Statutory Rape: A Guide to State Laws and Reporting Requirements. Inclusion of Statutory Rape in Reporting Requirements

12/15/2004

State statutes vary in the extent to which statutory rape is included in the reporting requirements. In approximately one-third of the states, mandated reporting is limited to those situations where the abuse was perpetrated or allowed by a person responsible for the care of the child.26 Consider the example of Virginia. Child abuse, a reportable offense, is defined to include any sexual act that is in violation of the state’s criminal law, but it is limited to those acts perpetrated by the victim’s parent or other person responsible for the child’s care.

In two-thirds of the states, the statutes specify circumstances under which child abuse is a reportable offense irrespective of the defendant’s relationship to the victim. In some states, the definition of child abuse includes all of the statutory rape offenses detailed in the criminal code (e.g., North Dakota, Ohio, and Wyoming). In such cases, mandated reporters are required to notify the proper authorities if they suspect that a child has been a victim of any of these offenses. More often, states vary in terms of the applicability of the reporting requirements. The following examples illustrate the variation among these states.

In some states, there are only a few specific circumstances under which offenses not involving a person responsible for a child are considered reportable offenses. In Minnesota, for example, such a case is only a reportable offense if the reporter suspects that a defendant has sexually abused two or more children not related to the defendant in the past 10 years. Rhode Island law only requires reports of non-familial cases in two situations: (1) if the defendant is less than 18 years of age; or (2) if the mandated reporter is a physician or nurse practitioner who treats a child who is less than 12 years of age and has been infected with a sexually transmitted disease. In Iowa, the reporting requirements only pertain to cases involving someone responsible for the care of the child in question. However, a separate provision requires mandated reporters to notify the proper authorities of all cases of sexual abuse involving a victim under 12 years of age regardless of the defendant’s relationship to the victim.

In other states there are fewer limits on the applicability of reporting requirements to statutory rape. Often, such limitations are based on the age of the victim and/or the defendant. For example, in California all sexual activity involving minors is illegal. However, the reporting requirements only apply to the violations of certain criminal offenses—namely, those addressing situations involving victims under 16 years of age where there is an especially large difference in the age of the two parties.27

In those states where the definition of child abuse does not explicitly refer to statutory rape, discrepancies between the legality of certain sexual activities and whether they are reportable offenses are more common. Take the following examples:

  • Georgia.  The reporting requirements in Georgia are less strict than the state’s statutory rape laws. Even though all sexual activities involving someone who is less 16 years of age are illegal (per the criminal code), such acts only constitute a reportable offense if the defendant is more than five years older than the victim.
  • Utah.  In contrast, Utah’s reporting requirements define as reportable offenses some activities that are legal according to the state’s criminal code. For example, sexual conduct with someone who is at least 16 years of age and less than 18 years of age is only illegal if the defendant is 10 or more years older than the victim. However, sexual abuse, a reportable offense, is defined to include all acts of sexual intercourse, molestation, or sodomy directed towards someone under 18 years of age regardless of the age of the defendant.
  • Connecticut. Due to some confusion on the part of providers in the state, the Attorney General’s office issued an opinion addressing this issue. Specifically, the Commissioner of the Department of Children and Families sought clarification with respect to the reporting laws as they relate to cases involving defendants under 21 years of age who engage in sexual activities with teenagers under the age of consent. The Attorney General concluded that, although such relationships are illegal if the defendant is more than 2 years older than the victim, mandated reporters are not required to make a report if no other evidence of abuse exists. In justifying the opinion, the Attorney General cited the statute related to the treatment of minors for sexually transmitted diseases, which only requires providers to report cases where the minor seeking treatment is less than 13 years of age.28

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