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Statutory Rape or Normal Teen Love? Psychological Investigations of Adolescent Sexuality and the Law Alison Nagel, Todd Warner, Cristina Reitz-Krueger,

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Presentation on theme: "Statutory Rape or Normal Teen Love? Psychological Investigations of Adolescent Sexuality and the Law Alison Nagel, Todd Warner, Cristina Reitz-Krueger,"— Presentation transcript:

1 Statutory Rape or Normal Teen Love? Psychological Investigations of Adolescent Sexuality and the Law Alison Nagel, Todd Warner, Cristina Reitz-Krueger, and Dick Reppucci

2 Outline Statutory Rape Laws- Why We Care – Study description and methodology Knowledge and Opinions of the Laws – What do people know and think about statutory laws? Sex Offender Registry for Statutory Crimes – Opinions of registration for teens Future directions and feedback

3 Adolescent Sexuality – Why is it relevant? The majority of adolescents have had sexual intercourse by the age of 18 – 60 – 70% (Carver, Joyner, & Udry, 2004; Grunbaum et al., 2004) Empirical and anecdotal evidence suggests that it is not uncommon for teenage girls to date slightly older boys (Leitenberg & Saltzman, 2003)

4 Statutory Rape Laws Presumably, statutory rape laws are intended to protect minors from sexual exploitation perpetrated by adults. While every state has statutory rape laws, the variation among states suggests no national consensus for the age at which adolescents can competently consent to sexual activity.

5 Statutory Laws For Example: – A 19 year old male and 15 year old female have sexual intercourse: The maximum sentence could be… Georgia = 20 years, convicted of Statutory Rape Virginia = 1 year, convicted of Causing or encouraging acts rendering children delinquent Maine = Legal

6 Statutory Rape Laws Romeo and Juliet laws: less punitive sentencing for partners within certain age gaps Despite these laws, teens and young adults can still be prosecuted, serve jail time, and be required to register as a sex offender for certain violations.

7 Statutory Rape Cases Create Stir Genarlow Wilson -17 year old student, was videotaped receiving oral sex from 15 year old female. Was sentenced to 11 years in prison for aggravated child molestation and required to register as a sex offender for life. Georgia Supreme Court eventually ruled 4-3 that Wilsons sentence constituted cruel and unusual punishment (Humphrey v. Wilson, 2007 and Wilson v. The State of Georgia, 2007).

8 Robert DiPiazza 18-year old student and almost 15-year old girlfriend, teacher saw picture of him touching her in a sexual way, reported to the authorities. Was required to register as a sex offender for 25 years. Now, is married to the victim from the case. Michigan appeals court overturned the decision and required him to be removed from the registry.

9 Youth Nex Grant Origins Oudekerk, B., Farr, R., & Reppucci, N.D., (2010). Is it love or sexual abuse? Young adults perceptions of statutory relationships (under review) – (N = 180) young adults assessments of a statutory rape case – Manipulated the age difference between partners: 2, 4, or 6 yrs – Asked about knowledge and perceptions of current laws regarding statutory rape in VA. Results – Found that participants generally disagreed that any relationship where the younger partner is 15 should be a crime- BUT as age gap increased older partners were judged more harshly. – Importantly, found that young adults were poor at accurately identifying illegal statutory relationships.

10 Youth Nex Grant Origins Patrick Tolan and the Center for Effective Youth Development…to the rescue! Setting the stage for a larger grant. Three part study: – Adolescent Focus Groups – Young Adults Survey – Parents Survey

11 Part 1: Adolescent Focus Groups Focus groups with teens and young adults – Separated by age and gender: 13-14 years old 15-17 years old 18 years and older Qualitative data on how boys and girls of varying ages conceptualize sexual decision making At what age do teens answers mirror those of adults?

12 Parts 2 and 3: An Epic Survey Young Adults Survey: Participants are between 18 – 24 years old Why? Young adults under the age of 24 are the most likely perpetrators of statutory rape crimes (Troup-Leasure & Snyder, 2005) 76% of male offenders and 55% of female offenders are 24 or younger. Parents Survey: Participants are parents of teens ages 13-17 Why? In many cases, [statutory rape laws] are enforced largely by how angry the parents of the younger party are, (Gramlich, 2007).

