The Kaitlyn Hunt story
This is the topic that convinced me once and for all that I needed to begin a blog, if anything to allow me to vent my frustrations—to rant, if you prefer—about topics that I am interested in. Such as items that come up in the news that bring out strong reactions in me—and those reactions can be both anger and hope at the same time.
A little over three weeks ago I found out about one such case. It all revolves around a young lady living in Sebastian, Florida, a city I had not even heard of before, but I see from Google Maps is just down the coast from Cape Canaveral. I become very interested in this case, and I have been closely following it since I first learned of it. And why? I can’t completely explain other than to say that I find the story compelling, and fraught with human rights issues.
Here is the timeline of the events, as I understand them:
-Kaitlyn (Kate) Hunt, 18 years old, began the 2012-13 school year at Sebastian River High School as a senior, looking forward to graduation in June, and a future career in nursing. Indeed she was already a medical assistant training to go to college the following fall.
-Shortly into the school year she met a younger student, a female freshman (name withheld) who was only 14. Hereafter I will refer to the younger girl as the GF. They met while playing on the varsity basketball team.
-At some point, the two became closer and they started dating—and the relationship eventually became sexual.
-The basketball coach learned of the relationship, and kicked Kaitlyn off the team. Not content with that, the coach informed the GF’s parents of the relationship.
-The GF’s parents ordered Kaitlyn to stop seeing their daughter. Like many teenagers, neither girl heeded the warning and the relationship continued.
-On one occasion, the GF ran away from home, and eventually called Kaitlyn from a park. Kaitlyn went to get her and they spent the night at her place.
-The GF’s parents chose not to take the logical step and speak with Kaitlyn’s parents. Instead, on an February evening when Kaitlyn was at home with her parents, the police suddenly knocked on the door and she was taken away to the police station where she was charged with two counts of “felony lewd and lascivious battery on a child 12-16.” She was interviewed without a lawyer present, admitting to several sexual encounters with her GF.
-Two different judges ruled that Kaitlyn could finish her education at the same school, but the GF’s parents went to the school board and successfully managed to have Kaitlyn expelled and she finished the year at an alternate school. The GF was allowed to stay in the school where they had met.
-Kaitlyn (on her lawyer’s advice) offered to plead guilty to a misdemeanor of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. The suggestion was refused. She offered to move to another state in return for dropping the charges or reducing them to a non-felony charge. The offer was refused.
-Kaitlyn’s parents, Steven R Hunt Jr. and Kelley Hunt Smith set up a facebook page. It was at this point that the story became “viral.” This page is getting more and more followers every day. The Hunts and their friends are adamant that the page is for support only, and not for making negative comments about the GF’s parents. As I write this, the page has 51, 962 members.
-A “Free Kate” online petition has been set up, which as of this writing has garnered 309,405 signatures.
-“Free Kate” rallies and other events have been organized to help raise the funds needed for her defense.
-Kaitlyn was offered a plea bargain. If accepted, she would have had two years house arrest, and be forever on the sex offender’s list. This would effectively put an end to any plans of a nursing career. On May 24th, she rejected the deal. She will appear in court on July 25 to fight for her freedom. The maximum penalty is a prison term of fifteen years.
-Florida State Senator Thad Altman (R), citing the Hunt case, announced that he will fight to have the state sex laws changed.
Those are the important events in the case thus far. I have determined that those who are following the story can be given two classifications, which I have come to name as those who support the letter of the law, and those who support the spirit of the law.
Letter of the Law – Those in this camp cannot get past the fact that Kaitlyn, at the age of 18, was having sex with a 14-year-old (the girl has since turned 15, by the way). According to Florida law, this is illegal. She does not deny the sexual encounters, therefore, according to these people, she is damned from her own mouth. As far as these people are concerned, she deserves what she gets, even if it is the full 15-year sentence.
It’s easy to find these people. Numerous web pages have been devoted to this opinion, and they go so far as to belittle Kate’s supporters relentlessly. Simply type #freeKate into the search engine on Twitter and numerous posts will come up—a few supporting Kate’s side—but most wanting her locked away as a sex offender.
These people habitually repeat a few points, over and over, which I will list further below.
Spirit of the Law – These people recognize the fact that the law in question was never intended to break up teenage romances. Its intent was rather to protect young people from older sexual predators. We hear of those people all the time.
Kate began dating a freshman girl who was attending classes with seniors, and played on the same basketball team with them, and we would assume, showered together after practises and games. In this modern age, no school can deny anymore that same-sex relationships exist, and they should not act so surprised when students who are thrown together develop such a relationship. In short, the schools, by their non-action, encourage them.
This was basically a teenage romance. To be honest, of all the teen romances among my peers when I was in high school all those years ago, I know of only one couple who are still together today in their late 40’s. Only Kate and her GF know how serious the relationship was, and I am in no position to judge it. Perhaps it was just simple teenage experimenting—that’s been known to happen at that age. Perhaps it was just a brief fling that would have petered out in another month or two (which creates the irony that the GF’s parents possibly only had to wait a short time and all their worries would be over). But quite bluntly, we don’t know. Perhaps even the girls had no idea how much longer they would be a couple. But it must be said that there is also the possibility that maybe this WAS a case of true love. It has been known to happen.
