In the aftermath of a sexual crime, the victim and their family often wonder about their legal options. If you're in this difficult situation, you may have concerns like:
- How will the person responsible be punished?
- Can others who enabled the sexual abuse be held liable?
- What can a sexual abuse lawsuit do for our family?
Our Iowa sexual abuse lawyers understand what you're going through and we know how to help.
Sexual predators and the people who enable them must be held accountable for the damage they've caused.
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After becoming the victim of a sexual crime, survivors in Iowa often have many concerns. Both the victim and their family want to see the perpetrator charged and convicted in criminal court. This may offer a sense of justice and helps take a dangerous predator off the streets before that predator can harm more innocent victims.
Iowa's Criminal Law On Sexual Assault & Abuse
If you or a loved one recently suffered as a victim of a sexual crime in Iowa, you may be wondering how your state’s criminal code will affect the prosecution of your offender. We’ve summarized the main sexual abuse laws in Iowa in the section below as a reference for survivors of these crimes.
In many cases of sexual abuse and sexual assault, survivors and their families also turn to civil courts for justice. While criminal courts are concerned with prosecuting perpetrators, civil courts focus on helping victims. A civil sexual abuse lawsuit provides several benefits not found in criminal courts, including:
- Holding perpetrators financially liable, whether criminally convicted or not
- Holding organizations and businesses liable for failure to prevent, stop, or report sexual abuse
- Providing financial compensation for personal and economic setbacks related to abuse
Our Iowa sexual abuse lawyers have a background in the criminal prosecution of offenders, but we've made the switch to the civil arena. From Sioux City and Des Moines to Cedar Rapids and Iowa City, we feel like civil courts do the most to help victims. When you feel ready to explore your legal options, you can learn more from us in a free consultation.
Child Sexual Abuse Laws
Iowa has three criminal laws which specifically apply to sexual crimes committed against minors. In the General Sexual Abuse Laws section below, some of the offenses may be applicable to crimes committed against both minor and adult victims.
Lascivious Acts With A Child
Any person 16 years of age or older who engages in any of the following lascivious acts with a child will be found guilty of a Class C or Class D felony in Iowa:
- Fondling or touching the child’s genitals or pubic area
- Allowing or causing the child to touch the person’s genitals
- Soliciting a child to engage in sex or soliciting a third party to arrange a sex act with a child
- Causing pain or discomfort for the child or allowing the child to inflict pain or discomfort on the person
This crime can be charged as a statutory offense in cases where the child willingly engages in the sexual act. Class C and Class D felonies are both punishable by up to 5 years in prison.
Indecent Contact With A Child
If a person 18 years of age or older engages in any of the following acts with a child, he or she is guilty of the aggravated misdemeanor of indecent contact with a child:
- Fondling or touching a child’s inner thigh, groin, buttocks, anus, or breast
- Touching the clothing covering the immediate area of those private parts
- Soliciting or permitting a child to fondle or touch those parts on an adult
- Engaging in either the first, second, or fourth lascivious act listed above
This aggravated misdemeanor is punishable by up to one year in prison.
Lascivious Conduct With A Minor
A person is guilty of lascivious conduct with a minor when that person is in a position of authority over a minor and forces, persuades, or coerces a minor to undress or partially undress with the purpose of sexually arousing either party. This crime can be charged as a statutory offense, regardless of consent.
This crime is classified as a serious misdemeanor and punishable by up to one year in jail and a maximum fine of $1,875.
General Sexual Abuse Laws In Iowa
The following Iowa sexual abuse laws help prosecute sexual offenders:
According to Iowa law, any sex act performed under any of the following circumstances is considered sexual abuse:
- The act is committed through the use of force or against the will of the other person. This includes the use of threats of violence or acts committed while the other person is under the influence of a drug inducing sleep or is otherwise unconscious.
- The other person is suffering from a mental defect or incapacity which prevents them from giving consent or lacks the mental capacity to understand the act.
- The other person is a child.