13 Method Participants for both online surveys recruited from Mechanical Turk (www.mturk.com) Surveys assess participants: Knowledge of the statutory rape laws in their state Opinions on what the laws should be Perceptions of fairness regarding possible penalties Sources of knowledge about laws Opinions of sex offender registry

14 Method Parents: 11 survey conditions 5 vignettes that correspond to the Young Adult conditions, representing major levels of crime in Virginia Asked to pretend they are the parent of either the older or younger partner- would they report the relationship, or try to convince their child to end the relationship? 1 condition with no vignette Young Adults: 12 survey conditions 11 vignettes varying age and age differences between older and younger partner Represent 5 of Virginias statutory rape laws - additional conditions come from varying gender and exact ages of older and younger partner 1 condition with no vignette

15 Demographics Young Adult N = 355 50 % Female M age = 21.23 SD = 1.98 Ethnicity – 77% Caucasian Education = Some college 81% Heterosexual 50% single; 36% in rx not married HH income = $30, 000- 40,000 Parents N = 305 64% Female (Mothers) M age = 41.53 SD = 7.67 Ethnicity – 78% Caucasian Education = 2 yr college deg 92% Heterosexual 67% Married; 13% Divorced/Widowed HH income = $30,000- 40,000

16 Statutory Laws What are the laws in your state? Potentially, very confusing!

17 Knowledge So what DO young adults and Parents know about statutory rape laws? 2009: Complied list of statutory laws for each state

18 Knowledge Older Partner Age and Gender Younger Partner Age and Gender Crime CommittedMaximum Punishment 16 – boy13 – girl Class 6 felony- Carnal knowledge of a child 13 or 14 when older partner is minor and 3 or more years older 5 years in jail; 1 year in jail and $2,500 fine 16 – boy14 – girl Class 4 misdemeanor- carnal knowledge of a child where the younger partner is 13 or 14 and the older partner is a minor and less than 3 years older Fine of not more than $250 18 – boy14 – girl Class 4 felony- carnal knowledge of a child 13 or 14 when older partner is more than 4 years older 10 years in jail and $100,000 fine 20 – boy16 – girl Class 1 misdemeanor- delinquency of a minor 1 year in jail and $2,500 fine 24 – boy14 – girlClass 4 felony- carnal knowledge of a child 13 or 14 when older partner is more than 4 years older 10 years in jail and $100,000 fine

19 Knowledge Dating Scenarios A ___ year old boy and his ___ year old girlfriend have sex. Both of them agreed and were willing. Neither was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time. 1) 16 yr old – 13 yr old 2) 16 yr old – 14 yr old 3) 18 yr old – 14 yr old 4) 20 yr old – 16 yr old 5) 24 yr old – 14 yr old

20 Knowledge According to the law in your state, is this relationship a crime? – Yes – No – I dont Know

21 Knowledge Dating Scenario CorrectIncorrectDK YAParYAParYAPar 1) 16 yr – 13 yr old (n=80) 27%37%40%24%33%39% 2) 16 yr – 14 yr old (n=98) 41%52%21%26%38%22% 3) 18 yr – 14 yr old (n=109) 74% 3% 23% 4) 20 yr – 16 yr old (n=92) 44%55%25%23%31%21% 5) 24 yr – 14 yr old (n=76) 79%87%0%1%21%12%

22 Knowledge Dating Scenario CorrectIncorrectDK YAParYAParYAPar 1) 16 yr – 13 yr old (n=80) 27%37%40%24%33%39% 2) 16 yr – 14 yr old (n=98) 41%52%21%26%38%22% 3) 18 yr – 14 yr old (n=109) 74% 3% 23% 4) 20 yr – 16 yr old (n=92) 44%55%25%23%31%21% 5) 24 yr – 14 yr old (n=76) 79%87%0%1%21%12%

23 Knowledge Dating Scenario CorrectIncorrectDK YAParYAParYAPar 1) 16 yr – 13 yr old (n=80) 27%37%40%24%33%39% 2) 16 yr – 14 yr old (n=98) 41%52%21%26%38%22% 3) 18 yr – 14 yr old (n=109) 74% 3% 23% 4) 20 yr – 16 yr old (n=92) 44%55%25%23%31%21% 5) 24 yr – 14 yr old (n=76) 79%87%0%1%21%12%

24 Knowledge Dating Scenario CorrectIncorrectDK YAParYAParYAPar 1) 16 yr – 13 yr old (n=80) 27%37%40%24%33%39% 2) 16 yr – 14 yr old (n=98) 41%52%21%26%38%22% 3) 18 yr – 14 yr old (n=109) 74% 3% 23% 4) 20 yr – 16 yr old (n=92) 44%55%25%23%31%21% 5) 24 yr – 14 yr old (n=76) 79%87%0%1%21%12%

25 Knowledge for groups No difference between parents and young adults knowledge accuracy. – χ 2 s >.26 No gender differences ( χ 2 s >.15 ) – Parents: Fathers v. Mothers (ns) – YA: Male v. Female (ns)

26 Conclusion Knowledge of Statutory Rape Laws: – Parents and young adults have relatively inaccurate understanding of statutory rape laws.

