Belmont Police Department
460 Concord Avenue, Belmont, MA 02478
ph: (617) 993-2500
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS ON "STATUTORY RAPE"
What is "statutory rape?"
"Statutory rape" is a common name for a criminal law known in Massachusetts as "Rape and abuse of a child." This law makes it a crime for a person to have "sexual intercourse" or "unnatural sexual intercourse" with a person who has not reached his or her 16th birthday. Those who commit this crime may be punished by a life sentence in state prison.


What if the person under 16 wants to have sex?
Under the law, a person under the age of 16 may not consent to having "sexual intercourse" or "unnatural sexual intercourse." Therefore anyone who has sex with a person under 16 does so without that person's consent. It is rape. Even if a person under 16 says "yes", having sex with a person under 16 is a crime.

The law is intended to protect persons under the age of 16 from having to make a decision that requires a high level of physical, mental, and emotional maturity.

What if I am under 16 and want to have sex?
This law does not punish a person under 16 for having sex, so you would not be charged with a crime if you had sex. However, your partner would be committing a serious crime.

What if I don't know that the person I had sex with was under 16?
What you know about the age of the person does not matter. He or she could appear older and you could be "fooled," but the law is very strict. If the victim's age is under 16, you have committed this crime.

Do I have to ask for identification?
You should certainly know any person you choose to have sex with very well. (Following this rule in life will keep you out of many difficulties, not just trouble with the law.)

What exactly is "sexual intercourse" and "unnatural sexual intercourse?"
Together they are any penetration of the vagina or anus by a penis, tongue, finger, or any other object, or the penetration of the mouth by a sexual organ. It does not matter whether the person under 16 is giving or receiving any form of sexual contact mentioned above, nor does it matter whether the person under 16 is male or female.

My girlfriend is under 16. Is it a crime for her to perform oral sex on me?
Yes.

My boyfriend is under 16. Is it a crime for him to perform oral sex on me?
Yes.

What if both people having sex are under 16?
The law makes it a crime for a person to have sex with another person who is under 16. Apparently both persons would be committing this crime.

Do the Belmont Police actually charge people with this crime?
The Belmont Police (and other police departments) have charged people with "statutory rape." The department and the district attorney's office will investigate this crime when it comes to the attention of police officers. After an investigation is completed, the district attorney makes a decision about whether or not to file criminal charges.

What if the victim does not want his or her partner charged with this crime?
Cooperation by the victim is usually necessary for a successful prosecution. It should be noted that if a person were to threaten a victim to stop the victim from talking to the police, this would be a serious crime.

Is this law the same in every state?
No. Though most states make it a crime to have sex with a person under a certain age, each state may have a different law on how old a person must be to consent to sex.

I have been raped. What should I do?

If the crime has just happened, call 911. If you are not sure you want the police involved, go to the hospital on your own for medical treatment. Do not bathe or wash until after you have been to the hospital, as this may destroy evidence of the crime. (While treating you, the hospital will collect this evidence in case you wish later to report the crime to the police, but the medical personnel will not tell the police who you are unless you ask them to.) Do not launder the clothes you were wearing or any bedding that was present during the crime. If the crime happened some time ago, contact the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center's 24 hour hotline at 617-492-RAPE to talk with a counselor about what happened. The counselor can help you decide what you want to do.

On the web at: www.barcc.org

If you want to report the crime to the police, call 617-484-1212 and ask to speak to a sexual assault investigator. If one is not on duty, you may ask to make an appointment to speak to one. The investigator can take the report if the crime happened in Belmont, or will help you find out what police department is responsible for conducting the investigation.

Feedback

E-mail questions or comments to: 4teens@belmontpd.org. A police officer will answer questions privately by e-mail. If you have a comment you would like us to post on this site, please write "Comment" in the subject line. Comments may be edited for publication on this site.

Recent Anonymous Email Question:
can only the victom complain of statutory rape? my boyfriend is 19 and i am 15 but his dad and him got in such a big arguement that HIS dad threatened to have him arrested for statutory rape. we havent had sex but i would like to know if his dad needs evidence or not because i dont think i or my parents need evidence if we were to accuse him of statutory rape. his dad hasnt liked the idea of him dating a younger girl from the beginning, and i think hes going a bit overboard

Belmont Police Response:
I applaud you for not having sex. Pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases and legal consequences are some good reasons to wait.

Anyone can bring to the attention of the police that they suspect a crime (Statutory Rape) has occurred. The police would conduct an investigation. In this case it would mainly consist of statements from both parties about what they have or have not done together.

His father could go to the police and report that he suspects a statutory rape has occurred but the police would need more evidence to pursue the matter.

Keep in mind, in Massachusetts the age of consent to have sex is sixteen. Anyone under the age of sixteen is not legally allowed to engage in sex.


Recent Anonymous Email Question:
If I am 17, and my partner is 16, would that be a crime? Or if I am 18 and my partner is 16, is that legal too?

Belmont Police Response:
In Massachusetts the age at which a person may consent to sexual intercourse is 16. The age of the other party is not a factor.

Different states have different laws, so you must remember that I am giving you only the law that applies in Massachusetts.

Please also keep in mind that just because something is legal does not necessarily mean it is a good idea.


