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Sex Abuse. 2018 Apr;30(3):296-321. doi: 10.1177/1079063216658451. Epub 2016 Jul 15.

Romeo, Juliet, and Statutory Rape.

Author information

1
1 U.S. Department of Justice, Alexandria, VA, USA.
2
2 Miami University, Oxford, OH, USA.

Abstract

Statutory rape is an important yet understudied topic. There is broad public support for the prosecution of older adults who engage in sexual relationships with minors regardless of perceptions of consent by either party. However, some scholars worry that expansive definitions within these laws have led to the widespread involvement of the justice system in the lives of similarly aged teenagers engaging in relatively normal sexual behavior, so called "Romeo and Juliet" liaisons. This, in turn, has called into question the legitimacy of national policies, such as sex offender registration, because of the presumption that registries are likely filled with these kinds of cases which may not represent the intent of legislatures and the public. Despite the importance of these debates, there is little research assessing the prevalence of Romeo and Juliet cases in official crime statistics or that analyze differences in characteristics of statutory rape as a function of victim-offender age differences. Drawing on more than 20 years of police data from over 6,000 police departments in the United States, this study found statutory rape cases were rare and Romeo and Juliet cases were even rarer. Multivariate models showed several distinctions between statutory rape cases as a function of the age differences between victim and offender. Of note, the odds that additional forms of sexual aggression occurred in the incident grew as the age difference expanded.

KEYWORDS:

National Incident Based Reporting System; Romeo and Juliet; sex crimes; sex offender registry; statutory rape

PMID:
27423218
DOI:
10.1177/1079063216658451
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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