Each state has statutory laws and case law that apply to sexual abuse and assault cases. Often you will hear more about the criminal penalties, however there are laws established to protect victims. Specifically, there are laws to govern:
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The United States has a serious problem with sexual assault, child sexual abuse, and other sex-related crimes. This isn't anything new, but in recent years the issue has begun to receive more media coverage through high-profile cases such as the Penn State, Catholic Church, and Bill Cosby scandals. Related reading: massage and spa sexual assault lawsuits. The extent of this problem is far worse than the media would lead you to believe.
The criminal justice system has established strict sentencing guidelines for sexual predators which vary from state to state. Unfortunately, these laws have only proved to be a temporary band-aid. According to the Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network (RAINN), for every 1,000 rape cases, a shocking 994 of perpetrators walk free. Additionally, child protective services workers find evidence of child sex abuse once every 8 minutes.
If you or a loved one has been the victim of sexual assault or abuse, don't get too discouraged by these numbers. Part of the low conviction rate is the fact that 69% of rapes go unreported. It's extremely important to report the crime to the authorities. We understand that may be very difficult for many survivors. Sexual assault can cause a host of difficult emotions, from crippling fear and shame to guilt and pain. We believe you. If you were abused, know that help is available. You did nothing to deserve what happened to you.
Sexual predators must be punished for the harm they've caused. And, if the criminal justice system fails you, you may still be able to seek justice in a civil lawsuit.
While the laws may vary slightly between states, there are several forms of legislation which are designed to protect children from violence and sexual abuse. These may be federal statutes or statewide laws which have gained traction throughout the country, such as Jessica's Law.
CAPTA is one of the oldest pieces of federal legislation addressing child abuse. This law has been in effect for over 40 years and applies to all forms of child maltreatment, including sexual abuse. CAPTA provides federal funding for states that invest in prevention, assessment, investigation, prosecution, and treatment activities for victims of child abuse.
This law has been in effect since 1994 and was enacted as a response to the rape and murder of Megan Kanka in New Jersey. Megan's attacker had a history of violent sex crimes. This law requires law enforcement authorities to make information about registered sex offenders public and for offenders to register with a database and notify neighbors of their status as sex offenders.
Jessica's Law was enacted in 2005 after a 9-year old Florida girl named Jessica Lunsford was abducted, raped, and murdered by a convicted sex offender. It is designed to prevent sexual predators from committing additional crimes. This law applies to cases involving victims who are 12 years old or younger. Key aspects include:
Although this was originally enacted as a Florida state law, 42 other states have introduced similar legislation.
This is a federal statute which was signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2006. It's named for Adam Walsh - a 6-year-old boy who was abducted from a Florida mall in 1981 and murdered. Some of the main provisions of this law include:
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed Chelsea's Law into effect in 2010 after 17-year-old Chelsea King was murdered by a convicted sex offender. This law targets the most violent sex offenders through the following changes:
Laws regarding sexual assault vary among states. In some states, sexual assault is defined as any unwanted or unconsented sexual contact, while in others it is used as another term for rape and requires penetration. While the language of the laws may change, all 50 states have serious punishments for sex offenders.
If you or a loved one has been the victim of sexual assault, it's not your responsibility to know all of the related laws for your state. Your only focus should be on recovery. In a criminal trial, it's up to the prosecuting attorney to evaluate your case and seek the appropriate charges. Victims are going through enough turmoil without this additional stress.
Just know that any sexual contact in which you didn't give explicit consent may be considered a form of sexual assault or sexual abuse. Please don't fall into the trap of blaming yourself for an attack. There is no good excuse for any human being to sexually violate another. This was not your fault.
As a society, we must do all that we can to punish the monsters behind sexual crimes and to protect our communities from these crimes. However, the criminal justice system has failed far too many victims by allowing sexual predators to walk free. Even when a conviction does happen, victims still face a long road to recovery.
For many victims, life will never be the same after experiencing a traumatic sexual assault. These incidents result in a variety of physical and emotional damages and often require both medical and psychiatric care. Financial compensation can help sexual assault victims receive the care they need to recover from physical and mental ailments. It can also help survivors find their voice again after a terrible victimization.
Additionally, a lawsuit can help provide justice when the criminal justice system fails. Watching a sexual predator walk away untouched often extends the trauma victims feel after an attack. While a favorable ruling can't reverse what happened to you, it can at least punish the perpetrator.
At Abuse Guardian, our sexual assault victims lawyers serve clients nationwide. We're well-versed in the laws of each state, and we're prepared to fight for your justice while you focus on your recovery.