‘I am 18 and my boyfriend is 16. We started dating when he was 14 and I was 17. We have sex, and his parents know and are fine with it. Someone threatened to tell on us and said I could go to jail. Scared out of our minds, we broke up. What exactly are the legal issues that this situation runs into? Do we have to wait until he is 16 or 17 to start dating again? Legal age of consent is 16 but then I heard that since I am over 18 he must be 17. Please help! I am so confused and do not know what to believe!’
While laws vary from state to state, in most, if not all states, it is illegal for someone who is legally an adult (age 18 or over) to engage in sexual activity with someone under the age of 18. This is known as statutory rape (and applies regardless of whether it is the boy or the girl who is over 18). The “statutory” refers to the fact that it is considered rape simply because of the statute (law), and so even if both parties consent, it is still considered “rape”, because the law considers that children under the age of 18 don’t have the ability to give true, informed consent.
Because of this, it also means that the very fact of having the sexual contact with someone underage makes you guilty, period – there are no exceptions. It doesn’t matter if you both consented, it doesn’t matter if the parents don’t mind, it doesn’t even matter if the police and the judges *wish* it weren’t the law. None of it matters. It’s one of those laws that all that matters is the facts that the act happened, and it is illegal.
So, yes, it is serious, and you should contact a local law library, and ask the law librarian to help you find the law on statutory rape for your state, and then while it’s perfectly ok to *date* until he turns legal, you should refrain from sexual contact with him again until he is of age. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but the good news is that if you stop the activity until he’s old enough, it’s unlikely that you would be prosecuted for your prior activities, so long as you have truly stopped. (Not because it makes it any less illegal, but because the police and the courts and the District Attorney have more important things to do than to go after someone who did something when they didn’t know it was illegal, and who have already stopped doing it.)