Sex crimes are a category of offenses that generally arise when violence occurs during a sexual act, when there is a lack of consent by one party to the sexual act, or when someone engages in sex with an individual who is legally incapable of consent, such as a child. Sex crimes have serious repercussions for those found guilty because they often require not only jail time, but also official registration as a sex offender, which can have an impact on job, housing, and social opportunities for the remainder of one’s life.
Crimes Involving Violence and Lack of Consent
Many sex crimes arise from circumstances when a sexual act is committed in a manner that is offensive to the ordinary individual. The most obvious of these is sexual assault, which occurs when an unwanted sexual act is performed on a victim without his or her consent and often with the use of force. Sexual assault may involve threats, battery, or other violent behavior and can occur with any form of sexual contact, including groping, kissing, penetration, or any other sexual touching. If the victim is threatened or forced into committing an act of sexual intercourse, this is the crime of rape. Rape requires that the victim did not consent to the sexual act, and prosecutions of rape often turn on whether or not the perpetrator reasonably believed that the sex was consensual. In certain circumstances, however, consent cannot be given because the victim is too young to legally provide it. This is called statutory rape.
Crimes Involving Children
Since children have not yet reached the age of maturity and are legally unable to consent to a sexual act, any form of sexual touching with a child is considered to be a crime. Not only do we find such acts legally reprehensible, they are morally offensive as well. Prosecution and investigation of sex crimes involving children can be challenging, however, since childhood trauma or confusion can lead to false reporting and erroneous allegations. For this reason, these crimes must be investigated thoroughly and sensitively. Most commonly, adults may find themselves facing charges of child molestation, which involves a sexual act committed with a child, including inappropriate touching and sexual conduct. Charges may also be brought when the individual is in possession of pornography involving children, for this is always illegal.
Sex Crimes and the Public
Finally, another category of sex crimes that arises is those acts inappropriately committed in a public space. For instance, the crime of public indecency arises when people expose themselves or act in a sexual way that is not appropriate for a public setting. Additionally, the crime of sexual misconduct may apply to sexual acts that offend innocent bystanders or members of the public. Finally, our laws also prohibit the soliciting of sex in public or for money. This is called prostitution. The prohibition of prostitution is a source of significant controversy. While prostitution sometimes occurs in situations that are quite obvious, such as soliciting someone from a street corner, individuals may also find themselves unwittingly propositioned in a situation that they originally thought was an innocent first date, bar hook-up, or other non-criminal circumstance.