Age limits on statutory rape could mean more offenders, victims


Dating up may soon be the only option for high school seniors.

Rep. Stanley Cox (R-Sedalia) is sponsoring legislation to tighten the reins on Missouri’s statutory rape law. Currently, the crime of first-degree statutory rape is defined as “having sexual intercourse with another person who is less than 14 years old.”

House Bill 1382 would redefine age limits on statutory rape, requiring one party to be 18 years old or older and the other to be less than 16 years old.

(The bill also alters the pronouns used in the bill. Currently, the law can be perceived as only expecting males to commit statutory rape.)

“There’s a point at which you need to use your brain and not have sex,” said Katie Hicks, junior sociology major. “But you’re 18 years old and your boyfriend or girlfriend is 16 and you decide to have sex, that’s not rape.”

First-degree statutory rape is a felony offense that demands a punishment of anywhere from a minimum of five years in prison to life.

The primary concern surrounding the bill is “achieving a balance between protection and overkill.”

If passed in its current form, the bill could mean life in prison for a senior in high school having intercourse with a sophomore, as pointed out by Rep. Scott Lipke (R-Jackson).

“The concern is always you get someone mad at the boyfriend and maybe he goes to jail for the rest of his life,” Lipke said.

Cox said he plans to add language to address the issue of a minimal age difference that still could equal serious jail time.

“Obviously we’re trying to draw a line about the ages, but we have to be careful about the consequences of every situation,” said Brian Keedy, executive director of the Missouri Office of Prosecution services.

Second-degree statutory age limits will also change from one party being 21 or older to someone being less than 18 years old having intercourse with someone less than 17 years old, as long as there is a two-year difference in age.

“Everyone I asked in this building was horrified to find out the age of consent is 14,” said Bev Ehlen, area director for Concerned Women for American of Missouri.

In addition to changing age limits on statutory rape and adding “he or she,” HB 1382 alters age limits for first and second-degree statutory sodomy, first and second-degree child molestation, enticement of a child, sexual abuse, use of a child in a sexual performance, genital mutilation, promoting a sexual performance and raises the age of illegal performers in pornography.