It is totally understandable that the GF’s parents would be concerned about their daughter dating an older student. In fact it would be understandable for them to be concerned about ANY person their daughter was dating, regardless of the age. But to threaten Kaitlyn’s life with up to fifteen years in prison? Sorry, that’s overkill.
Here are the main points that the Letter of the Law people repeat incessantly:
We wouldn’t be hearing about this if it were a heterosexual relationship – Okay, I’ll agree on this one, but I don’t count it as a negative point. Many boys dating a younger girl get caught up by the same law. It is nothing new. But it still comes down to the sexual predator law being enforced in a way it was not intended. A law that Senator Altman wants to change. Young people’s lives, whether homo or heterosexual are being ruined simply because they had a relationship with a younger student. Yes, Kaitlyn and her GF are the same sex. Whether for right or wrong, our society does seem to obsess over sex, and if many news sources see a story about two young ladies having sex, they are going to pounce on that story. It is probable that that very fact is what brought this case the media attention it has received. And if it took a same-sex relationship to bring this unfair law the attention it deserves then so be it.
Kaitlyn Hunt is receiving the exact same treatment she would receive if she were a boy having sex with a 14-year-old girl. – This seems to be their favorite point, since it gets repeated the most. It is also not true. In Florida, when a boy is caught having sex with a 14-year-old girl, more often than not he is released with a simple misdemeanour and allowed to live his life. Kate was offered no such choice—indeed she pleaded with her GF’s parents to allow this, but to no avail. The deal that she was offered included two years of house arrest, and to be labelled as a sex offender for life.
The GF’s parents are not homophobes. They are only concerned that an 18-year-old was having sex with their 14-year-old daughter. – Well, I’ve never met them, so I can’t say they’re homophobic, can I? However, it is known that the Hunt’s lawyer has the witness statements of some of the school’s staff. When the GF’s parents were at the school demanding that Kaitlyn be expelled, these two staff members distinctly heard the mother making comments like, “My daughter is not gay!” and “That girl is not going to turn my daughter gay!” That doesn’t sound homophobic, does it?
A 14-year-old cannot legally give consent to sex. – Yes, this is true, but let’s examine this law and age thing and little more closely:
Kaitlyn is legally an adult. Why? Because in the state of Florida (and pretty much everywhere else in the Western world), 18 is considered to be adult age. Now, is it really as straightforward as that? I’d say no. For one thing, this implies that upon turning 18, you are allowed to do everything an adult may do. Kaitlyn can vote in the next election. She can serve her country in a foreign war. And, yes, she cannot legally have sex with a minor (at least one under 16 according to Florida law). But, wait a minute, she can’t drink yet! Alcohol is legally off-limits to her until she is 21. So on that point, she is not an adult. Either she is an adult, or she isn’t. With such confusing laws, it’s no wonder teens are confused.
And let’s be serious here. What kind of logic is it that you can be 17 years and 364 days old on one day, and be able to have sex with a minor, and then 24 hours later you cannot? The age of 18 is purely arbitrary. Everyone matures at different speeds. The truth is, the age of 18 was chosen a long time ago so that young men could be drafted into war (I don’t know when exactly this law came into being, but as an American Civil War buff, I know it was in place in the 1860’s). That age later came to indicate adulthood in most other areas as well. Logically speaking, it cannot seriously be said to be a true boundary between immaturity and maturity. People who believe that an 18-year-old is automatically mature apparently believe we come equipped with a special gland. Unlike the pituitary gland, which kicks in at puberty to bring about physical maturation in our bodies, this unknown, apparently magical gland apparently kicks in the moment we turn 18 and suddenly, not gradually, make our brains function at a completely adult level! I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for this gland to be found by doctors.
No, most 18-year-olds are still young in mind and are still learning their way in the world. And they will make mistakes, just as we all make mistakes no matter old we get.
Now, let’s look at the GF’s age at the time of the relationship. She was 14. The general feeling is that at age 14 one is not yet mature enough to use sex wisely (an odd suggestion, seeing that many adults don’t use sex wisely either). This is probably true in most cases. It was probably true when the law was made. But since that law was made much has happened. Schools at that time did not have sex education as they do now. The GF would certainly, by the time she turned 14, have heard all about intercourse, safe sex, and same-sex relationships. Obviously I can’t speak for certain here—both families have gone out of their way to keep the younger girl away from the media, and rightly so. I am not a parent, but I know many kids of all ages, and to be honest, even I worry that they might be jumping into sexual relationships too soon. Many of us would like to see our young people stay young forever, but we know that isn’t possible. For some reason, right or wrong, sex is considered the marker that indicated immaturity and maturity. This is mainly because western society has become sex-obsessed. But the fact remains that even though the GF may not legally consent to sex, that does not mean that she did not consent, and I submit that the law should be amended to say that all young people who have successfully passed a sex education course should be exempt from being considered a “victim” of the statutory rape laws. Yes, I know that’s a bold statement, but if a teenager has completed such a course, surely s/he should know what s/he is getting into and should be able to consent if desired.
