Incest is defined as a sexual relationship between two closely related family members. The relationship between the two people is so close that they are unable to legally get married in most states; that is, except in Ohio.
In Ohio, one may have sexual intercourse with their aunt, uncle, cousin, and yes, even their sibling, and even marry them, as long as it is consensual. In all other states incest is illegal. The punishments for engaging in an incestuous relationship ranges from probation to 20 years in prison, according to an analysis by the Guardian in the states where it is a crime.
In the states of New Jersey and Rhode Island, incest between adults is sort-of legal. One can have intercourse with a relative, but neither state permits marriage. In Ohio, though, you can still marry your relative regardless of who they are as long as they are not a parent. The only kind of incest that is illegal in Ohio is if a parental figure has intercourse with their child; in that case, it becomes sexual battery.
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Also despite popular belief, the age of consent in Ohio is 16-years-old, according to attorney Brad Keating with the Keating Firm in Columbus.
That means anyone over the age of sixteen may have sexual intercourse with someone who is 40-years-old as long as the elder person is not in a position of authority over the teenager, such as a parent, teacher, or church leader, and it is consensual. There are other laws, however, that could cause someone to be criminally charged if they have intercourse with someone who is 16-to-18-years-old.
Child phonography laws still apply; even though one may have sexual relations with a teenager, one cannot film or photograph the teenager in any state of nudity. The parents of the teenager can also pursue a misdemeanor crime of “interference with custody,” which could land someone behind bars for six months, according to the Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence organization. Marriage involving a 16-or-17-year-old still requires parental consent if the teen is a girl, or judicial consent if the teen is a boy.
So the next time you crack a joke about your neighbors to the south in West Virginia or Kentucky, consider your own state’s law, first. In both of those states, incest is illegal.
If you or someone you know have been sexually abused, confidential help is available. When you call 800.656.HOPE (4673), you’ll to be routed to a local sexual assault service provider in your area. Trained staff can provide confidential support.