Statutory rape is sexual intercourse committed by an adult with an individual who cannot legally consent to sex. The victim could be a minor, or a mentally challenged person. The law believes minors or the mentally challenged cannot provide informed consent to acts of sex. This incapability is taken note of in the statute – therefore the rape is called “statutory”. Generally, the age of consent is 16, 17 or 18 years. The adult is usually 18 years or older. Rape cases wherein both the parties involved are minors are also statutory rapes.
Statutory rape is unlike other forms of rape wherein force and violence is characteristic. In case of statutory rapes, the perpetrator may not resort to any form of force to make the other person submit to his/her sexual motives. This is because the mentally challenged person cannot possibly resist a rape attempt. And most minors, on the other hand, aren’t sure what a rape is like. As a result, statutory rape charges could be levied even if a minor consented to the act. During the trial, the defendant cannot plead innocence claiming he/she wasn’t aware of the rape victim’s incapacity or age.
The perpetrator’s quantum or level of punishment could depend on multiple factors. Generally, the primary factors include the victim’s age and age difference between the perpetrator and victim. For instance, in some states, sex with 12 or 14-year olds would be booked as a high level felony and punished severely. On the other hand, sexual relations with an older individual but who is still below the consent age would constitute as a lower level felony or misdemeanor.
Other factors include the offender’s prior sex offenses, usage of alcohol or drugs during the rape, pregnancy due to the rape, etc. The punishment could include mandatory jail sentences or prison, fines, probation, and compulsory treatment services.
Some states and countries may have marital exemptions to statutory rape. For example, if the parties involved in consensual sexual activity are married – even if one of them is 16 or 17 years of age – then there won’t be any statutory rape charges. But if the adult had sexual intercourse without the minor’s consent, even their marriage won’t save the perpetrator. Remember, such exemptions are rare and specific to particular states and cities.