Besides, the Florida law as it is currently written is blatantly absurd. As stated already, Kaitlyn could not legally have sex with her GF. But though she is 18, she could, if she wanted have sex with a 50-year-old, or even older, with no penalty to the elder. AND, in less than a year, the GF will be 16. At 16, according to Florida law, she can have sex with someone as old as 23!
[Note: When I wrote that paragraph it was not quite complete. See the response below by Kella to see how even more bizarre the law is. — June 9]
And yet a relationship between two peers within the same high school carries a possible 15-year prison sentence for the elder.
Pedophile – Believe it or not, they’ve been throwing this word around. A pedophile is, of course, an adult who preys on children. Kaitlyn is in no way a pedophile. Her GF was 14 as their relationship began—not an adult to be certain—but not a child either. There is a stage between childhood and adulthood that we all go through called adolescence that appears to have little legal standing, even though it most definitely exists. The fact that the haters are throwing this word around show that they have clue as to what they are talking about.
To be sure, it is a word we hear a lot lately, mainly due to modern society’s concern about actual pedophiles—a very real problem. But let’s only use the word for those it was meant for.
A final word about the nasty turn that the various “hate” sites have taken. They have begun to attack other members of Kaitlyn’s family. This includes an entirely uncalled for insult on Kaitlyn’s 13-year-old sister. Is this called for?
A few more points I want to bring up. For one thing, why did the GF run away from her home on that one occasion? I ask rhetorically, since that is clearly not my business, but it does indicate that all was not well at her home. And note that on this occasion, it was the younger girl initiating contact with the elder. Not for sex perhaps, but it does indicate how much trust she put in Kaitlyn.
Why did the GF’s parents go directly to the police after their initial warning to Kaitlyn went unheeded? The logical step would have been to speak with Kaitlyn’s parents about the issue, and only go to the police if the girls still disobeyed. A great suggestion would have been to have all four parents, plus both girls, in a room to discuss the situation and define boundaries. But no, this step was skipped and the police were involved. It seems to me that they wanted Kate in jail—no other solution would do for them. This is further indicated by their refusal to accept Kate’s suggestion of moving out of state. But this makes no sense. Concern for their daughter having sex with an older girl is understandable. Wanting to ruin the other girl’s life is not parenting. It is vindictiveness.
I’ve gone on at some length now, so I’ll shortly bring this to a conclusion. I would like to mention a heartwarming moment that happened this past week at Kaitlyn’s old high school—the one from which she was expelled. They had their graduation night, and this including the naming of winners of various “titles” that been bestowed by votes on the graduates by their peers—things like “most likely to succeed, etc.”) In the category of “Best School Spirit” the name “Kaitlyn Hunt” was read. One of her friends reported on the “FreeKate” site that the cheers were almost deafening, and not a boo was heard! Clearly her peers still love her and it must have done her good to hear of it.
Her own graduation from her new high school occurred three days later, and many wonderful photos of the event were posted on the site.
In conclusion I’d like to say that the laws preventing peers within the same school from having sexual relations seriously need to be changed. They already differ from state to state, and in many of those states Kaitlyn would never have been charged with anything. Indeed, in my country, Canada, this would never have been an issue. The laws are antiquated and simply do not treat modern teenagers fairly. Indeed, one other thing that has come out on the FreeKate site is the mention of a number of other cases of other young people being caught in the same vice. It seems that the site is becoming a forum for discussing such cases, not just Kate’s. People are coming together and are demanding that things change. Not just for same-sex couples, but for heterosexual couples as well. The naysayers who insist that the Hunt case is only getting attention because of the homosexual aspect, as well as the fact that Kaitlyn happens to be a very beautiful young lady, are missing the point. If it takes an attractive young woman in a lesbian relationship to bring this issue to national attention, then I’m all for it.
Kaitlyn Hunt may be the catalyst to bring about this change. One person can get the ball rolling on changes to laws, even if they initially had no such intention. Those who believe otherwise have no knowledge of history. Changes can be initiated by those in high positions or by ordinary citizens just trying to find fairness in their lives. Looking at U.S. history alone we can see a president, Abraham Lincoln, pushing into law the bill that would prevent forced servitude of one human being to another. In Topeka, Kansas in 1954 Oliver L. Brown marched his young daughter into a “whites-only” school, and in set in motion the events that led to children of all colors being educated together. In 1955 Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus, and set in motion the Civil Rights Movement.
And in 2013, Kaitlyn refused to stop dating a girl three years and seven months her junior. The ball has started rolling…
For an update on Kaitlyn’s case, posted on August 28, 2013 click here.
Comments are welcome, no matter what side of the debate you are on. But I reserve the right to choose which ones will be added to the blog. In short, please keep things civil. If you disagree, I’m sure you can do so respectfully.