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She claimed it was rape, he claimed it was consensual, and a jury acquitted him of the charges.
However, because of their age difference, the jury still found Dixon guilty of statutory rape and aggravated child molestation, and sentenced him to a mandatory 10 years in prison under Georgia law.
But do these dangers warrant laws that put young people in prison?
Romeo and Juliet Make a Comeback Statutory rape is defined by the FBI as non-forcible sexual intercourse with a person who is younger than the statutory age of consent.
Although there is no public talk of prosecution, and much of the case would depend on where and when the sexual activity took place, onlookers have questioned whether Spears’ boyfriend could be charged with statutory rape, even though the two were in a long-term, consensual relationship.
Parents, particularly those with teenage daughters, certainly have cause for concern.
It’s awesome to be home with my family and friends.” Prior to his court case and conviction, Dixon had been offered a full football scholarship at Vanderbilt University, which was revoked after his arrest.
The purpose behind most statutory rape laws is to punish grown adults who take sexual advantage of a minor.
Research shows that teenage girls tend to have their first sexual experience with male partners who are three or more years older.
In one study, researchers discovered that girls who’d had an older boyfriend by seventh grade were twice as likely to have had sex by ninth grade as girls who’d had a same-age boyfriend by seventh grade.
The laws are designed to protect young people who have less information and power than their 18-and-over counterparts.
For example, minors may be less likely than adults to understand sexually transmitted diseases, have access to contraception, and have the resources to raise a child if they become pregnant.
Whether you agree with this outcome or not, the fact remains that statutory rape is considered a serious crime, enforceable to the full extent of the law in many states – and can change the course of a teenager’s life forever.