In Washington and throughout the US, millions of families have been affected by child sexual abuse and sexual assault. If your family is in this difficult situation, you may be wondering:
- How long will my abuser be in prison?
- Are there other options if the court fails to convict?
- How can a victims' rights lawyer help me?
Our experienced sexual abuse victims' lawyers understand the difficulties your family is facing, and we know how to help you get justice.
Sexual offenders and the organizations and individuals who fail to stop them must be held accountable for the harm they've caused.
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If you or a family member has recently become the victim of a sexual crime, you may be wondering how your state's laws will handle the prosecution of the person who abused or assaulted you. Some victims may find solace in knowing that their abuser is off the streets and incarcerated, keeping them from harming other victims.
Criminal Sexual Assault Laws In Washington State
We've summarized the main Washington State sexual assault statutes below, but remember that these laws frequently change and apply differently based on the circumstances of a case. In order to get a better understanding of how state laws may influence your case, we recommend speaking with an experienced Washington sexual abuse victims' rights lawyer.
You should also be aware that criminal courts primarily handle the prosecution of sexual offenders, rather than catering to the needs of victims. And in far too many cases, these courts fail to get convictions or even make arrests.
Fortunately, civil courts are available to help victims get financial support, hold all negligent parties liable for the role they played in allowing the assault to occur, and get justice for victims if the criminal justice system has failed to convict their abuser. Our Washington victims' rights lawyers have unique skills for helping victims in this situation - with experience in both criminal prosecution and civil sexual abuse lawsuits. We can teach you more about your legal options during this difficult time in a free consultation.
Washington State Child Sexual Abuse Laws
In Washington State, crimes of child sexual abuse are usually prosecuted under one of three main criminal statutes. Additionally, the state is one of many with a list of professionals who are legally required to report suspected child abuse and neglect.
When an adult inflicts sexual contact on a child, he or she can be considered guilty of one of three degrees of child molestation:
An offender will be charged with first-degree child molestation if he or she has or knowingly causes another person under 18 years old to have, sexual contact with a child who is less than 12 years old. The offender must also be at least 3 years older than the victim.
This Class A felony is punishable by a maximum sentence of life in prison and up to $50,000 in fines.
Second-degree charges apply when the sexual contact occurs between a victim who is at least 12 but under 14 years old, with an offender who is at least three years older than the victim.
This Class B felony is punishable by a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and fines up to $20,000.
The charge will be in the third-degree if sexual contact occurred between a victim who was at least 14 but under 16 years old and the offender was at least four years older than the victim.
This Class C felony is punishable by a maximum sentence of 5 years in prison and fines up to $10,000.
Rape Of A Child
A person can be found guilty of rape of a child if he or she engages in sexual intercourse with a victim under the state's age of consent. There are also three degrees of severity for this crime, which depend on circumstances. Rape of a child can be enforced as a statutory offense, which means that the victim's willingness to participate in the sexual intercourse is not a legal defense.
If the victim is younger than 12 and the offender was at least two years older than the victim, the charge will be first-degree rape of a child.
This is a Class A felony.
If the victim is at least 12 but younger than 14 and the offender is at least 3 years older than the victim.
This is also a Class A felony.
Applies in cases where the victim is at least 14 but younger than 16 years old and the offender is at least four years older than the victim.
This crime is a Class C felony.
Sexual Misconduct With A Minor
This offense applies when an offender uses a position of trust or authority to engage in sexual activity with someone who is at least 16 but younger than 18 years old, and the offender is at least five years older than the victim.
Additionally, the offender also must have one of the following three relationships to the victim:
- A "significant relationship" - such as a coach, tutor, mentor, etc.
- Defendant is a school employee and the victim is an enrolled student
- Defendant is a foster parent
If the sexual misconduct involves sexual penetration, the charge will be first degree - a Class C felony. If there was intercourse or penetration involved, the charge will be secon-degree - a gross misdemeanor punishable by a maximum of one year in prison and up to $5,000 in fines.
