In 2005, the media exploded when a sex scandal hit Milton Academy, a prestigious preparatory school in Milton, Massachusetts. A sophomore student was caught giving oral sex to five members of the varsity hockey team in their locker room—reportedly as a “birthday gift” to one of the players. The five hockey players were expelled, two whom were over the age of 16 and were charged with statutory rape (escaping jail time by accepting a plea bargain), and the sophomore student was placed on administrative leave.
The age of consent in Massachusetts is 16, and the girl in question was below that age—she could not consent to a sex act, even though she reportedly freely offered it to the boys in question without any form of coercion.
In 2013, the media also exploded when a sex scandal hit Sebastian River High School regarding the sexual activity between Kaitlyn Hunt, an 18-year-old senior, and a 14-year-old freshman student. According to the arrest affidavit, Hunt performed a sex act on the younger student in a bathroom stall and performed oral sex (among other things) on the 14-year-old at a later date (off-campus), leading to her arrest.
Florida’s age of consent is also 16, and the younger student was below that age. Hunt was expelled and charged with two counts of “lewd and lascivious battery.” Hunt was offered a plea deal, but declined and will face a judge in court. The case has gone viral in support of Hunt, with Facebook groups, petitions, and appearances on national television shows, begging the judge to “Stop the hate” and “Free Kate.”
Let’s compare the two cases: both involved sex acts on school property (a locker room, and a bathroom stall), a “consenting” underage partner (who cannot legally consent to sex), statutory rape charges, and oral sex. Yet there was no outpouring of support for the members of Milton’s hockey team—or the girl.
The only difference between the two cases is that the Milton Academy scandal involved one 15-year-old girl and five 15-to-18 year-old males, and the Sebastian River High School scandal involved two female students. Apart from that, the two cases are essentially identical.
Gay rights activists have spearheaded the “Free Kate” cause as unfairly targeting Hunt due to her lesbian relationship with a 14-year-old. The “Free Kate” website describes Hunt as being guilty of “anything other than a high school romance”—does this “high school romance” claim not also apply to the members of the Milton Academy hockey team? Boys get charged with statutory rape all the time—where are their Facebook support groups and petitions? This was not the act of a rogue prosecutor: it was proper application of the law.
Additionally, despite the claims of Hunt’s parents, the 14-year-old’s parents did not wait until their daughter was 18 to press charges: the relationship began when Hunt was 18. The Hunt family has been spreading misinformation in order to make the case against Hunt look as though some sort of homophobic actions motivated it. According to the arrest affidavit, this doesn’t appear to be the case.
If Hunt’s name was Kenneth instead of Kaitlyn, this case likely wouldn’t have made a blip on the national news, and pretty much everyone would agree that an 18-year-old performing a sex act on a 14-year-old is wrong and probably illegal, as they did with the Milton case. The “Free Kate” campaign is an attempt to dismiss and condone an illegal sexual relationship involving a young teen on the grounds of a “schoolgirl romance.” This is absurd.
Statutory rape laws and ages of consent exist for a reason: to protect young people who are not emotionally mature enough to consent to sex. We cannot just toss these laws aside due to the sexuality of the participants.
Christine Rousselle | Providence College | @crousselle