27 Public Opinion In your opinion, should this relationship be a crime? % Probably – Definitely Should NOT % Maybe % Probably – Definitely Should YAParYAParYAPar 1) 16 yr – 13 yr old 60%49%21%20%19%31% 2) 16 yr – 14 yr old 88%63%12%26%0%11% 3) 18 yr – 14 yr old 30%32%33%21%36%46% 4) 20 yr – 16 yr old 47%34% 32%19%34% 5) 24 yr – 14 yr old 17%14%4%21%75%65%

28 Public Opinion In your opinion, should this relationship be a crime? % Probably – Definitely Should NOT % Maybe % Probably – Definitely Should YAParYAParYAPar 1) 16 yr – 13 yr old 60%49%21%20%19%31% 2) 16 yr – 14 yr old 88%63%12%26%0%11% 3) 18 yr – 14 yr old 30%32%33%21%36%46% 4) 20 yr – 16 yr old 47%34% 32%19%34% 5) 24 yr – 14 yr old 17%14%4%21%75%65%

29 Public Opinion In your opinion, should this relationship be a crime? % Probably – Definitely Should NOT % Maybe % Probably – Definitely Should YAParYAParYAPar 1) 16 yr – 13 yr old 60%49%21%20%19%31% 2) 16 yr – 14 yr old 88%63%12%26%0%11% 3) 18 yr – 14 yr old 30%32%33%21%36%46% 4) 20 yr – 16 yr old 47%34% 32%19%34% 5) 24 yr – 14 yr old 17%14%4%21%75%65%

30 Public Opinion In your opinion, should this relationship be a crime? % Probably – Definitely Should NOT % Maybe % Probably – Definitely Should YAParYAParYAPar 1) 16 yr – 13 yr old 60%49%21%20%19%31% 2) 16 yr – 14 yr old 88%63%12%26%0%11% 3) 18 yr – 14 yr old 30%32%33%21%36%46% 4) 20 yr – 16 yr old 47%34% 32%19%34% 5) 24 yr – 14 yr old 17%14%4%21%75%65%

31 Public Opinion In your opinion, should this relationship be a crime? % Probably – Definitely Should NOT % Maybe % Probably – Definitely Should YAParYAParYAPar 1) 16 yr – 13 yr old 60%49%21%20%19%31% 2) 16 yr – 14 yr old 88%63%12%26%0%11% 3) 18 yr – 14 yr old 30%32%33%21%36%46% 4) 20 yr – 16 yr old 47%34% 32%19%34% 5) 24 yr – 14 yr old 17%14%4%21%75%65%

32 Perceptions of groups Parents more likely to think should be a crime compared to young adults (all other ns). – 20 yr – 16 yr: p =.038* – 16 yr – 14 yr: p =.004** Female young adults more likely think should be a crime (all other ns). – 20 yr – 16 yr: p =.004** Interestingly, no difference in opinions between mothers and fathers (all ns).

33 Conclusions Perceptions: – Majority of parents and young adults report relationship b/t 2 minors should NOT be a crime. – In these instances where it IS a crime, does not seem to match public opinion (for both YAs and parents).

34 Take home message Overall, young adults and parents knowledge and opinions quite similar. Specifically for knowledge, this can be quite problematic considering the legal consequences of engaging in these relationships – Spend time in jail – Possibly labeled a felon for life – Could have to register as a sex offender for life…

35 Perceptions of Sex Offender Registry in the Context of Consensual Sex Between Teens

36 What is the Sex Offender Registry? 1994 Jacob Wetterling Act; 1996 Megans Law; 2006 SORNA/Adam Walsh Act Prevention not punishment – Deter offenders and would-be offenders – Protect public by making them aware of sex offenders – Allow law enforcement to monitor known sex offenders Various means of notification Juveniles required to register in 28 states (as of 1999)

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39 The Public is in Favor 92% support the use of S.O. registries Majority think theyre effective (54 – 90%) 78% think theyre fair 80% think theyre constitutional and not in violation of 8 th or 5 th amendments 75% dont think they violate rights to privacy (37% say sex offenders have no rights) (Brannon et al., 2007; Schiavone et al., 2009; Mears et al., 2008)

40 Still in Favor? Limits where you can live and work Those on the registry report receiving threats or actual abuse against self or property Is it a developmentally appropriate response for juveniles?

