Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex Assault 2 (Statutory Rape) But Were Too Afraid To Ask

Few crimes are endearing in pop culture as the form of sexual assault commonly known as statutory rape. Although murder has been the subject of far more movies and TV shows, a sexual relationship or encounter in which one of the persons is below the legal age of consent provides a twist of intrigue to the classic forbidden romance device.

I have received numerous questions and heard much misinformation about these types of crimes over the years. In my experience, it ranks with drunk driving laws as the most discussed yet least understood of crimes.

Known by various terms depending on the jurisdiction (and seldom called statutory rape), statutory rape laws usually refer to laws which make sexual intercourse between two persons a crime when one of the participants is below the legal age of consent or is a member of a class which the law presumes cannot consent to sexual activity. In popular media and literature, it is almost always an older man having sex with a younger woman–think Lolita and all of its derivatives. In real life however, it is much more.

The key to any statutory rape law is the age of consent. Age of consent is most simply defined as “the age at which a person is legally considered competent to give consent, as to sexual intercourse.” These ages depend on jurisdiction. Thus, Internet countdowns for young celebrities’ eighteenth birthdays (some of us will remember the Olson twins’ countdowns; other readers may recall Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber and Taylor Laughtner–see, it isn’t just men who have these ideas) may not be accurate. It is the ages of consent which are the subject of the most misunderstanding.

In Connecticut, which for years has used the term sexual assault to refer to the crimes that were traditionally known as rape, statutory rape is codified in Conn. Gen. Stat. Sec. 53a-71 as Sexual Assault in the Second Degree, which provides in relevant part

(a) A person is guilty of sexual assault in the second degree when such person engages in sexual intercourse with another person and: (1) Such other person is thirteen years of age or older but under sixteen years of age and the actor is more than three years older than such other person; or (2) such other person is mentally defective to the extent that such other person is unable to consent to such sexual intercourse; or (3) such other person is physically helpless; or (4) such other person is less than eighteen years old and the actor is such person’s guardian or otherwise responsible for the general supervision of such person’s welfare…

So, according to our law, the age of consent in Connecticut is sixteen in that, barring one of the prohibited relationships established later in the statute (teacher-student, therapist-patient, coach-player, etc.), a sixteen year-old can legally have sex with a person of any age greater than sixteen. That is not to say that the age of fifteen triggers the crime as the more-than-three-years-older provision allows for a fifteen-eighteen relationship. Similarly, fourteen-seventeen and thirteen-sixteen interactions are permissible. Sex with a person under the age of thirteen is unlawful no matter the actor’s age.

It is important to note that mistake as to the younger person’s age is not a defense to this crime. See State v. Blake, 63 Conn. App. 536 (2001). Additionally, it is not a defense that the sexual intercourse was consensual.

In addition to Sec. 53a-71 which establishes prohibitions on sexual intercourse, Sec. 53a-73a, Sexual Assault in the 4th Degree, applies most of the same age and other restrictions to sexual contact short of intercourse. Moreover, the crime of Risk of Injury to a Minor, Sec. 53-21, may be charged to include sexual interactions with a person under the age of sixteen.

Sexual Assault 2nd is either a class B or C felony. It is not a capital crime but still very serious.

I don’t know what the law is in the UK, but the actions in “Stray Cat Blues” by the Rolling Stones (the linked version is not the Stones) would constitute Sexual Assault 2nd in Connecticut. The Rolling Stones are clearly too old for the female character in the song, or really anyone else.

Despite the traditional notion of statutory rape being between an older male and a younger female, the law is no longer gender specific. Women can and have been charged with committing this offense.

Unlike the Rolling Stones, Winger does not have to worry about breaking the law. At least not in this state. Still, a musical act touring the country should be cognizant of all the necessary laws.

Contemplative impermissible sex is a longstanding trope in pop music. Just listen to “Touchin’ me, touchin’ you” Neil Diamond.

Keep it legal, my friends.


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