Mother lobbies to change age of consent in Georgia

Mother lobbies to change age of consent in Georgia

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - When is a teen mature enough to say yes to sex? It's an uncomfortable question for parents.

In Georgia, a 16 year old can have sex with an 18 year old, a 25 year old, or even a 50 year old. As long as the adult isn't a teacher, coach or in a position of official power, it isn't a crime.

"He started picking her up from the school bus stop," said Josette Smith.

In many ways, Smith's 16-year-old daughter is still a little girl. Her bedroom walls are decorated with cartoon strips and the Lord's Prayer.

She has stuffed bunnies on her dresser, a purple plastic crown and baby lotion.

Boys hadn't paid much attention to Smith's daughter, until one man, a 25 year old, nine years her senior, took her home and the two had sex.

"He's a natural born loser," said Smith.

Smith said the man sent her daughter poems and told her he loved her and would marry her in a year.

The girl was hurt and embarrassed when her mother discovered the relationship and the teen found out the man's promises were false.

Smith tried to report it to police. She was shocked when she found out.

"The statute lats it out very clearly," said Savannah Law Professor Elizabeth Migale. "The age of 16 is the age of consent in Georgia."

As it turns out, the age was increased in 1995.

"The age of consent in Georgia used to be 14," said Migale. "In fact, years ago, you could get married at 14."

Migale said nationwide a 16 or 17 year old age of consent is pretty typical. Lawmakers justify the reasoning by saying "we let them drive at 16, we let them start making decisions for themselves."

Smith said that's just not fair. She said the playing field is unequal between a 25 year old and a 16 year old.

"If we get a strong enough lobby, that that age of consent could be raised," said Migale. "But it is something that would have to be decided by the legislature."

Smith is lobbying for a change. She's written her lawmakers, but Georgia's 2014 legislative session is over.

In the meantime, she continues to encourage her daughter.

"I tell her, I said 'hold your head up. Hold your head up. We're going to get through this. Hold your head up.'"

Even though it is legal for a 16 year old to have sex with an adult in Georgia, under Georgia's child pornography laws, it is illegal for that adult to send an explicit text or photo to anyone under 18 or to leave an explicit voicemail.

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