41 In this particular instance, does the SOR do what it is supposed to do? Is it fair for the older partner? Does the older partner represent the type of sex offender we should really worry about? According to the law in at least one state, if a 19-year-old and a 14-year-old engage in a sexual relationship – even in situations where both partners were willing and agree to it - the older partner can be placed on a sex offender registry. This means that the older partner will appear as a sex offender on a registry accessible by anyone.

42 Efficacy Statement % Who Somewhat – Strongly Disagree Mean Response (SD) Being placed on the SOR will prevent the older partner from committing a similar crime in the future. 57.1%3.18 (1.55) The community will be safer if the older partner is on the SOR.65.4%2.78 (1.44) Placing the older partner on the SOR will help protect the younger partner.72.3%2.62 (1.42) Placing the older partner on the SOR will deter other adolescents from engaging in this kind of behavior. 46.6%3.37 (1.64) Placing the older partner on the SOR will help police keep the community safer by allowing them to monitor him/her. 47.1%3.35 ( 1.51) Overall SOR Efficacy Score (alpha =.85)-3.06 (1.17) 1 – Strongly Disagree, 2 – Disagree, 3 – Somewhat Disagree, 4 – Somewhat Agree, 5 – Agree, 6 – Strongly Agree

43 Statement % Somewhat Agree – Strongly AgreeMean (SD) Placing the older partner on the SOR could negatively affect the younger partner. 69.9%4.11(1.49) The older partner will be unfairly disadvantaged if placed on the SOR.74.3%4.38 (1.54) Compared to other people on the SOR, we do not need to be as worried about the older partner in this scenario. 71.3%4.37 (1.54) Statement% No Should the older partner be required to register as a sex offender? 61% Should the older partner be required to register for life? 90.3 % 1 – Strongly Disagree, 2 – Disagree, 3 – Somewhat Disagree, 4 – Somewhat Agree, 5 – Agree, 6 – Strongly Agree

44 What Correlates to Opinions of SOR? Parental status and gender do not. Nor does income or education For YA, neither does time spent around adolescents or having been in a relationship with someone under 18 when you were over 18

45 What Correlates with Opinions of SOR? QuestionReligiosityPolitical Affiliation Relationship 18 Overall Effectiveness of SOR.135**n.s. Fairness to older partner-.099*.147**n.s. Should we worry about older partner compared to other sex offenders? -.112**.136**.160* (YA only) Should he have to register?-.172*.082*n.s. Should have to register for life? n.s..092*n.s.

46 Discussion There isnt overwhelming support for the SOR in all cases. Its likely that people may find the SOR even less favorable when the older partner is a minor. Given the significant implications of being placed on an SOR, perhaps this isnt a one- size-fits-all solution, especially where youth are involved.

47 Future Directions In our study What factors lead parents to report statutory relationships? At what age does the public feel adolescents are old enough to consent to sex? Prevalence of statutory relationships. Where do people get their information on statutory relationships? Do parents talk to their children about the legal (& other) consequences of stat. relationships?

48 Future Directions In future studies What factors lead prosecutors to go forward with these cases? At what age are adolescents actually competent enough to consent to sex? What are effective ways to educate the public, and especially youth, about statutory rape laws? What are the real experiences of juveniles and young adults placed on the sex offender registry? What are the experiences of the victims in these cases?

49 Thank You! Youth-Nex - The U.Va. Center to Promote Effective Youth Development Other members of the Reppucci Lab: Dick Reppucci, Barbara Oudekerk, Siny Tsang, Tammi Walker, Lucy Guarnera, Kristen Jenkins, Mark Manning, Lauren George, Bella Pinchuk, Rebecca Newsham.

50 References Brannon, Y.N., Levenson, J.S., Fortney, T., & Baker, J.N. (2007). Attitudes about community notification: A comparison of sexual offenders and the non-offending public. Sex Abuse, 19, 369–379. Center for Sex Offender Management. (1999). Sex offender registration: Policy overview and comprehensive practices. Retrieved September 6, 2011, from http://www.csom.org/pubs/sexreg.pdf.http://www.csom.org/pubs/sexreg.pdf Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-63 (2011) Schiavone, S.K. & Jeglic, E.L. (2009). Public perception of sex offender social policies and the impact on sex offenders. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 53, 679 – 695. Troup-Leasure, K., & Snyder, H. N. (2005). Statutory rape known to law enforcement (Juvenile Justice Bulletin No. NCJ 208803). Washington D.C.: Office of Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention. Salerno, J.M., Najdowski, C.J., Stevenson, M.C., Wiley, T.R.A., Bottoms, B.L., Vaca Jr., R., Pimentel, P.S. (2010). Psychological mechanisms underlying support for juvenile sex offender registry laws: Prototypes, moral outrage, and perceived threat. Behavioral Sciences and the Law 28, 58–83.


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