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Saturday, May 17, 2014

What You Need to Know about Dating and the Law

One of the most heartbreaking scenarios would be for you to trip on the landmine of criminal sexual behavior while navigating the dating scene. The law on teens and sex gets complicated. These cases are often guided at the state/province level, so families need to look up their local information.

That said, here's a primer on dating and the law. As a parent, I want you to know.


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What You Need to Know about Dating and the Law

By Evan Nehring

One of the most heartbreaking scenarios would be for you to trip on the landmine of criminal sexual behavior while navigating the dating scene. The law on teens and sex gets complicated. These cases are often guided at the state/province level, so families need to look up their local information.

There are many websites which give state by state details related to underage sex laws. Please find and understand the most current laws for your state or province.

God's standards are higher than legal standards. I've written much about finding all of the wonders of godly dating relationships. This post is about keeping you out of jail and off the sexual predators list.

Here's a primer on dating and the law.

Photo Credit: derekskey on Flickr Creative Commons

What crimes are we talking about?

The scary term “rape” leads many to believe that a forcible, violent situation took place. Not necessarily. Statutory rape just means that someone old enough had sex with someone not old enough. Yes, it’s a landmine waiting to be stepped on. Many states/provinces use different terms for related crimes: sexual assault, sexual abuse, unlawful sexual intercourse, carnal knowledge of a child, to name a few. In addition, states/provinces set their own laws regarding other types of sexual touching besides intercourse. I told you, landmines.

How old is old enough?


Age of Consent
This is the age at which a person can legally consent to sexual intercourse under any circumstances. According to the HHS website at time of writing, states ranged from 16 to 18 years. In other words, if you’re at least this old it’s legal to have sex.

Minimum Age of Victim
This is the age below which a person cannot consent to sexual intercourse under any circumstances. It ranges from 10 to 18 with several states not using this factor at all. In other words, if you’re this old or younger it’s never legal to have sex.

Age Differential
Many places have enacted “Romeo and Juliet” laws, for those below the age of consent but close in age to each other. If the victim is above the minimum age and below the age of consent, the age differential is the maximum difference in age to legally have sex. This ranges from 0 to 5 years, with the age of the victim sometimes changing the age differential. In other words, sometimes if you’re under age but close in age to each other, the penalty is less.

So can an 18-year-old and a 15-year-old go to high school together and have a physically active relationship without getting in legal trouble? In some places yes, in many places no.

When do I need to know the law?

What’s a good age to figure out dating legalities in your area? I’d say middle school if you hang out with high schoolers. Once you’re in high school, you really need to know. Once you’re in college, you might very well head to another state, province or even country. Find someone trustworthy and knowledgeable to ask.

You might say, “I have no intentions of having sex until I’m married.” Awesome! You still need to know. I’m not saying that if you go to college in Minnesota and they make it legal to be intimate with a high schooler, you should. But if you end up at U of M Crookston and find out that your soul mate is a senior at Crookston High, you need to know the legal boundaries for your budding romance.

As a parent, I want you to know.


Comments Are Always Welcome...

Whew, yes, it's a loaded subject! Thousands of people will read the comments below, so...what do you know about your part of the world that could save someone some grief?


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