Sexual Offenses

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The generic term “sexual offenses” refers to any sexual contact that is prohibited by law. However, in common usage, the term is generally used to describe some type of prohibited sexual contact or behavior where there is a victim and a perpetrator. These offenses include crimes like rape, sexual assault, child molestation, and even indecent exposure. In contrast, a crime like prostitution, which may involve two willing perpetrators and have no victims, while it could be labeled a sexual offense, does not normally fall into the category of crimes that most people consider sexual offenses. Conviction of certain sexual offenses can result in a defendant being required to become part of a sex offender registry.

Two Types of Sexual Offenses

Historically there have been two broad types of sexual offenses: forcible sexual offenses and statutory sexual offenses. Forcible rape refers to forcible sexual intercourse with any victim, though older laws made exceptions if the victim was the offender’s spouse. In addition to vaginal rape, most forcible sexual assault laws include sodomy. Forcible sexual offenses can also include forcible sexual assaults that do not include rape. The forcible label once required the use of actual physical force, but evolving legal norms have recognized that forcible rapes can be accomplished by coercion or through other means of subduing victims, such as the use of date rape drugs or other intoxicants.

Non-forcible sexual offenses refer to sexual intercourse or sexual contact that is prohibited by law, but which is not accomplished through force. For example, an adult predator having sex with a child victim without using physical force might be classified as a non-forcible or statutory sexual offense. What makes it a non-forcible offense is that the victim is presumed, by law, to be unable to consent to sexual contact. Proving a non-forcible sexual offense is easier than proving a forcible sexual offense, because all it requires is proving that the sexual contact occurred.

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