Mandatory Reporters Of Child Abuse & Neglect
Like most other states, Washington requires certain professionals to report any suspected child abuse or neglect immediately to either law enforcement or Child Protective Services. This should be done at the first opportunity, but absolutely no later than 48 hours after there is a belief that the child has been abused or neglected.
Examples of mandatory reporters in Washington include:
- School counselors
- School staff
- Police Officers
- Department of Corrections staff
- Childcare providers
Failure to report suspected child abuse can result in financial liability if the victim's family chooses to file a lawsuit.
Washington State General Sexual Assault Laws
In Washington, sexual offenses committed upon adult victims are generally prosecuted under one of the following three laws:
Custodial Sexual Misconduct
Custodial sexual misconduct is a criminal offense which applies when an offender is employed by a correctional facility or related agency and engages in sexual intercourse with another person under any of the following circumstances:
- The victim is a resident of any adult or juvenile correctional facility or under correctional supervision; and
- The offender is an employee or contract personnel of a correctional facility, and has the ability (or the victim believes they have the ability) to influence the terms, conditions, length, or fact of incarceration or correctional supervision; or
- The sexual intercourse occurs when the victim is being detained, under arrest, or in the custody of a law enforcement officer and the perpetrator is a law enforcement officer (regardless of consent)
Custodial sexual misconduct in the first degree is a Class C felony.
A person can be convicted of indecent liberties if he or she knowingly causes another person to have sexual contact with the person or anyone else, under any of the following circumstances:
- Through forcible compulsion
- When the victim is incapable of consent because he or she is mentally defective, mentally incapacitated, or physically helpless
- When the victim is a person with a developmental disability and not married to the offender
- When the offender has supervisory authority over the victim
- When the offender was providing transportation to the victim at the time of the offense
- When the offender is a health care provider, the victim is a client or patient, and the sexual contact occurs during a medical appointment
- When the victim is a resident at a mental health or rehabilitation facility and the offender has supervisory authority over the victim
- When the victim is a frail elderly person or vulnerable adult
If forcible compulsion is used, indecent liberties is a Class A felony. In all other circumstances, this offense is considered a Class B felony.
In Washington, sexual intercourse which occurs without the consent of at least one party is considered rape. An offender who is charged with rape will face one of three degrees of severity, depending on the circumstances behind the crime:
A person may be convicted of first-degree rape if he or she engages in sexual intercourse with another person through forcible compulsion where any of the following additional circumstances apply:
- Uses or threatens to use a deadly weapon or something that appears to be a deadly weapon
- Kidnaps the victim
- Causes serious physical injury, including but not limiting to physical injuries that render the victim unconscious
- Trespasses at the building or vehicle where the victim is situated
Rape in the first degree is a Class A felony.
A person may be considered guilty of rape in the second degree if he or she engages in sexual intercourse with another person under any of the following circumstances:
- Through forcible compulsion
- When the victim couldn't consent because of physical helplessness or mental incapacitation
- When the victim had a developmental disability and the offender was either in supervisory authority, providing transportation, or a health care provider with the victim as a patient
- When the victim is a resident at mental health or drug rehabilitation facility and the offender has supervisory authority over them
- When the victim is a frail elder or vulnerable adult
Rape in the second-degree is also a Class A felony.
A person may be charged with rape in the third degree if, under circumstances not constituting rape in the first or second degree, he or she engages in sexual intercourse with someone else under either of the following circumstances:
- When the victim did not consent and clearly expressed their lack of consent through words or actions
- Where there was a threat of unlawful harm to the victim's property
Rape in the third degree is a Class C felony.
Our Washington Sexual Abuse Victims' Lawyers Want To Help
If you're curious about your family's legal options after you've been affected by sexual violence, our local Washington sexual abuse victims' lawyers can help guide your family during this difficult time. A successful civil sexual abuse lawsuit can help secure financial compensation, deny accountability from any enablers of the crime, and help encourage other victims to come forward and speak out. If enough survivors take legal action, real progress could be made toward drastically reducing the frequency of these crimes. For more information on your legal rights as a survivor of sexual abuse, contact us today and learn more in a free consultation.