The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is concerned about the health of adolescents, including unwanted sexual contact at a young age. For example, research finds that:
- Adolescents who are sexually active at a young age are more likely to have experienced coercive sex. Almost three-quarters of women who had intercourse before age 14, and 60 percent who did so before age 15, reported having a forced sexual experience.
- Half of children born to minors are fathered by adult men, and sexual partners of these adolescents are often 3 to 6 years older.
These findings raised concerns among policy makers, health care providers, and advocates alike and prompted a study of alternatives for reducing coercive sexual activity. Of paramount concern is protecting young people from harm and providing vulnerable young people with the health care and other supports that they need while assisting service providers in their obligation to comply with state reporting requirements. It is important to understand how HHS grantees can meet those responsibilities within the context of their organizational missions, which may involve the provision of confidential services.
The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) within HHS, and its federal partner agencies, are focusing on three federally funded programs that have contact with adolescents: Title X family planning clinics, Health Resources and Services Administration-supported health centers, and child protective services. ASPE contracted with The Lewin Group, a health and human services consulting firm, to conduct a multi-phase, descriptive study to collect information about state laws, federal guidance to programs, and grantees’ and local offices’ practices. Lewin is assisted in the study by an advisory group composed of representatives from each of the three HHS agencies on which the study is focused: The Office of Population Affairs, the Children’s Bureau, and the Health Resources and Services Administration.
One task of this project was a compilation of state laws and reporting requirements. As this document indicates, there is wide variation among laws and reporting requirements in different states. This report includes the following two sections:
- An overview of state statutory rape laws and reporting requirements.
- A summary of statutory rape and reporting laws for each state and the District of Columbia.
This report is designed to provide information useful to state and federal policymakers who are interested in how state statutes address statutory rape. It is also intended to serve as a resource for HHS grantees to better understand their legal obligations with respect to statutory rape.