Sex with a Minor
Of all criminal sex charges, the most legally severe and notorious in public opinion are when the charges involve sex with a minor. If an adult engages in sex with a minor, be it consensual, with a stranger or someone known to the minor, it is a very serious problem for the many reasons. Mainly because it confuses the minor because they does not have the psychological and emotional maturity to understand what is happening or to make a decision about the sexual activity.
Depending on circumstances specific to the case, sex with a minor can result in a variety of charges including statutory rape, molestation /sexual assault and incest . The U. S. Justice Department reports the alarming statistic that one in four girls and one in seven boys will experience sexual abuse before the age of 18.
Penalties for sex crimes involving a minor vary from state to state. The federal government becomes involved when interstate transportation is involved or if the crime occurs on federal property. All convictions require that the offender register as a sex offender.
Statutory rape occurs when the victim consents to sexual relations with another but is not of legal age to do so. The legal age of consent varies state to state. The average age is approximately 16 years of age, with some states restricting consent to 18 and some allowing as young as 14. Age differences between the parties can have an impact on the penalties imposed upon conviction. Penalties vary from state to state, in California up to 1 year in the county jail (a misdemeanor) or up to life imprisonment in Montana. All states currently have sex offender registration laws and the Federal government requires that a person must register if they are convicted of felony rape charges.
Incest between a child or adolescent and a related adult has been identified as the most widespread form of child sexual abuse with a huge capacity for damage to a child because of the relationship of the victims and the expectation that the victim should be protected by relatives. Incest is a felony and sentences range from a minimum sentence of two years in prison to a maximum of live imprisonment without parole.
Child molestation is acts in which an adult engages sexual activity with a minor that does not involve penetration but the intent is still sexual gratification for the adult. Some example of this would include fondling, flashing and making a child view sexual acts or pornography. Sexual assault refers to offenses in which an adult touches a minor for the purpose of sexual gratification; for example, rape (including sodomy), and sexual penetration with an object. Most U.S. states include, in their definitions of sexual assault, any type of penetration of a minor’s body, however slight, if the contact is performed for the purpose of sexual gratification. Both molestation and sexual assault of a minor is a felony punishable by the minimum sentence of two years in prison for first time offenders for child molestation, to the death penalty in some states for anyone convicted of a second or subsequent conviction for rape, sodomy or lewd molestation involving a child under 14.
Typically law enforcement becomes aware of these crimes because the victim tells a family member or friend or as a result of a report made by a mandated reporter. The law in the U.S. requires that all child sexual abuse be reported to the proper authorities. Mandated reporters are persons that work in professions such as education, social service, medical professionals and any type of social work. They are required to file a report of any suspected abuse. The usual confidentiality afforded to therapist and their patients does not apply to confessions of sex with a minor.
Defending a charge of sex with a minor is very difficult. In case of statutory rape, one could argue that the victim presented themselves as being of legal age to give consent. For other crimes associated with sex with a minor there have been cases of false allegations. These usually occur when parents are fighting over custody issues or in rare cases when a new parent enters the household and the minor does not get along with that person. People, including juries tend to err on the side of caution and this result in many convictions.