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Statutory Rape Laws Need Overhaul Nationwide

An 18-year-old high school senior served a year in jail for having sex with his 14-year-old girlfriend. The young couple lived in Michigan, where the age of consent is 16. The senior, Ken Thornsberry, was convicted of statutory rape despite the sex act(s) being consensual between the two teens.

After serving jail time for the sex offense, Thornsberry was ordered not to have contact with his former girlfriend. He was 19, got his GED and worked for the family contracting company. But, his former girlfriend began contacting him a few months after his release and the two began seeing each other again, a violation of the terms of his release. Thornsberry spent another six years in jail and now, at age 26, he must register as a sex offender for the next 25 years and wear a GPS-monitoring device.

Each state makes its own laws related to statutory rape and the age of consent. In North Carolina, having sex with a minor under age 13 is considered statutory rape if there is four or more years' difference in age of the partners. If the sexual partners are six or more years apart, the sex offense is classed as a Class B1 felony.

Had Thornsberry and his girlfriend lived in North Carolina at the time of their sexual encounters, based on the facts available, he would not have served any time in jail.

Parents across the country are trying to change sex offender laws that unfairly punish kids for being kids. Thornsberry's mother says her son was acting like a "dumb kid" not a sexual predator when he had sex with his then 14-year-old girlfriend. Her group, Michigan Citizens for Justice, is one of 50 groups pushing for change in each state.

Their mission? To stop teens who are experimenting or exploring their sexuality from being charged with and punished for the same crimes as a 50-year-old person engaging in sexual intercourse with a minor.

Source: Care2, "Sexual Predator Or Teen Indulging In Consensual Sex?,"" Judy Molland, July 12, 2012

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