Sexual abuse can be charged in one of three degrees:
A person is guilty of sexual abuse in the first degree when the victim suffers a serious injury during the course of the sexual abuse. First-degree sexual abuse is a Class A felony punishable by life in prison.
A person will be charged with sexual abuse in the second degree when he or she commits sexual abuse under any of the following circumstances:
- The person displays a dangerous weapon in a threatening manner, or uses or threatens to use force creating a risk of serious injury or death to any person
- The victim is under 12 years old
- The person is aided or abetted by one or more other people and the sexual act is committed by force or against the will of the victim
Second-degree sexual abuse is a Class B felony punishable by up to 25 years in prison.
Sexual abuse in the third degree involves acts of sexual abuse committed under any of these conditions:
- The act is committed by the use of force or against the will of the other person, whether or not the two parties are married or cohabiting.
- The act is between people who are not cohabiting as husband and wife and any of the following are true: 1.) the other person has a mental defect or incapacity preventing consent, 2.) the other person is 12-13 years old, 3.) the other person is 14-15 years old and the other person is a member of the same household, a blood relative, or in a position of authority over the child or the person is four or more years older than the victim, 4.) the act is performed while the victim is under the influence of a controlled substance, mentally incapacitated, physically incapacitated, or physically helpless
Third-degree sexual abuse is a Class C felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
A person can be convicted of indecent exposure if that person exposes their genitals or pubic area to another person or commits a sex act in the presence or view of a third person under the following circumstances:
- The other person is not the first person’s spouse
- The person does so to arouse or satisfy the sexual desires of either party, and
- The person knows or reasonably should know that the act is offensive to the other person
In Iowa, indecent exposure is considered a serious misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and up to a $1,875 fine.
Sexual Exploitation By A Counselor, Therapist, Or School Employee
Anyone who provides mental health services to a patient is legally prohibited from engaging in sexual acts with that patient if the patient is emotionally dependent on these services. A person is legally considered emotionally dependent for the duration of treatment and for one year following the termination of these services.
This law also prohibits school employees from engaging in sexual acts with a student in the same district.
This crime can be charged as either a Class D felony, aggravated misdemeanor, or serious misdemeanor. This statute is complex and charges vary depending on a wide range of unique circumstances. If you believe you’ve been sexually exploited by a counselor, therapist, or school employee, our Iowa sexual abuse lawyers can help you understand your legal rights and assist you with reporting the crime and taking action in civil court.
Sexual Misconduct With Offenders And Juveniles
Any officer, employee, contractor, vendor, volunteer, or agent of the department of corrections or a judicial district department of correctional services, who engages in sexual activity with a person committed to the custody of one of these departments is guilty of an aggravated misdemeanor. This law also applies to those who work with a juvenile placement facility (such as a foster care facility, juvenile detention facility, shelter home, or psychiatric medical institution) and engage in sexual acts with a juvenile placed in one of these facilities.
This aggravated misdemeanor is punishable by up to one year in prison.
Assault With Intent To Commit Sexual Abuse
A person who commits physical assault with the intent to commit sexual abuse may be guilty of either a Class C felony (if the victim suffers a serious injury), a class D felony (if the victim suffers any type of physical injury other than a serious one), or an aggravated misdemeanor (if no injury occurs).
How Civil Lawsuits Help Victims
While the criminal prosecution of sexual offenders is a priority following any sexual crime, criminal courts primarily focus on the punishment of these offenders, rather than the support victims need. Recovering as a victim of sexual abuse or sexual assault is a long and difficult process. These victims often require medical treatment for physical injuries, psychiatric care for mental injuries, and may have to miss time from work in the aftermath of such a traumatic experience. Our Iowa sexual assault victims’ lawyers help these victims get the financial support they need while they recover.
If you’re looking for answers after you or a loved one was sexually victimized, we can help you find answers in a free consultation. We also work on a contingency fee basis, which means you owe us nothing unless we help you secure financial compensation.