the fact that she was in a same-sex relationship — witness the slogan: “Stop the hate, free Kate.” Does her sexuality matter? Would we feel as sympathetic towards Kate if she were an 18-year-old boy in a relationship with a 15-year-old girl? Does it matter that it was a consensual relationship, when one person was a minor? When the very definition of a minor is that they aren’t considered to be legally competent to consent to sexual acts?
Honestly, I have no answers to these questions, but it’s a scary case that all parents should be aware of. What’s happening to Kaitlyn Hunt and her family is worthy of discussion, if only to clearly outline how the law views young love … regardless of sexuality.
What do you think about Kaitlyn Hunt’s situation? Do you think the charges against her should be dropped?
Image via Free Kate/Facebook