I played a big part in creating a media storm over the weekend. Perhaps you’ve heard about it. Does the name Kaitlyn Hunt ring any bells?
If not, Google her or just turn on the TV. Her story was on “Good Morning America” AND “Today” this morning.
A friend sent me a link to a Facebook post from Kaitlyn’s mother Friday evening. It was the cry of a fierce mamma bear who clearly felt there was no other choice, but to put her daughter’s humiliating story out there and ask the universe for help.
Kaitlyn, a.ka. Kate, was arrested in February. She was taken from her family’s house in handcuffs, crying hysterically and police wouldn’t tell her or her parents what was going on. She was 18 and a high school senior.
Finally, they learned that her girlfriend’s parents pressed charges against her. She was charged with two counts of lewd and lascivious behavior on a child.
Kate met the girl on the varsity basketball team. They shared classes and hung out in the same social circle.
The girl was a freshman.
And Kate was a legal adult.
Her attorney, Julia Graves, has been working diligently to get the charges reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor, but the state attorney’s office isn’t budging.
They issued Kaitlyn a deadline on a plea deal. If she accepts the deal, they will drop the charges to felony child abuse and she’ll serve two years house arrest, plus a year probation. Oh, and she’ll still probably have to register as a sex offender. The deadline to either accept the deal or agree to take her chances at trial is tomorrow.
So her family decided to take the story public last Friday. The Facebook group “Free Kate” was created. It had just a small handful of members when I found it. After reading the post from Kaitlyn’s mom I contacted her to ask permission to write an article. She agreed. It went live about 11 p.m. Friday night.
It got over 100,000 views on Saturday alone. Huffington Post and MSN wrote about Kaitlyn, using ME as the source. The article was shared by Kelly Osbourne and Anne Rice. Evan Rachel Wood has been tweeting up a storm about Kate.
I’ve been following the case closely and have written 23 articles about Kate Hunt so far – and counting. The “Free Kate” Facebook page now has nearly 45,000 members. Over 155,000 people have signed the petition to the state attorney’s office asking that the charges be reconsidered. Over $15K has been donated to help the Hunt family with legal costs. And the family has distributed thousands of “Free Kate” bracelets to supporters.
All of this in less than a week.
The case has gotten International attention.
And I have received some nasty, hateful emails, Tweets and Facebook comments just for writing about it. People have said I’m what’s wrong with the world and need to be locked up right beside Kaitlyn for supporting a lesbian. I was even called pro-pedophilia.
People, I’m just reporting on a story here!
I haven’t even given my opinion because Examiner.com doesn’t accept articles with first person accounts or commentary as news.
However, SOOOOO many more people have thanked me for writing about Kaitlyn Hunt, including her family and Kate herself. I’ve heard so many stories of people who have been in similar situations and how it forever altered their worlds. This has gotten so much bigger than the Hunt family and the little town of Sebastian, Fla.
Kate is now a champion for awareness and change.
So what is my opinion?
Kaitlyn and her girlfriend were both in high school. High school students date each other – regardless of what grade they’re in. It isn’t uncommon for senior boys to date sophomore and freshman girls. Girls date younger guys, too. I know of several girls, myself included, who went to our senior prom with 10th grade guys.
These girls were teammates, classmates and friends. They were together all day at school and at after school activities. They developed feelings for each other and acted on it. That’s what teenagers do.
Could Kaitlyn have made better decisions? OF COURSE! Should she have thought, “I’m 18. I need to be really careful who I go out with so I don’t get arrested?” Sure, but what high school kid really thinks like that? I’m sure dating another student just felt normal and natural. She wasn’t preying on younger students. If there were others, they would have come forward by now.
I don’t think a law that protects our children from predators should be tossed, but I Kaitlyn Hunt isn’t a predator. She was a high school student involved in a relationship with a consenting classmate. The powers-that-be are in the position to review these types of cases and determine if it was true predatory behavior or a case of high schoolers mutually making bad decisions. Immature and dumb, but not criminal.
A teenager should not be labeled “sex offender” and carry around a felony for the rest of their life because they had that magical 18th birthday and the person they are in a relationship with didn’t get there yet.
So, yeah, I’m on team “Free Kate.” I don’t think she’s being treated fairly – charges are frequently dropped completely or reduced to a misdemeanor in similar situations. I’m happy I can help spread the word about her case.
Why have I taken such an interest in the Kate Hunt story?
Well, first off, this is happening in my hometown. I was actually part of the first graduating classes of Kaitlyn’s high school (which she was expelled from, by the way – after a judge declared on two separate occasions that she could continue going to school). I know firsthand that younger students are enrolled in classes with seniors because of the school’s highly respected International Bachelorette program for advanced students.
I’m a mother and I recognized true mother bear fierceness when I read Kaitlyn’s mom’s original Facebook post. I see myself in Kate’s parents. Their daughter is hurting, ashamed and terrified. The future is unknown and there’s nothing they can do to change it or protect her from it.
I know that feeling, though my perspective is from the opposite end. Instead of worrying about my daughter’s future, I watch her relive trauma from her past every single day. My husband and I adopted her when she was 9-years-old. She had nine years of abuse, neglect and abandonment before us.
I know about feeling helpless and intense sadness when your child wakes up in screaming, shaking and covered in sweat because they are terrified of a real life nightmare they are dealing with and knowing there is nothing you can do to change it.
