Is it love or sexual abuse? young adults' perceptions of statutory rape

Barbara A. Oudekerk, Rachel H. Farr, N. Dickon Reppucci

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Adults under age 25 comprise the majority of statutory rape perpetrators, yet we know little about their perceptions of statutory relationships. We assessed 210 (50% male) young adults perceptions of statutory rape involving a 15-year-old female adolescent and a male who was either 2, 4, or 6 years older. Across all age gaps, 73.7% of participants felt the relationship should not be a crime. Participants who read about a 4- or 6-year (versus 2-year) age gap perceived the relationship as significantly more of a crime and the older partner as more responsible and in need of legal intervention. Effects were partially mediated by perceptions of the relationship as exploitive. Results suggest a need to educate young adults about statutory rape.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)858-877
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Child Sexual Abuse
Issue number7
StatePublished - Oct 1 2013


  • partner age gap
  • sexual exploitation
  • underage sex

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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