This Training Guide contains practical suggestions to increase the reporting of statutory rapes, to improve investigations and prosecutions of statutory rapes, to improve treatment of statutory rape victims and offenders, and to develop sound sentencing practices to guide judges in statutory rape cases. The goal of this Training Guide is twofold: to improve the response of care providers and the criminal justice system to vulnerable young victims and to hold responsible the adult offenders. To adequately address the complexities involved in statutory rape cases, this Training Guide is based firmly on a multidisciplinary, collaborative approach that involves victim advocates, law enforcement officials, prosecutors, judges, mental health providers, health workers, school officials, and other teen program professionals.
This Training Guide is based on extensive telephone interviews with prosecutors, victim advocates, police, and judges in six jurisdictions that were identified in a previous American Bar Association (ABA) study as having promising approaches to statutory rape cases. The six jurisdictions are Maricopa County, Arizona; Dade County, Florida; Marion County, Indiana; Jefferson County, Kentucky; Pontiac, Michigan; and Clark County, Nevada. The interviews focused on two points: How did professionals in these jurisdictions handle statutory rape cases? What suggestions could they offer other communities to help improve their response to victims and offenders in statutory rape cases? In addition, investigators made onsite visits to five locations: Alameda, San Diego, and Santa Clara Counties, California; Baltimore City, Maryland; and Onondaga County, New York.
The need for this Training Guide is evidenced by findings from an exploratory ABA project in which prosecutors and service providers nationwide reported the following findings: an increase in statutory rapes; the devastating impact of these crimes on teens; teens common failure to see themselves as victims; the reluctance of social service providers to report these crimes to the police; the reluctance of prosecutors to prosecute these crimes; and the reluctance of juries to convict the perpetrators of these crimes. Below is more discussion of these points.
This Training Guide is also needed because the term statutory rape has made a resurgence in the lexicon of American jurisprudence. The attention to this crime is relatively recent; historically, statutory rape victims have been underserved by the criminal justice system. The lukewarm response to allegations of sexual misconduct between adults and teenagers is often blamed on two overlapping factorthe victims believe they have consented to the sexual relationship and teenage witnesses lack credibility with jurors (members of both grand juries and trial juries). These two factors have discouraged police and prosecutors from charging adults under existing State laws that make sexual contact with 12- to 16-year-olds illegal in most States.
Ignoring a class of victims because they pose prosecutorial difficulties or challenge old notions is a disservice to young women and men who deserve the same protection from unlawful sexual conduct as young victims of sexual molestation. Indeed, statutory rape victims share characteristics associated with victims of childhood sexual molestation and domestic violence, indicating further that these young people should not be ignored, but protected. For example:
Finally, teenagers are just as deserving of protection from illegal sexual relationships as children and adults, even if they present themselves as sullen, uncooperative, sexually provocative, and difficult. After all, statutory rape is against the law.