In general, criminal sexual abuse can be defined as any sexual act committed with the intent to abuse, harass, humiliate, or degrade another individual. The laws regarding criminal sexual abuse are heavily dependent on the definitions contained within the statutes of a particular state.

Also, state laws that apply to criminal sexual abuse will often differentiate based on the age of the victim. For example, if the victim is a child who has been sexually abused, then the crime is usually classified as “child molestation.”

In contrast, when the victim is an adult who has been sexually abused, then state criminal laws will generally refer to it as either aggravated sexual abuse (sexual assault) or rape.

The following sections below will provide detailed descriptions of what is generally involved for each of the crimes discussed above:

  • Child Sexual Abuse: Most states consider sexual abuse to be a crime that is carried out against a child below a certain age. Again, the statutory age requirement will be state specific. A person may be guilty of child sexual abuse (or child molestation) when they engage in some sort of sexual activity with a minor and with the intent to arouse, appeal, or gratify their sexual desires.

    • A person who is convicted of child sexual abuse or molestation may be subject to the following consequences:
      • Serving time in prison;
      • Registering with a sex offender registry;
      • Losing the right to vote and child custody;
      • Paying a heavy fine; and
      • Attending required sex offender treatment programs, as well taking a mandatory aids test.
  • Rape: A person may be guilty of rape if they engage in an act of intercourse against the will of the victim, and it is accomplished through means involving force, violence, duress, intimidation, or fear of serious bodily harm.

    • Statutory Rape: An individual can also be guilty of statutory rape when they engage in sexual intercourse with a person who is under the age of 18, even if the victim gave consent. Again, the statutory age requirement will vary by state (usually anywhere between 16 to 18 years of age), and some states will also have rules regarding the age of the perpetrator.
  • Aggravated Sexual Abuse: A person may be guilty of aggravated sexual abuse if the sexually abusive act involved any of the following special circumstances:

    • If a weapon is used during the incident;
    • When the victim is over 60 years of age;
    • If the victim is physically or mentally incompentent (e.g., they lack the ability to consent to the act, such as a person with dementia);
    • The offender behaves in a way that is meant to threaten or endanger the victim or any other person if they do not comply; and
    • If they engage in statutory rape of a family member.

It is very important to keep in mind that these guidelines will change in accordance with your state’s laws. Therefore, if you are the victim of or have been charged with criminal sexual abuse, then it is highly advised that you consult with a lawyer in your area for further legal guidance on the matter.

What Should I Do If I am Charged with Criminal Sexual Abuse?

Being charged with an offense that constitutes criminal sexual abuse, is a very serious matter. A conviction for criminal sexual abuse can result in severe penalties, such as years of imprisonment and heavy fines.

Therefore, if you have been accused of rape, sexual assault, child molestation, child abuse, or any other type of incident that involves sexual abuse, then it is strongly recommended that you speak with a criminal defense attorney immediately.

An experienced criminal defense lawyer will be able to prepare your case, represent you in court on the matter, discuss the potential penalties that you may be facing, and can determine whether or not any defenses apply to your case.

Additionally, an attorney can also help to protect your rights as a defendant and can attempt to get your sentence reduced by reviewing the relevant laws in your area.

What If I am a Victim of Criminal Sexual Abuse?

If you are a victim of rape, sexual assault, child molestation, child abuse, or any other type of incident that involves sexual abuse, then you should contact the police immediately.

Once the police have been notified, they will conduct an investigation to determine if there is sufficient evidence. If there is enough evidence, they will submit your case to the local District Attorney’s office for review.

After your case has been received, a local district attorney will be assigned to it to look over the evidence. If the district attorney finds that there is enough evidence to support a case, then they will prosecute the person who committed the sexual abuse against you.

Additionally, if you want to bring a civil lawsuit against the person who committed a sexual abuse against you, then you will need to contact a local attorney who has experience in handling cases that involve victims of abuse or sex crimes, such as a personal injury lawyer.