Here's what's certain about the Hudson High School romance of Kris Bucher and Jessica Fuller:
They dated, on and off, for three years.
On Jan. 6, 2006, when he was still 17 and she was 18, they had sex in the back seat of a car and made a baby she named Joshua.
A paternity test confirmed Kris was the father.
Kris was not present at Joshua's birth.
He did not contribute anything — not time, not money — to Joshua's care.
Jessica never asked Kris for help.
In March 2009, Kris got a letter from the state of Michigan. Jessica had moved there and gone on welfare and Michigan wanted Kris to start paying child support.
Kris hired a lawyer. He said he shouldn't have to pay child support because he never wanted the baby.
Jessica, he said, raped him.
Around the country there are plenty of cases of underage boys who got a woman pregnant and then tried to avoid paying child support. The 15-year-old in California who was seduced by the 34-year-old mom next door. The 13-year-old boy in Kansas who had sex with his 17-year-old babysitter. The 15-year-old boy in Florida who impregnated a 20-year-old.
Under a strict interpretation of the law, these boys, by virtue of their age, were raped. But family courts have seen these incidents for what they were: consensual sexual encounters. And as a result, they have ordered the boys to pay child support.
The baby is the innocent one, judges say. One court put it this way: If the sex was voluntary, then the parenthood is also.
Kris says his case is different. He's not fighting the child support because he was underage. He's fighting, he says, because he said "no" to the sex.
Jessica denies that she forced him to have sex, and she has not been charged with any crime. But Kris' argument in the child support case has the potential to make case law in Florida. It rests on a simple question:
Do you believe him?
• • •
Jessica remembers the exact date she first met him in the halls of Hudson High School. It was Aug. 25, 2003, her freshman year.
"You don't know it yet, but you are my future boyfriend," she said to him a day later.
The following morning, he was waiting for her at her bus and by lunch time, they were inseparable.
Kris had never had a girlfriend before. He wore glasses and was kind of geeky. She was outgoing and had auburn hair and hazel eyes. His world shrank. She was it.
Their relationship was tumultuous. They fought, broke up and always reconnected. In between, she dated other boys.
They joined the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps at their high school. They talked about one day getting married, having kids. They first had sex in early May 2005 in the back seat of his 1997 Mazda 626. He was 17, she was 17.
She got pregnant later that year, but miscarried two months later. She remembers the hospital, Kris standing there. He looked pale, scared.
• • •
What happened in the weeks after the miscarriage, and specifically on the night of Jan. 6, 2006, is where the couple's stories begin to diverge. Kris told his version at a child support hearing in Brooksville in 2010. Jessica was not present.
Kris testified he wasn't ready to be a father. And the doctor told them Jessica would now be particularly fertile, so they decided to avoid sex.
On Jan. 6, 2006, Jessica and Kris fought and she broke up with him again. He was in love, he said, and he begged her not to leave him. So she invited him to her church youth group meeting that night.
Their friends drove, but the church was closed, so they headed to Hudson Beach in Pasco County. The other couple went for a walk.
Kris and Jessica sat in the back seat. He said he was looking out the window at the smooth water when she got on top of him and said: "You know you want me."
The passenger seat in front of him was tilted back at a 45-degree angle. She used one arm to pin him down, he said, the other to unzip his pants. At the time, he said, he was 5-foot-7 and 150 pounds and she was heavier.
"At any time do you make a statement to her about you will not have sexual intercourse with her?" asked his lawyer, Kerry O'Connor, at the hearing.
"I told her, 'No, I do not want this.' And that's when she said, 'It's going to happen.' "
"And did you specifically use the word 'no'? "
"Absolutely . . . several times."
He said he tried to push Jessica off. He said he tried to pull the door handle to open the car door. He said she slammed her hand over the lock. He said it was over pretty fast.
He got out of the car, sat on the tailgate with his head in his hands. Their friends returned and he said nothing. They dropped him at his house.
Did you go to the police immediately? his lawyer asked.
"No, I did not," he responded. Kris said he called the Sheriff's Office a few weeks later and spoke to a deputy. The deputy seemed to doubt him but said he would follow up. He never did and neither did Kris.
"At this point, I was a senior in high school. I didn't want to lose respect amongst friends. I was in a respected position in JROTC. I didn't want to lose that. I didn't want any kind of unwanted attention drawn to me."
