Monday, 27 May 2013

The Kaitlyn (Kate) Hunt Case: Sex, teenagers, homophobia, selective persecution, and the case for parenting done with love.

Photo of Kate Hunt taken from the Free Kate Facebook group

If you haven't heard about the Kaitlyn (Kate) Hunt case yet then you have probably been living under a rock for the last few weeks. Or whatever the digital-age equivalent of a rock is. Living without wifi? Anyway, if you haven't heard about this case then you should probably read on. And if you have heard it about you still probably have questions.

I'd like to start by summarizing the "facts" of the case. Of course, we all know that facts are subjective so this is just my own culling of internet information. If you find something here that you think is incorrect please let me know and I will look into it further.

"Facts" of the case
- Sometime in late 2012 or early 2013 Kate Hunt and an unnamed female classmate became friends and subsequently started dating
- Both girls were students at Sebastian High School in Indian River Florida
- Kate was a senior and the other girl was a freshman
- Their relationship began when the younger girl was 14 or 15 and Kate was 17 or 18 (internet sources conflict on this point so I won't speculate. To me, this is irrelevant. It may or may not be to you). 
- Currently, Kate is 18 and the younger girl is 15
- Had the incident that Kate is being charged with occurred 108 days earlier no law would have been broken
- They are three years and seven months apart in age
- The girls shared friends, a social circle, and played on the same varsity basketball team 
- Both girls agree that the relationship was consensual 
- The parents of the other girl, The Smiths, found out about the relationship from the girls' basketball coach who kicked Kate off of the team when she found out about the girls' relationship 
- The parents of the younger girl brought this case to the police
- The Hunts claim that they did so because they blamed Kate for "making" their daughter gay
- Two teachers have agreed to testify that they overheard Mrs. Smith say that there was no way her daughter would be gay
- Prior to her arrest Kate was a well adjusted teenager, a cheerleader, and had plans to enter the nursing field
- Kate was arrested on February 16th, 2013 and questioned without a lawyer present. Her father was an ex-police officer so she was raised to trust law enforcement
- Kate was charged with two counts of felony lewd and lascivious battery on a child ages 12-16
- Kate was offered a plea deal that would have required her to plead no contest to child abuse in exchange for two years house arrest, one year probation, and would have her labelled a sex offender (although she may have been able to get her name off of the sex offender list if a judge agreed).
- Being convicted of a felony would have put an end to her dreams of becoming a nurse
- The prosecution refused and Kate rejected the plea agreement
- She now faces up to 15 years in prison if found guilty

I have not been able to get this case out of my head. Teenagers having sex with teenagers. And then facing jail time. And the more I researched the more I found similar stories. Boys and girls, both gay and straight, facing ruined lives and years of prison time because they had a relationship with someone that most rational folks would consider a peer. Someone who played on the same sports team, someone they ate lunch with in the cafeteria, shared classes with and studied for exams with, someone at the same parties and in their same social circle. Teenagers doing the same things that most of us did in high school. Teenagers who, in the United States, are not considered old enough to be trusted with alcohol, may spend their young adult years incarcerated as a result of consensual sex. 

Clearly, the number of people who have signed the #FreeKate petition and joined the various social media support systems indicates that many people agree that this is a ludicrous situation. However, what has baffled, saddened, and scared me are the number of people and groups on the internet out for blood. People bashing Kate for being gay and others calling her pedophile. People rooting to see her thrown behind bars and her life ruined. 

And so I wondered what I could add to any of this discourse. I could talk about how this both is and isn't a gay rights issue. But there's a lot of that online already if you are curious. I could tell you about my high school boyfriend and how if this was the law in Canada he could have faced similar charges. I could tell you that although young I was certainly able to consent. And I could tell you about how he was a wonderful guy who grew into a great man with a wife, children and successful career. But my mother reads this blog. 

I would like to express my anger at the parents of the other girl and speculate on how damaging this case must be on their daughter but the Hunts have specifically asked their supporters not to speak negatively of the other family so I'll refrain. Instead, I'd like to dedicate this post to Steven Hunt and Kelley Hunt Smith as well as all of the parents in this world who love, accept, and support their children regardless of sexual identity. Kate Hunt is facing some very serious charges with equally serious punishments. But her parents have stood-by her. They have defended her. They have supported her. They have put their lives and faces and home addresses into the media and faced online persecution of their own. They have given up much of their privacy. And through it all they have supported their kid. This might not seem revolutionary to you. Isn't that what parents are supposed to do after all? But lets imagine for a moment how much worse this ordeal would be for Kate if she had these parents or *shudder* these ones?

I've written before about what it means to be a LGBTQ-supportive parent.  Regardless of sexuality our children need us to love and support them. They need to know that they are free to be themselves without repercussions. They need to know that our love isn't based a set of conditions or rules. They need to know that we will be proud of them during the good times and the bad. And in their vocal and unyielding support of their daughter, that is what Steven Hunt and Kelley Hunt Smith are doing. 

Oprah Winfrey once said that "Everyone wants to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down." This is true for friendship, certainly, but it is also true for parents. Kate Hunt's parents were happily along for the limo ride when their daughter was a high school student playing on the basketball team, cheerleading, and getting good grades. Unfortunately, right now she is riding the bus. But that is when she needs them the most. And I am so grateful that they are right there with her, filling that bus with all the love and support in the world. 

Want to help the #FreeKate cause?

- Find out how the Age of Consent laws work in your state or country and contact your legislators if they seem unjust. 

- Talk to the teens in your life about Age of Consent laws and make sure they understand the laws of their area

- Share Kate's story 

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