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Sex and the age of consent

There is a lot of confusion about the age of consent for sexual activity. This post seeks to clear up some of the confusion, but readers with more questions may want to speak with a lawyer.

When young people of certain ages engage in sexual activity it may violate what is commonly known as Virginia's statutory rape law. This law is based on the idea that people must consent to sexual activity. If they don't consent, any sexual activity with another person is legally considered sexual assault.

Under Virginia law, a person is generally considered a minor until he or she reaches age 18. Before that age, his or her ability to legally consent to sexual activity is limited. Under state law, a child under the age of 13 cannot legally give consent to sex at all, and therefore any sexual activity may legally be considered a crime. For older minors, the law depends upon the ages of the participants.

For example, if someone aged 18 or older engages in sexual activity with a person who is between the ages of 15 and 17, it is considered to be a misdemeanor. The penalties for violating this law are a fine of $2,500 and a jail sentence of up to 12 months. For example, if a 19-year-old has sexual intercourse with a 17-year-old, even if it is otherwise consensual, this would break the law and could lead to criminal charges for the 19-year-old.

If someone 18 or older has "carnal knowledge" of a minor between the ages of 13 and 15, he or she will face felony charges carrying penalties including a fine of up to $100,000 and a prison sentence of 2- 10 years. So, if an 18-year-old has sexual intercourse with a 15-year-old, this would break the law, as a child of that age is not deemed legally capable of consent.

It is important that young people understand the commonwealth's statutory rape laws, so they can make informed decisions regarding their relationship.

Source: FindLaw, "Virginia Prohibited Consensual Sexual Activity Laws," Accessed Sept. 23, 2017

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