Families affected by the trauma of sexual violence often struggle with many questions concerning justice and support:
- Will the person responsible be put behind bars?
- How can we hold accountable the organization that enabled the abuse?
- How can a sexual abuse victims' lawyer help us?
Our Delaware sexual abuse victims' lawyers help families in this painful position find answers.
The people who have a responsibility to stop or report child abuse need to be held accountable when they fail to do so.
"Thank you." They had answers to our concerns and got us the help we needed.
If you or a loved one has recently survived the trauma of a sexual assault or child sexual abuse, you may be wondering what penalties your abuser or assaulter could face. We’ve compiled summaries of all of Delaware’s sexual assault and child sexual abuse laws as a reference for survivors. The criminal justice system will do all that they can to prosecute the perpetrator, but be aware that criminal courts mainly focus on punishment and often ignore the needs of victims. This is why victims of sexual crimes often turn to civil courts for help getting the financial support they need for damages related to the crime.
Our experienced Delaware sexual abuse lawyers help these victims get this support. Becoming a victim changes your life forever, but it’s possible to move on past your traumatic experience with the right support. We seek accountability both from attackers and third parties whose negligence allows these crimes to occur, such as institutions who cover up crimes or property owners with inadequate security. These parties can all be held liable for economic damages like medical bills, therapy costs, lost wages, and noneconomic damages like pain and suffering.
If your family is looking for support and legal guidance, we want to help. We can teach you more about your legal options in a free consultation.
Laws Regarding Child Sexual Abuse
Delaware has four laws which specifically apply to sexual crimes committed against children:
Sexual Abuse Of A Child By A Person Of Trust, Authority Or Supervision
In Delaware, there is a law that specifically deals with cases of child sexual abuse involving authority figures. A person is considered guilty of sexual abuse of a child by a person of trust, authority or supervision if he or she engages in sexual intercourse with a child under 18 years old and the person is in a position of authority over the child, such as a teacher, coach, juvenile probation supervisor, etc.
This crime can either be prosecuted as a Class G (up to 2 years in prison), F (up to 3 years in prison), or D felony (up to 8 years in prison), depending on the specific circumstances of the crime.
Continuous Sexual Abuse Of A Child
Anyone who resides in the same home as a child or has frequent access to that child and commits three or more acts of sexual conduct against that child may be found guilty of continuous sexual abuse of a child. Legally, a child is defined as anyone under 18 years old. This crime is a Class B felony punishable by 2-20 years in prison.
Dangerous Crime Against A Child Under 14
A person may be found guilty of a dangerous crime against a child under 14 if they engage in any type of criminal sexual conduct against a person younger than 14 years old. This is also a Class B felony for the first conviction. On any subsequent condition, the offender will receive a mandatory sentence of life in prison.
Sex Offender Unlawful Conduct Against A Child
In Delaware, punishments for sexual crimes are more severe if the perpetrator was already registered as a sex offender when the crime occurred. Charges for these crimes are adjusted as follows:
- Misdemeanor sexual offenses are upgraded to Class G felonies, or Class C felonies if the child is younger than 12 years old
- Class C, D, E, F, and G felonies are all raised one grade higher – crimes against children under 12 are automatically Class B felonies
- If the offense is a misdemeanor and the victim has a cognitive disability, the charge will be a Class C felony
- If the offense is a Class C, D, E, F, or G felony and the victim has a cognitive disability, the charges will be raised to a Class B felony
- If the offense is a Class A or B felony, the grade will stay the same but the sentence will be doubled
Laws For Sexual Crimes Against Adults
Delaware has four degrees of rape charges:
A person may be found guilty of rape in the first degree if he or she engages in sexual intercourse with another person without their consent and under any of the following circumstances:
- The person causes a physical injury or serious mental or emotional injury following the commission of the crime or during an attempt to prevent reporting of the crime
- During the rape, the perpetrator committed any other felony or any of the following misdemeanors: reckless endangering in the second degree; assault in the third degree; terroristic threatening; unlawfully administering drugs; unlawful imprisonment in the second degree; coercion; or criminal trespassing in the first, second or third degree
- The perpetrator displayed a deadly weapon or threatened the victim with the use of a deadly weapon
- One or more accomplices were involved in the crime
- The victim is under 12 years old and the perpetrator is at least 18 years old
First-degree rape is a Class A felony in Delaware and punishable by 15 years to life in prison.
A person can be convicted of second-degree rape if he or she does any combination of the following:
- Engages in sexual intercourse without consent from the other person
- Causes a serious injury during the rape
- Commits another felony or one of the misdemeanors covered under first-degree rape
- The victim has not reached their 16th birthday and suffers a serious physical injury
- A deadly weapon is involved in the commission of the crime
- One or more accomplices assisted in the crime
Rape in the second degree is a Class B felony punishable by a minimum sentence of 10 years in prison.
Someone may be considered guilty of third-degree rape in any of the following circumstances:
- The victim is younger than 16 years old and the perpetrator is at least 10 years older
- The victim is younger than 14 years old and the perpetrator is at least 19 years old
- The victim suffered serious physical, mental, or emotional injuries during the immediate flight from the crime
This law also requires offenders to provide child support if the assault results in the birth of a child. Rape in the third degree is a Class B felony punishable by 2-20 years in prison.
Fourth-degree rape charges may be filed in cases involving:
- Engaging in sexual intercourse with someone under 16 years old, even if the minor willingly engages in the encounter
- Engaging in sexual intercourse with someone under 18 years old if the actor is at least 30 years older, unless the two parties are married
- Engages in sexual intercourse in any situation where the other party does not consent or has not reached their 16th birthday
In Delaware, fourth-degree rape is a Class C felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
A person can be convicted of sexual extortion if he or she attempts to force someone to engage in a sexual act by threatening to do any of the following if they refuse:
- Cause physical injury to anyone
- Damage property
- Commit a crime
- Accuse someone else of a crime or attempt to get false criminal charges filed against someone else
- Expose or publicize a secret with the intent to subject someone else to hatred or ridicule
- Falsely testify, provide false information, or withhold testimony or information related to someone else’s legal claim or defense
- Any other threat which is intended to harm someone else materially in regards to their health, safety, business, calling, career, financial condition, reputation, or personal relationships
Sexual extortion is a Class E felony in Delaware and punishable by up to 5 years in prison.
Unlawful Sexual Contact
Unlawful sexual contact charges are applicable when someone subjects another person to sexual contact without their consent. These charges are divided into three degrees in Delaware:
Unlawful sexual contact in the third degree occurs when an offender has sexual contact without a victim’s consent or subjects the victim to the sexual contact of a third party without the victim’s consent. This crime is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to 1 year in prison and up to a $2,300 fine.
An offender may be found guilty of second-degree unlawful sexual contact if he or she has sexual contact with a minor under 18 years old or causes the minor to have sexual contact with a third party. This crime is a Class F felony punishable by up to 2 years in prison.
A person may be convicted of unlawful sexual contact in the first degree when:
- While committing unlawful sexual contact in the third degree or second degree, or during the immediate flight from the crime scene, the offender causes physical injury to the victim or displays a deadly weapon.
- The offender has sexual contact with a child under 13 years old or causes the child to have sexual contact with someone else.
Unlawful sexual conduct in the first degree is a Class D felony in Delaware, punishable by up to 8 years in prison.