States change sex offender laws to reduce 'Romeo' convictions

Filed under: Teens, Media

So-called "Romeo and Juliet" romances, where consensual sex occurs between teenagers, sometimes leads to prosecution as a sex-offender for the older partner. In most states, a 19-year-old who has sex with a 17-year-old could be charged as a sex criminal. Even if the couple is in a dating relationship.

In a highly publicized case, Genarlow Wilson was convicted of aggravated child molestation and sentenced to ten years in prison for receiving consensual oral sex from a 15-year old girl when he was 17. His case, and others like it, have prompted lawmakers in a handful of states to enact new laws which better distinguish between true sexual predators and those who were unfortunate enough to get caught doing it with their underage partner.

As Mark Chaffin, a researcher with the National Center on the Sexual Behavior of Youth at the University of Oklahoma says, often the severity of the punishment will be determined by just how angry the younger partner's parents are. Whether or not you think teens should be having sex, surely they don't deserve to be labeled as sex-offenders for the rest of their lives because of it.

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.