Those convicted of child molestation face a dire reality. The laws governing child molestation vary from state to state, but most jurisdictions mandate long prison sentences and vigorously prosecute child sex abuse cases. When released from prison, those convicted must register as a sex offender. They must also report to a probation officer and may be ordered to undergo counseling. In some civil cases, offenders have been directed to pay restitution to their victims.
The National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect defines child sexual assault as "contacts or interactions between a child and an adult when the child is used for the perpetrator's sexual stimulation or another person when the perpetrator or another person is in a position of control over the victim." Sexual abuse not only includes inappropriate contact, but also exposing one's genitals to a child or making a child view pornographic materials.
Depending on the state, convictions of child sexual abuse can be severe. For example, in Georgia a child molestation conviction imposes a sentence of 5 to 25 years for a first offense and 10 years to life for subsequent convictions. California's penal code imposes up to eight years for each felony count of lewd or lascivious acts with a minor under the age of 14. Each act is a separate felony charge. In California, sexual intercourse or sodomy with a child 10 years or under is punishable in state prison for up to 25 years to life. Ohio's penal code states that anyone who rapes a child under 13 is to be charged with a first degree felony and will receive "prison term or term of life imprisonment pursuant to section 2971.03 -- Sentencing for Sexually Violent Predators" whether or not the perpetrator knew the victim's age.
Megan's Laws Registry
Many states require the convicted, upon release, to register with the national sex offender's database. They have to provide their name and residence as well as their fingerprints, DNA, criminal history and photo and vehicle registration.
Some jurisdictions have eased statutory limitation laws to allow victims to pursue civil actions against their abusers. In one North Carolina case, the U.S. District Court ordered a man serving 60 years for child molestation and child pornography to pay $1.6 million in restitution to his two victims. In another case, a victim has brought suit to recover damages from each person convicted of downloading an internet copy of a video featuring her sexual abuse beginning at age 4.
Getting Help from a Lawyer
If you have been charged with sexual child abuse, you need to consult with an experienced attorney. Most courts deal very seriously with this crime as a matter of social policy and your rights may not be fully protected if you proceed without legal counsel. Even if you consider yourself innocent of the charge, you still need representation. Seek a lawyer in your state who has successfully defended those accused of child molestation.