Child Molestation Overview

It is illegal for an adult to engage in any sexual activities or conduct with a child. Child molestation includes a wide variety of sexual conduct  between an adult and a child that is described in and detailed by state and federal statutes.
Most sexual abuse matters are handled by state and local authorities, although there are numerous federal statutes that are utilized if a child is molested on federal land (such as on a military base).

Who is Considered a “Child” for Legal Purposes?

  • Every state has its own laws pertaining child molestation
  • Child molestation laws often refer to children who are 14 years of age or younger
  • In Florida, a child is defined as someone who is unmarried, under 18, and not emancipated by the court
  • However, in Florida, the law provides an exception whereby a person who is 23 may legally engage in consensual sexual conduct with a minor aged 16 or 17
  • Many states have “close in age” statutes such as stated above in Florida; these allow sexual contact with persons close in age (e.g., 3 years older than the minor) or reduce sexual offenses to a misdemeanor (as in California, if within 3 years of 18).

What Conduct Does Child Molestation Include

  • Child molestation may take many forms, including, but not limited to, the following illegal sexual activities:
  • Vaginal or anal intercourse with a child
  • Fondling the child’s sexual organs
  • Asking, guiding, forcing or enticing a child to touch the adult’s sexual organs
  • Engaging in any form of sexual contact using the adult’s penis, vagina or anus and any part of the child’s anatomy
  • Engaging in indecent exposure in front of the child
  • Requiring, guiding, forcing or enticing the child to become naked for the adult’s sexual pleasure
  • Purposefully exposing a child to obscene acts or sexually explicit conduct by the adult
  • Engaging in masturbation in view of the child
  • Sexually exploiting a child – includes utilizing the child for the purpose of pornography, prostitution or other sexual act

Federal Statutes Prohibiting Child Molestation

  • Aggravated sexual abuse – 18 USC 2441
  • Sexual abuse -18 USC 2442
  • Sexual abuse of a minor or ward – 18 USC 2243
  • Abusive sexual contact – 18 USC 2244

Who is Required to Report Molestation and Abuse

Professionals and Others Are Required to Report Child Sexual Molestation and Abuse:

  • Most jurisdictions require specific persons to report sexual abuse once they have knowledge. These may include:
  • Teachers, principals, school personnel and staff
  • Physicians and medical professionals of all kinds
  • Law enforcement officers and firefighters
  • Social workers, probation and parole officers
  • Child psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, counselors and others in the mental health field
  • Child care providers and support staff
  • Medical examiner, coroner professional staff
  • Day camp and sleep-away camp counselors and personnel
  • Other professionals who are so directed

Penalties for Child Molestation

  • State statutes vary but all states treat sexual molestation seriously and aggressively
  • Prison: 5 years to 99 years or life
  • Fines: may exceed $10,000
  • If released from prison, there are limitations and restrictions, including:
  • Lifetime mandatory sex offender registration
  • Must register with sex offender office of every community, state or area upon arrival or within days
  • Supervised release – must report to parole officer and abide by strict regulations
  • Usually extremely difficult for sexual offender to find employment
  • Often difficult for sexual offender to obtain living accommodations, as there are strict regulations as to where s/he may live – e.g., not within certain distance of school or playground

Facts About Child Sexual Molestation and Abuse

  • Approximately one out of every three girls and one out of every seven boys will be subject to some form of childhood sexual abuse
  • Only about 30% of sexual abuse cases get reported to authorities
  • Most cases of sexual molestation involve acquaintances or family members of the child (Source: U.S.D.O.J)

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Michael S. Berg
Attorney At Law