Sexual Abuse Lawyers
The Numbers: It is important to understand that sexual abuse is not an uncommon crime. However, despite its wide prevalence, only about 1/3rd of cases of sexual abuse are ever reported to law enforcement. According to data provided by Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), the largest anti-sexual violence organization in the U.S., an American is sexually assaulted every 98 seconds. To make things worse, every 8 minutes, that victim of sexual assault is a child. But only 6 out of every 1000 perpetrators end up in prison. The sexual abuse lawyers at Ashcraft & Gerel can help you seek justice after your assault.
According to the Child Maltreatment 2015 report by the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS), there were 683,000 maltreated children in 2015. Out of these, 8.4% were sexually abused.
Statistics also show that one in 9 girls and 1 in 53 boys under the age of 18 are victims of sexual abuse or assault at the hands of an adult. In at least 12% of sexual abuse cases that involve rape, a weapon is used. About ¼ of female victims of sexual abuse involved strangers. The only positive aspect of this entire scenario is that sexual abuse crimes have decreased in the past two decades mainly due to increased awareness, better reporting, and harsher punishment.
The Victims: 82% of all victims of sexual abuse under the age of 18 are female. Females within the age group of 16 to 19 years are also four times more likely to be victims of rape, attempted rape or sexual assault.
Approximately 20 million (18%) women in the US have been raped during their lifetime. A substantial percentage of female college students are victims of rape, but only 12% of these cases are reported to law enforcement for fear of embarrassment or ridicule. Of more concern is the growing prevalence of intimate partner violence which appears to be on the rise.
Sexual abuse crimes do not only affect adults but also children. About a third of the victims of sex abuse are less than 14 years of age. In the majority of cases, the victims are females under the age of 17. In addition, nearly 20% of high school female students report some type of physical and or sexual abuse by their dating partner.
Sexual Abuse and the Legal System
Each state in the US regards sexual abuse as a crime even if specific laws vary between each state. Sexual abuse refers to any crime where the offender causes the victim to participate in any type of sexual activity that is offensive and unwanted. Sexual abuse crimes vary from inappropriate touching, groping to attempted rape Sexual abuse also includes any act of sexual harassment, rape, indecent exposure, forcing another person to view or participate in pornography and commercial sexual exploitation. Any form of sexual conduct which does not involve the consent of the other party is classified as sexual abuse and is considered a crime.
While the act of sexual abuse itself is horrific, another major reason why sexual abuse is not dealt with lightly is because of its long-term consequences for the victims. Sexual abuse can often lead to serious physical injury, poor mental health, chronic pain, hospitalization, disability or in severe cases, death. Children who are victims of sexual abuse can have a significant impact on their psychological health in the long-term. A large number of sexual assault victims develop psychological issues such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. Victims of sexual abuse also struggle with anger after the incident, shame and guilt, social problems with family, friends and romantic partners, sexual problems, alcohol and drug use. Our sexual abuse lawyers will help you through the legal process to help you get the justice you deserve.
Sexual Assault Charges
In general, sexual abuse is said to have occurred when the offender performs sexual contact (oral, anal, vaginal) through coercion, force or by making the victim incapacitated. The law will consider the victim incapacitated if the perpetrator used alcohol or drug to alter the mental status of the victim and then abused them sexually. In an incapacitated state, the victim does not have the mental acumen to appreciate or understand the nature of the sexual act. It is also considered sexual abuse if the victim is physically restrained or incapable of resisting the sexual activity. Anytime the victim is unwilling to participate in a consensual sex act, the court of law sees this as sexual abuse. A very common scenario where charges of sexual abuse are brought against offenders is when alcohol or date rape drugs are used to make the victim mentally incapacitated. In such a drugged state, the victim is legally not able to give consent to sexual activity.
Laws regarding sexual abuse cover all types of non-consensual sexual contact that may occur between people of all ages, regardless of their gender. This means that sexual abuse is not only a crime against the opposite sex but a male can also be charged with raping a male, or a female can be charged with raping a female and so on. The law also covers all types of non-consensual sexual activity in children under the age of 18.
In almost all US states, sexual abuse is now an all-encompassing term for other sexual crimes such as sodomy, unwanted sexual contact or child rape. Some states distinguish between sexual crimes that only involving touching (e.g. touching the genitals with the mouth or hands) and the actual sex act (penetration with an object, penis or another item). Sexual acts that involve penetration are more serious than those that involve body contact alone.
Spousal Sexual Assault
There is a misconception that one cannot be charged for a sexual crime against their spouse. That is not true. In almost every state, the sexual assault laws have been extended to cover spousal sexual abuse. It can no longer be accepted at face-value that the sex act between married couples did not involve sexual abuse. If the spouse refused to participate in the sex act and was forced to have sex under a threat, or fear of bodily harm, this will be considered sexual abuse, and if reported, the perpetrator can be charged.
