Senate committee passes legislation to raise age of consent

02/08/2018 02:39 PM

FRANKFORT – A House bill which states that a 16 or 17 year old is incapable of consent in a sexual relationship when the other person is 28 years old or older has been unanimously passed by a Senate committee.

House Bill 101, sponsored by Rep. Jason Petrie, R-Elkton, cleared the Senate Committee on Judiciary on Thursday.

The legislation states that adults found in violation could be charged with third-degree rape which carries a one to five year prison sentence.

The bill, known as “Jenna’s Law”, is named after Jenna McNeal, a Carroll County resident who was raped by a much older man when she was 16 years of age.

“When I was 16, I was raped by a man who was much, much older than me, and it went to a jury trial and he claimed consent,” McNeal said. “He was acquitted based on his perjury that I consented because in no shape, form or fashion did I, all choice was taken from me.”

McNeal, who worked with legislators in crafting the bill, said that the age of 28 was chosen because studies show that the part of the brain that engages in rational decision-making does not fully mature until around age 25.

“Based on all of the research, brain science, speaking with neuro-scientists, me doing this research actively working on it, 28 is the cusp of what you would consider as far as brain development goes,” McNeal said.

McNeal, who is an attorney, was happy to see the legislation pass the Senate committee as well as having input in helping put together the legislation.

“Having a seat at the table is an honor and something that I would have never imagined,” MeNeal said. “I’ve been researching this topic for a long time now in under grad and law school.

Committee chair Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Hopkinsville, believes that the legislation will eventually become law and is a good piece of legislation to protect young people in the commonwealth.

He also admits that there are various opinions about the age being 28.

“Reasonable minds can differ about where that line is, and different states have drawn it in different places, but kentucky’s proposal is to draw it at 28 and I support that,” Westerfield said. “I think we’ve got a good bill, and I think it will do some good for those young children.”

The bill now moves on to the full Senate for consideration.

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