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.
(If you've been accused of such a crime, see Steps to Take If You Are Accused of Child Molestation.)
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.
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
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
If you have been accused of, or 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.