The ongoing saga of Kaitlyn Hunt, the 18-year-old high school senior in Florida currently facing felony sex offender charges for a pre-existing relationship with her 15-year-old girlfriend, has grabbed headlines around the world.
The case has raised questions about the utility of age of consent laws, especially when applied to teenagers who are social and academic peers, despite some being legally considered adults. Others, including SheWired contributor Victoria Brownworth, allege that the international attention brought to Hunt's story exposes a double-standard around age, sexual orientation, and traditional perceptions of feminine beauty.
Hunt's family has been vocal about what they describe as a religiously motivated antigay witch hunt, noting that Hunt's former girlfriend's parents, James and Laurie Smith, waited until Hunt turned 18 to suddenly call police and have her arrested under charges of "lewd and lascivious battery on a child 12-16 years of age."
While the Smith family has remained silent, Hunt's father and mother have given numerous interviews, discussing ways their daughter was targeted before, and expressing frustration that the Smith family resorted to legal action — which, if convicted, could create a criminal record for Hunt that would permanently brand her as a sex offender — rather than simply speaking to Hunt's parents.
On Tuesday, the ACLU condemned the prosecution. Today, Hunt's attorney issued a statement adding to the ACLU's condemnation, and clarifying the family's next steps, which are due to occur before the week's end.
Noting that the State Attorney's office, the Sheriff's Department, and James and Laurie smith are prosecuting the teen under a law "intended to protect children from being preyed on by adults," attorney A. Julia Graves issued a lengthy statement. Here are the highlights:
"As the attorney for Kaitlyn, although there are different statements out in the media, we have NEVER requested that the charges be completely dropped. We have suggested since the day of her arrest that we are willing to enter a plea to a misdemeanor charge with appropriate punishment that will allow everyone to move on and not dwell on this their entire lives."
"Kaitlyn and her parents have been given until Friday to decide whether to go to trial and have the most intimate details of the relationship played out in public or to take a plea agreement that includes forever having a record even if adjudication is withheld. In addition with the sex offender conditions, Kaitlyn would be subjected to sitting in group counseling meetings with legitimate convicted sex offenders that the law was truly meant for.
"It is our position that this is a misapplication of the law that will destroy the lives of two high school teenagers, while doing nothing to serve justice. With the deadline coming up, at this time we hold out hope that common sense will prevail and the damage that already has been done will be mitigated by halting any felony prosecution.
"We are concerned for the emotional welfare of both of these teenagers under the stress of these avoidable circumstances. Unfortunately the intimate details are a public record and this is a humiliation few of us could have endured in high school. Kaitlyn is being prosecuted for engaging in behavior that is both fairly innocuous and extremely common. Such behavior occurs every day in tens of thousands of high schools across the country, yet those other students are not facing felony convictions (and, in Florida, the lifetime consequences of a felony conviction) and potential lifelong branding as sex offenders. This is a life sentence for behavior by teenagers that is all too common, whether they are male or female, gay or straight. High-school relationships may be fleeting, but felony convictions are not."