Kaitlyn’s parent believe the other girl’s parents went to the police because they were angry their daughter was in a same-sex relationship. They didn’t reach out to Kate or her parents to express their displeasure. They shattered her world by going to the police first.
I work hard to teach my daughter that it’s okay to be gay and that we all deserve equal rights. She’s in middle school where “that’s so gay” is slang for “that’s lame.” I’ve never heard her say that. I’m proud that I’m in a position in which I can stand up for Kate to show my sweet girl that I really practice what I preach. My daughter has been rocking “Stop the hate, free Kate” bracelets at school all week.
Here are some of the questions and complaints that people have been throwing my way:
The information is all one sided! How is that fair to the other family?
I’m all for fair journalism, but I can only work with the information available. The other girl’s parents have not talked to the press. I’d love to speak to them and get their side out. I’m a firm believer that there’s at least two sides to every story. I’ve only heard Kaitlyn’s side of the story and so that’s all I can write about.
What if it was a boy? 18-year-old boys are charged all the time and there’s no outcry for them.
Well, there should be! Hopefully, this case will bring awareness to all teens in this situation – regardless of gender or sexual orientation. There has to be a landmark case for every situation before the others get noticed. Kaitlyn Hunt has raised public awareness on this issue. That’s a good thing.
Why should she get special treatment because she’s gay?
She shouldn’t and she hasn’t.
Homosexuality is wrong, m’kay?
This isn’t a morality issue. It’s a legal issue. These are two teenage girls experimenting with their sexuality. Kate had dated boys before she fell for her basketball teammate. Maybe they’ll continue dating girls, maybe they won’t. It’s no one else’s business – including their parents.
What if your daughter was a lesbian?
I’ll let my husband answer this. “I’d prefer it! No teenage pregnancy to worry about or teenage boys to chase away? Awesome!”
Why would a senior date a freshman?
Because they are around each other all day long. They are put together as peers. It’s natural for attractions and feelings to develop amongst peers.
What if an 18-year-old had sex with your 14-year-old daughter?
Honestly, I would be furious. I would hate it. My baby is 12 – only two years younger than the freshman in this case. I wouldn’t want her dating a senior. But I wouldn’t immediately involvedthe police. I’d talk to my daughter first. I’d go to the older student’s parents. I’d talk to the older student directly. If my daughter was respected and comfortable, I’d eventually adapt – or try to anyway. I wouldn’t ruin the other kid’s whole life, wrecking my relationship with my own child in the process.
But! They shouldn’t be having sex anyway!
Teens have sex. Your peers were probably doing it when you were in high school – you likely even fooled around yourself. It happens. Putting our heads in the sand about it accomplishes nothing. Education and open communication is crucial in preventing a whole host of problems that can come along with teen sex – including STDs, pregnancy, broken hearts, ruined reputations, being taken advantage of and even facing criminal charges.
Besides, my friend Amy says, “Someone needs a serious refresher course on the ‘Four Bases of Sexual Activity’ if they’re calling what both girls admitted to ‘sex.’”
My daughter and I attended a press conference held by Kaitlyn Hunt, her family and her attorney last night. I’ve met Kate and her mother in person twice now and her father once. Kate recognized me in the crowd last night and smiled warmly and genuinely. (I later realized she probably spotted me so easily, because I was wearing the same loud floral dress both times. I swear I have other outfits, but I scored that dress at Kohl’s for forty three cents after coupons and wear it like a badge of victory.)
It wasn’t the smile of a predator that was out to hurt others. It was the smile of a typical teenage girl who was voted “most school spirit” and was an honor roll student, cheerleader and basketball player – before she was expelled from school for falling for another girl.
My daughter and I were both blown away by two things: 1. the bravery of Kate and 2. the love and strength surrounding her.
I was frantically taking notes during the press conference, but I couldn’t help but stop what I was doing and pull my own daughter in for a hug when Kate’s dad wrapped his arms around his daughter, both of them in tears, as her mom petted her hair. It really put things into perspective for me.
Life as you know it can be over in an instant.
Two teenage girls and their families are devastated in my community right now.
I sat with my daughter long after she was asleep last night.
It’s been exciting to watch interest in this case explode and know that I helped make that happen, but my heart is heavy that Kate and her family are going through this at all. I’m equally sad for the younger girl. While, the Hunt family and their legal team have been extremely respectful and protective of her identity, it’s a small town. The girls attended Sebastian’s only high school. People know the other girl. She’s being dragged through the mud, too. Both girls have had their worlds changed forever.
No matter what your stance on Kaitlyn Hunt’s legal situation, this case is important. Talk to all of the teens in your life. Make sure they know the laws in your state. Share Kate’s story with them so they understand that this type of stuff really does happen – and can happen to them.
If you want to show your support for Kaitlyn Hunt , sign the petition to get the felony charges reduced, join “Free Kate” on Facebook or donate to her legal fund.
You’ve got this, Kate. No matter what you decide to do tomorrow about the plea deal, you’ll be okay. If you go to trial, you’ll get through whatever happens. If things don’t go the way we hope, you will make it work. I believe in you.
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|Kate Hunt and her mother, Kelly Hunt Smith. Order your "Free Kate" shirt at www.freekate.net|