Monday, May 20, 2013

The Kaitlyn Hunt saga is not just about gays, it is about the sex offender registry

Over the weekend, the Internet has been abuzz last the story of Kaitlyn Hunt, an 18-year-old Florida girl arrested and charged with “felony lewd and lascivious battery on a child between 12 and 16” for having a consensual relationship with a girl three years younger than her. So far, the news media has made it a point to stress this girl’s sexuality. However, this tragic story is not about discrimination against gays, but our growing obsession with Predator Panic.

[CLICK HERE for one of the many articles on the Kaitlyn Hunt case]

Across the USA, children as young as age 9 found themselves listed on public sex offender registries. Behavior that may have been seen as nuisance behavior is now criminalized by an ever-growing industry whose sole mission is to place as many people on a public registry as possible. The sex offender registry was originally intended to be a private list for law-enforcement, with only those proven to be a high risk of re-offense listed in the event of a rare stranger abduction. Today, the registry has over 700,000 names, including thousands of kids under the age of 18 who have engaged in consensual relations with each other or sexting. 

The state of Florida does indeed have what is called a “Romeo and Juliet” provision, which allows individuals convicted of certain sex crimes, consensual sexual contact between minors and someone less than four years of age older or younger, granted the “victim” is at least 13 years old. If, by some chance, this girl is convicted, she would qualify for the Romeo and Juliet provision. However, the law is written in such a way that Kate would have to actively petition the court to be removed from the registry.

[CLICK HERE to review Florida's Romeo and Juliet Law]

We have proven that having a publicly accessible registry does nothing beneficial to society. This girl is charged with “sexual battery” for an obvious mutual sexual relationship. To use that term implies sexual violence. The registry does not differentiate between a case like this and somebody who has committed a real sexual offense. Florida is one of the worst states for the treatment of those on the registry, putting signs in yards, forcing registrants to live under bridges, and allowing a number of violent vigilante groups to exist. 

This case is only one of many across country. No doubt it is somewhat unique because of the angle, but we have kids as young as 10 years old on the public registry in Texas. Over the years, there've been a number of high profile cases, from the 12-year-olds convicted in Utah of having consensual relations with one another to Ricky's story, which brought the issue of criminalizing teen sex to national prominence.
It is sad that after all these years there are still a number of people supporting the notion of adding kids to a registry. Even sites devoted to support for Kate have been attacked by trolls demanding she except her punishment.

[CLICK HERE to see more criminalized teen sex stories]

To me, there is only one common sense solution that will prevent cases like this from occurring in the future. We must abolish the public aspect of the sex offender registry. I hope that this is the case that becomes the proverbial straw breaking the back of the camel. 

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