In Florida, statutory rape involves the illegal sexual relationship between a minor and an adult. It is unlawful for someone who is older than 18 to have sex with someone younger than 18 – though there are some exceptions.
Statutory rape is prosecuted under the state’s sexual battery and lewd and lascivious conduct laws, with the penalties depending on the age of the victim and the defendant, as well as the circumstances of the crime.
Civil litigation may be pursued separately from the criminal action and is not reliant on the prosecutor’s decision to pursue charges or whether there is ultimately a conviction. As our Fort Lauderdale sex assault attorneys at The Ansara Law Firm understand, some may downplay the victim impact of statutory rape. But the reality is these laws are in place to protect minor, who often lack the level of life experience necessary to determine if an older individual is taking advantage of them, exploiting them or emotionally abusing them.
One study published by Child Trends found 13 percent of females and 5 percent of males report their first sexual experience was at 15 or younger with an individual who was three or more years older. These relationships between young teens and older individuals represent a quarter of all sexual relationships involving girls under 18 and 1 in 10 sexual relationships with boys under 18. In most cases, the age gap was about three-to-four years. It’s likely these cases are underreported, especially by males, who might be under more pressure to have sex. The younger a person is during their first sexual encounter, the more likely they are to experience statutory rape.
Some of the risks of statutory rape are:
- Underage males who father a child may be liable for child support, regardless of whether he is of working age.
- Younger teens may not understand or misinterpret the meaning of the sexual act, what the emotional consequences might be for both parties and whether it is part of an ongoing relationship. This can lead to a profoundly negative impact on one’s self-worth, self-esteem and body issues.
- Minors who have sex are at higher risk for developing a mood disorder, such as depression.
- Underage girls, especially those under 16, may not be fully developed and thus may experience more pain.
- Those under 18 may have more trouble obtaining STD protection and birth control, putting them at higher risk.
- A teen who becomes pregnant finds it difficult to finish high school, impacting the jobs they can get and their financial independence.
Victims of statutory rape can seek damages in civil litigation from the perpetrator and possibly from third parties, though it will depend on the circumstances. Insurers generally won’t pay damages for intentional wrongdoing, which makes these cases difficult. One can collect compensation directly from the defendant’s assets, though it’s important to carefully weigh whether such action makes sense, based on the likelihood of actually receiving that compensation even if you win. Our sexual assault attorneys will usually explore whether there was a third-party that owed the victim a duty of care to offer protection or supervision and failed, opening the door for a statutory rape offense.Florida’s Age of Consent Laws
Although the age of consent is firmly fixed at 18 in Florida, there are several provisions that offer leeway when individuals are relatively close in age. These are sometimes referred to as “Romeo and Juliet” laws.
Florida’s “Romeo and Juliet Law,” F.S. 943.04354 holds there is no violation of law if the sexual conduct is consensual and the “victim” between the ages of 13 an 17 with a “perpetrator” of no more than four years older. (This measure also retroactively allowed those convicted of statutory rape prior to the law’s passage to have their name removed from mandatory sexual offender registration.)
Other measures that explain age of consent in Florida are:
- F.S. 794.05, Florida’s sexual battery law, says that sexual activity between someone who is 16 or 17 and someone who is up to 23 isn’t illegal. However, if someone 24 or older engages in sexual activity with a person who is 16 or 17, it’s a second-degree felony.
- F.S. 800.04, the provision on lewd and lascivious behavior, indicates a person over 18 commits a second-degree felony if they engage in sexual conduct with someone over 12 but younger than 16.
- F.S. 794.011 deals with sex between someone over 17 and younger than 12 or any person who refuses or is unable to give consent. Depending on the circumstances, this can be a first-degree felony, a life felony or a capital felony.
If you or your child has been the victim of statutory rape in South Florida, contact our Fort Lauderdale sex assault attorneys to learn more about how we can help you pursue civil action.
Contact The Ansara Law Firm for more information about pursuing a civil claim for damages after statutory rape, sexual assault, abuse or molestation. Call us at (954) 761-3641 for a free case review.