Recent Anonymous Email Question About Statutory Rape:
I just recently started dating my girlfriend about a 4 months ago. A couple weeks ago she told me about the first kid she had a sexual relationship with. at the time she was 15 years old (about two years ago), the kid was 19 years old. the kid happened to be her best friends older brother. the story i was told was that he asked her to take a ride with her. she got in and eventually they stopped somewhere. he had made a move on her and they proceeded to hook up. after a few minutes he asked her to have sex with her. she immediately replied with "no". again he asked her to have sex. again the reply was no. repetively a third time again, the answer was no. after the third time came an i dunno. which was repeated a fifth and sixth time. until it became an i guess so. they proceeded to have sex. I have been through student police academies with my local police department, state police department, and have taken a criminal justice class. I am under the understanding that this is a general rape. Regardless this is a statutory rape but wasnt sure if this is regular rape. besides the fact, she is exhibiting a rape victims post effects. i am just looking for help or a place to start in order to aid her. I understand that this will most likely not stand a chance in court being about 2 years old, but there has to be something that can be done. Please help

Belmont Police Response:
The first thing to do to help your girlfriend is to make sure that you are offering her your help, not telling her what to do. She needs to be supported in figuring out the proper course of action she must choose to cope with what has happened to her.

Whether what happened to her was rape or not is not as important as how it is affecting her now. Your e-mail suggests that she is suffering from the experience. You may suggest to her that she contact a rape crisis center to discuss what happened with a counselor. If your girlfriend is not ready to call what happened to her rape she may resist calling a rape crisis center, so you may recommend that she seek some sort of counseling to help her deal with the difficulties in her life now. If the incident two years ago is responsible for how your girlfriend feels now a counselor may help her realize this.

If your girlfriend does wish to speak to a counselor at a rape crisis center, you can seek one on the internet or the yellow pages or by calling a local hospital. If she lives in the Boston, Massachusetts area, she could contact the Boston area Rape Crisis Center (on the web at: www.barcc.org). In fact, she might be able to contact that organization for a referral to a center closer to where she lives. The BARCC website provides some advice for rape survivors and their family and friends starting at: http://www.barcc.org/survivingrape.html. I recommend that you go to that website to learn things that could benefit her and you.

I am not in a position to judge whether your girlfriend was the victim of a rape. (Keep in mind that your probably are not either.) If she chooses to report the incident to the police an investigation would be conducted into what had happened and whether it could be prosecuted as rape (whether "forcible" or "statutory"). It is true that some incidents of rape (or robbery or burglary or drunk driving) are easier to prosecute than others. Whether to file a criminal charge would be the decision the prosecuting attorney would make based on the police investigation and the attorney's professional judgment of the likelihood of getting a conviction. Again, a counselor at a crisis center could help your girlfriend get a grasp of what she could expect, and what would be expected of her, if she reported the crime.

The support of people like you in your girlfriend's life will be important to her surviving her experience.


Recent Anonymous Email Question About Statutory Rape:
I live in Washington state. The rape age is 16/18. I have a friend who is 15 years old. One of her best friends is 18. They are not sexually involved at all. So is it still illegal for them to hang out?

What if your are 15 and your boyfriend is 18. And your parents do not want you to go out. And your parents want to send him to jail for rape...but you disapree. would you (the 15 year old) have any say in it?

Belmont Police Response:
I don't know anything about Washington state law, but I don't know of anything in Massachusetts law that would forbid a 15 year old from hanging out with an 18 year old as long as they don't have sex.

In your other question, the 15-year-old's parents may object to her dating an 18-year-old, but they can't "send him to jail for rape." The parents might make a report to the police if they have some reason to believe the 18-year-old has committed a crime. The police might investigate and determine whether there is cause to believe that a crime has been committed. Part of that investigation would be interviewing the 15-year-old if she might have been the victim of a sexual assault. If there is enough evidence (called "probable cause" usually) the police might start a criminal case against the 18-year-old.

In some states the police will or must consult with the prosecutor (called a district or county or states attorney in some states) about the case before charging someone. Sometimes this talk is not just about whether there is enough evidence to start the case, but may include a talk about whether the victim will cooperate and whether a conviction can be won.

That case would have to go to a court. To be convicted of a crime, the 18-year-old would have to plead guilty to the charge or be found guilty during a trial in court. At the trial the prosecutor would have to present evidence. Part of that evidence would usually be the testimony of the 15-year-old victim. In fact, the victim's testimony would usually be required in order for the case to be proved, though police might have gathered other evidence that could allow a guilty finding. Such evidence might include a person who saw the incident or someone the 18-year-old admitted the crime to, or, if there were a pregnancy, evidence that a child had DNA from both the 15-year-old and the 18-year-old.

The 15-year-old doesn't have much of a say either because it is the state, not the 15-year-old, prosecuting the crime. The prosecutor usually can force a victim to come to court and testify, but prosecutors often will choose not to force a victim to testify unwillingly because it is thought of as too harmful to a victim to make him or her testify about rape if he or she does not want to.

It is natural for parents to want to protect their children from the possible consequences of teen sexuality such as pregnancy, disease, distraction from school, emotional stress, dating violence. It is also natural for parents to see flaws in a boyfriend -- flaws a girlfriend might not see because the she is too wrapped up in being with the boyfriend. But most parents have experienced infatuation and love and sex before and have seen a lot more of the world than their children. A child should give very serious thought to a parent's objection to a boyfriend or girlfriend.

You have asked a good question. If you will give me permission I would like to post the question (without your e-mail address, of course) and my answer on our website.


Please note any correspondence is completely confidential, and is not posted without permission from the author.