• • •
In February 2006, Kris said, he and Jessica sat down on the soft brown couch in the living room of his parents' home in Brooksville.
They told his parents that Jessica was pregnant.
How did this happen? his mother asked. The doctor had told them to be careful. They had agreed to refrain from sex.
Kris, his mother and his father all say that at that moment, Jessica admitted that she forced Kris to have sex against his will.
"I made him," Connie Bucher recalls her saying.
Kris' dad, Steve Bucher, was initially skeptical, but he didn't say anything.
"How does a girl rape a guy? I just couldn't see that," he said in a recent interview.
Experts say it is physically possible for a man to be raped by a woman, or, put another way, to get an erection without wanting to have sex.
"Teenagers, in particular, often have an uncontrollable genital response," says Debby Herbenick, a research scientist in sexual health at Indiana University and author of Because It Feels Good.
"Many men, for example, recall getting erections when they felt scared, angry, or even nervous — like having to go up to the chalkboard to write out a math problem," she said. "And certainly seeing someone naked could lead them to get an erection."
There are statutes addressing child support if a man rapes a woman, said O'Connor, Kris' lawyer. But not if a woman rapes a man.
Was it fair for the court to order the victim of a crime to compensate the perpetrator? O'Connor asked.
"I know society does not believe, I think overwhelmingly, that a man can be the subject of an involuntary sexual battery," she said. "And that is unfortunate because my client is."
• • •
Jessica Ann Fuller's Facebook page says she is a proud mother of two. A Christian who likes to go to church. A community college student who hopes to be a special education teacher.
In a phone interview from her home in Michigan, Jessica, now 23, pregnant and engaged to another man, acknowledges a lot of things.
That she got on top of Kris in the back seat of the car and initiated sex that night.
That Kris stopped them in the middle and raised questions about whether they should continue. "I didn't get off him and he didn't push me off."
They remained together, Jessica said, for about a month afterward, until Kris discovered that Jessica had had sex with another guy that same night. They didn't see each other much after that.
In instant messages the day Kris was served with child support papers more than two years ago, he told her he was afraid he would go to jail because he couldn't afford child support.
Jessica: im sorry, but theres nothing i can do. You helped make the kid, now you have to help take care of it.
Kris: excuse me? u know as well as i do that you forced yourself on me that night
Kris: and you know i said no
Kris: you admitted it right in front of my parents
Jessica: ok, no i didn't
Jessica said she didn't go after child support because she was hoping that one day Kris would want something to do with Joshua, who is now 4.
"Kris would be very proud of how smart he is," she said.
Jessica said she still cares about Kris.
"He was my first love," she said, "and I'm always going to care about him."
But she said she's disappointed.
"If for some reason they ever found me guilty of raping him, my whole career would be completely destroyed, I'd be put in jail and the children would go in foster care," she said. "To destroy my entire family for the simple thing that he didn't want to pay child support, that's a very selfish thing to do."
• • •
Two months ago, Kris, now 23, was dealt a setback. His request to dismiss the child support case was denied.
In rejecting the claim, a Hernando County hearing officer pointed to cases of the 13-year-old boy in Kansas, the 15-year-old in California, a 15-year-old in Florida — all of whom were underage when they had consensual sex with women who got pregnant.
"Like the other states, Florida has an interest in requiring parents to support their children," the hearing officer wrote.
Left open was the question of consent.
"The crux of the tension here," said Ruth Jones, a professor of law at McGeorge Law School in Sacramento, Calif., "is if . . . he is a victim of forcible rape, is that sufficient to alleviate him from the responsibility of child support?"
There is a case that deals with this. It's not exactly like Kris' case, but similar. It involves a 34-year-old man from Alabama who passed out at a party. A woman had sex with him while he was unconscious and she got pregnant. The court ordered him to pay child support.
Kris earns $21,000 a year working with his dad's water conditioning company.
This past week, he married another woman who has two kids.
The amount of child support he owes has never been calculated. But he said he has spent about $5,000 to fight it.
He had to decide recently if he wanted to appeal the case to the 5th District Court of Appeal. He decided to keep going, he said, because he feels like he's being punished for something Jessica did.
He says he knows it sounds harsh, but he doesn't want anything to do with Joshua. Ever.
"He was the result of something traumatic in my life, and I don't think I could bring myself to be a parent," Kris said. "It's not fair to him. It's not his fault."
Times researcher Shirl Kennedy contributed to this report. Leonora LaPeter Anton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8640.