By LUCY ORMONDE
So this is Kaitlyn Hunt.
Kaitlyn – or ‘Kate’ as she’s known to her friends – doesn’t look like society’s stereotype of a sex offender. She doesn’t look like a person who could be about to spend 15 years in prison for child abuse. But that’s exactly what’s happening to 18-year-old Kaitlyn right now.
Kaitlyn is what many would call “a model student.” She’s a cheerleader and a basketball player at her school in the US state of Florida. She’s also a camp counselor and cheering coach and was once voted as having the “most school spirit.”
When she was 17, Kaitlyn entered into a relationship with a girl from her basketball team. The girl was 14 when she and Kaitlyn met and stuck up a friendship. She was 15 when they started dating in September last year.
And that’s when Kaitlyn’s seemingly normal life began to shatter into pieces.
According to a Facebook post written by Kaitlyn’s mother, Kelley Hunt Smith, Kaitlyn was kicked off the basketball team when their coach found out about the relationship.
When the girls’ basketball coach found out that two of her players were dating, she kicked Kaitlyn off the team and informed her girlfriend’s parents that their daughter was in a same-sex relationship. The parents then conspired with police to entrap Kaitlyn and press charges.
According to Ms Hunt-Smith, the 15-year-old’s parents are out to destroy Kaitlyn “because they feel like she ‘made’ their daughter gay.”
On the 16th of February this year, Kaitlyn was arrested and charged with two counts of felony.
Specifically, lewd and lascivious battery on a child aged between 12 and 16.
Kaitlyn should be finishing high school this year.
She should be looking forward to her future and planning for college.
But instead she’s staring at the possibility of up to 15 years in prison.
If Kaitlyn takes a plea deal which was offered by the Assistant State Attorney she’ll face two years of house arrest at her parent’s house in Florida and be on probation for one year further.
More from Kaitlyn’s mum:
Kaitlyn’s girlfriend denies that Kaitlyn ever pressured her and is adamant that their relationship is entirely consensual, but her parents are out to destroy Kaitlyn’s life.
After two separate judges ruled that Kaitlyn could finish her senior year with her peers, her girlfriend’s parents appealed to the Indian River County School Board, who expelled Kaitlyn sent her to the alternative school.
The law is designed to protect our children, but the law does not serve its purpose when it is applied to consensual behavior between peers.
The story has made international headlines, with many people critical of the incredibly harsh penalties Kaitlyn is facing for being part of what is widely understood as a consensual relationship.
As Eve Vawter from Mommyish wrote: “This isn’t sexual abuse. This isn’t a crime. This is a case of two teen girls who embarked on a relationship together, who have a small age difference and who happen to be of the same gender.”
Kaitlyn’s parents have started a Facebook group called ‘Free Kate’ where they ask supporters to sign a petition to put an end to Kaitlyn’s nightmare. The petition – which has already amassed more than 82,000 signatures – reads:
Kaitlyn was a highly respected student at Florida’s Sebastian River High School with good grades and participation in cheerleading, basketball and chorus. She was even voted “most school spirit.”
Now she’s been expelled from school and is facing serious felonies – all because she is in love. If convicted, she could end up in jail or live under house arrest, will have to register as a sex offender, and live her life as a convicted felon.
Our family will do everything we can to stop these people from ruining our daughter’s promising life. This is unjust and unfair – and we need your help to stop it.
You can sign the petition here.
Should high school students be exempt from laws like this?