statutory rape

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Statutory Rape

Sexual intercourse by an adult with a person below a statutorily designated age.

The criminal offense of statutory rape is committed when an adult sexually penetrates a person who, under the law, is incapable of consenting to sex. Minors and physically and mentally incapacitated persons are deemed incapable of consenting to sex under rape statutes in all states. These persons are considered deserving of special protection because they are especially vulnerable due to their youth or condition.

Most legislatures include statutory rape provisions in statutes that punish a number of different types of sexual assault. Statutory rape is different from other types of rape in that force and lack of consent are not necessary for conviction. A defendant may be convicted of statutory rape even if the complainant explicitly consented to the sexual contact and no force was used by the actor. By contrast, other rape generally occurs when a person overcomes another person by force and without the person's consent.

The actor's age is an important factor in statutory rape where the offense is based on the victim's age. Furthermore, a defendant may not argue that he was mistaken as to the minor's age or incapacity. Most rape statutes specify that a rape occurs when the complainant is under a certain age and the perpetrator is over a certain age. In Minnesota, for example, criminal sexual conduct in the first degree is defined as sexual contact with a person under thirteen years of age by a person who is more than thirty-six months older than the victim. The offense also is committed if the complainant is between thirteen and sixteen years old and the actor is more than forty-eight months older than the complainant (Minn. Stat. Ann. § 609.342 [West 1996]).

Further readings

Cocca, Carolyn E. 2004. Jailbait: The Politics of Statutory Rape Laws in the United States. Albany : State University of New York Press.

Cross-references

Child Abuse; Sexual Abuse.

statutory rape

n. sexual intercourse with a female below the legal age of consent, but above the age of a child, even if the female gave her consent, did not resist and/or mutually participated. In all but three states the age of consent is 18, and the age above which the female is no longer a child varies although 14 is common. The theory of statutory rape is that the girl is incapable of giving consent, although marriage with a parent's consent is possible in many states at ages as low as 14. Intercourse with a female child (below 14 or whatever the state law provides) is rape, which is a felony. Increasingly statutory rape is not charged when there is clear consent by the female, particularly when the girl will not cooperate in a prosecution. Controversy continues over what constitutes "resistance" or "consent," particularly when some men insist a woman who said "no" really meant "yes." (See: rape, molestation, majority, minority)

statutory rape

the criminal offence of having sexual intercourse with a girl who has not reached the age of consent, or perhaps more generally any sexual crime against any person which is criminal by statute notwithstanding the consent of the victim on account of the victim's age or other vulnerability. It may now be used to describe similar offences between persons of the same sex.