What is Criminal Sexual Abuse?

In general sexual abuse is determined to be any sexual act with intent to abuse, humiliate, harass, degrade, or arouse the sexual desire of any person. State laws regarding criminal sexual abuse vary depending on whether the victim is an adult or minor.

Sexual Abuse of a Minor

A person commits sexual abuse of a minor when the minor is between the ages of 12 and 16 years old and the accused is at least 4 years older than that minor.  The prosecution is not required to prove that the abuser knew the age of the victim or that the requisite age difference existed between the abuser and the victim.  If the sexual contact is with a child under the age of 12, then the maximum allowable punishment is doubled in most states.


A person has committed incest when they are involved in sexually inappropriate acts with a child by virtue of their authority or an ongoing emotional bond, such as a family member, extended family member, or other person known to them whom they trusted.

Statutory Rape

A person has committed statutory rape when they engage in sexual intercourse with a person under the statutory age of consent. The statutory age of consent varies by State, but is usually 16 or 18 years old. Some states also have age qualifications for the perpetrator.

Sexual Abuse

A person has committed sexual abuse when they:

  • Cause another person to engage in a sexual act by threatening or placing that other person in fear; or
  • Engage in a sexual act with a person who is incapable of appraising the nature of the conduct, or is physically incapable of communicating unwillingness to engage in that sexual act.

Aggravated Sexual Abuse

  • A person has committed aggravated sexual abuse when they:
    • Use force against the victim, or threaten the victim so as to cause fear of death, serious bodily injury, or kidnapping.
    • Knowingly render the victim unconscious and then engage in the sexual abuse.
    • Administer a drug or intoxicant without the knowledge or consent of the victim that impairs the victim’s ability to control their conduct and then engage in sexual abuse with the victim.

Indecent Exposure

  • Is often termed "lewd and lascivious" behavior and refers to the crime of displaying genitalia to one or more other people in a public place, usually with the intent to shock the viewer and to attain sexual arousal.


  • Involves the act of observing unsuspecting individuals, usually strangers, who may be naked or disrobing, or engaging in sexual activity for the purpose of seeking sexual excitement.

What Should You Do if You Have Been Accused of Sexual Abuse, or Are a Victim of Sexual Abuse?

Whether you are a victim or a perpetrator of sexual abuse, you should consult a criminal law attorney immediately to learn more about your rights, defenses and the complicated legal system.