Anytime the offender uses threats, coercion, bodily injury, or kidnapping to force someone to have sex, it is classified as sexual abuse and is a crime. The current laws also forbid sexual activity when the spouse is mentally and physically incapacitated.
Sexual Assault: Laws & Punishment
While most states have a very similar classification for sex abuse crimes, they do differ when it comes to punishment. However, there is no region in the U.S. where this crime is dealt with lightly. In some states, different types of sexual crimes are all lumped into one category, and in other states, each sexual crime is listed separately. In all cases, incarceration and a monetary fine is common with the only difference being the amount of fine and the duration of the sentence. If the reported case of sexual abuse involves a minor under the age of 12, most perpetrators get at least 20 years to life if convicted. In the state of California, almost any sexual assault that results in sexual penetration can result in a charge of rape.
When it comes to sentencing, every state has minimum and maximum guidelines for both incarceration and monetary fines but judges generally tend to rely on several other factors to determine the punishment. The judge will also look at any mitigating and aggravating factors before deciding the severity of the punishment. If the offender has a criminal history, then the sentence is usually harsher compared to that for first-time offenders. Only in very dubious cases of sexual abuse is the sentencing light.
Federal Sexual Assault Sentencing
Besides local jurisdiction laws, there is also federal law which guides judges on sentencing. Federal law permits the judge to look at the individual’s past criminal history, acceptance of responsibility, whether a minor is involved and if any physical violence was part of the sexual abuse.
Under federal law, depending on the type of sexual offense, one can be sentenced to prison for a maximum of twenty years and would also have to pay a monetary fine. The federal law also requires that the offender compensate the victim for any expense that may have occurred. For example, if the victim was physically injured, or had to undergo psychiatric treatment or if there was pain and suffering, then the victim has to be compensated.
Statute of Limitations
In general, for all sexual abuse cases, there is a statute of limitations for both the victim and the offender. For the offender, the statute of limitation is strict; if the district attorney doesn’t file charges within a certain period of time, then no charges can be brought forward in future. When it comes to statute of limitations for victims, there is a significant leeway. In most cases, the victim is allowed to extend the statute of limitations, especially if the victim was a minor. The extension of statute of limitations for filing civil actions is based on the discovery rule. For example, children often do not realize that sexual abuse was occurring until they grow up or the relationship may still be ongoing during which they are unable to report the crime. Plus, in many adult cases, the judge may consider the fact that the victim was suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) or had suffered memory lapses as a result of the trauma and therefore failing to report the crime. It is important to note that while this flexibility exists for certain cases, this leeway in filing a civil lawsuit is not for an indefinite period.
Sexual Abuse via Technology
With the increasing use of the Internet and huge advancements in communication technology, sexual crimes using this medium have also increased. Data reveal that nearly 13% of young users of the internet receive unwanted sexual solicitations from strangers. And at least 9% of young internet users are constantly being exposed to obscene, pornographic images and other sexual material while online. Many predators seek young children and teenagers who are vulnerable to seduction. In many cases, young girls are promised money to participate in photo sessions, which later turn out to be pornographic operations.
The law surrounding internet sexual crimes are still evolving but can be just as serious. Because the internet crosses many geographic borders, the charges are usually more severe. There are still no specific laws related to sex talk with minors, but any transmission of online child pornography or pornographic material to minors is a federal crime and is harshly punished.
At least 2/3rd of perpetrators of online sexual abuse are known to the minors. In about 1/3rd of cases, the perpetrators are close family members. Not all perpetrators of online sexual abuse are adults; data indicate that nearly 23% of the reported cases are conducted by individuals under the age of 18. While every state has laws about sexual crimes over the internet, there is still much room for improvement. However, in most cases, the federal government gets involved and the punishment may range from incarceration and/or monetary fines.
Reporting Sexual Abuse
There is no doubt that sexual abuse is both terrifying and horrific and can be extremely difficult for victims to deal with. However, the only way such incidents can be controlled and punished is by ensuring that the perpetrators pay for their crime. No matter how difficult the situation, it is important for victims of sexual abuse to come forward and report these crimes to the right authorities.
Contact the Experienced Sexual Abuse Lawyers at Ashcraft & Gerel
At Ashcraft & Gerel, we are committed to protecting our clients and fighting for their rights. If you are a victim of sexual abuse and if you are looking for justice for crimes committed against you or any of your family members, please call us now at 844-707-8422 for a free consultation. If calling is difficult, you can also fill out the form available on our website, and one of our sexual abuse lawyers will get in touch with you immediately. Remember, sexual abuse is a crime, and if you are a victim, you need to seek help immediately.