sexual abuse | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Criminal Law

Sexual abuse in the criminal law context refers to any non-consensual sexual contact or behavior, including acts of molestation, assault, or rape.

Sexual abuse is a serious criminal offense that encompasses a wide range of non-consensual sexual contact or behavior. In the criminal law context, sexual abuse is defined as any sexual act or behavior that is perpetrated against another person without their consent. This can include acts of molestation, assault, or rape, as well as other forms of sexual misconduct.

Sexual abuse can take many forms, from physical contact to verbal harassment and intimidation. Examples of physical sexual abuse include unwanted touching, groping, or kissing, as well as more violent acts such as sexual assault or rape. Non-physical forms of sexual abuse can include exposing oneself, making unwanted sexual comments, or engaging in unwanted sexual behavior in front of another person.

Criminal law defines sexual abuse as a form of sexual violence, and as such, it is treated as a serious offense. Depending on the jurisdiction and the specific circumstances of the case, sexual abuse may be classified as a felony or a misdemeanor. Penalties for sexual abuse can include fines, probation, and incarceration, as well as other forms of punishment such as community service, counseling, or sex offender registration.

In addition to the criminal penalties for sexual abuse, victims of sexual abuse may also have the right to seek civil remedies. This can include filing a lawsuit against the perpetrator for damages such as medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Victims may also be eligible for compensation from state or federal programs that provide financial assistance to victims of violent crimes.

Preventing sexual abuse is a key priority for law enforcement and other criminal justice professionals. This includes raising awareness about the dangers of sexual abuse, promoting healthy relationships and respectful behavior, and providing support and resources for victims of sexual abuse. Additionally, many jurisdictions have implemented laws and policies aimed at preventing sexual abuse, such as mandatory reporting requirements for certain professions and harsher penalties for repeat offenders.

Sexual abuse is a serious crime that can have long-lasting physical, emotional, and psychological effects on victims. It is important for law enforcement and the criminal justice system to take allegations of sexual abuse seriously and to work to prevent these crimes from occurring in the first place.

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Last Modified: 03/14/2023


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