Sex Abuse Laws & Facts by State
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What Are Sex Abuse Laws?
Sex abuse laws play an important role in our society. They allow victims to seek justice in court and hold perpetrators accountable for their actions. Sex abuse laws help witnesses and bystanders to report suspicions of abuse and to name suspected perpetrators. Other laws help to monitor and track known sex offenders to ensure they do no further harm.
Minors and other vulnerable people are protected under law from sexual exploitation and trafficking. These laws also allow lawmakers to create funds and protections to help survivors of sexual abuse heal and move forward.
However, sex abuse laws can be quite complex and they can vary greatly from state to state. You can find more information about the specific sex abuse laws in your state by using the search bar above. Read on to learn about the different types of sex abuse laws and how they keep people safe.
What Are Consent Laws?
Consent generally means that both people are willing and eager participants in any sexual encounter. It is especially important to seek enthusiastic consent that is freely given, specific, continuous, and reversible at any time.
However, each state has its own unique legal definition of what does and does not constitute consent. Consent laws are important because they help determine whether or not a sexual encounter is considered a crime under law.
The factors that determine whether or not a sexual encounter was consensual under law include:
- Whether the person expressed agreement to sexual acts.
- Whether the person freely gave consent, or if they were coerced into a sexual encounter—including through violence, threats, or financial manipulation.
- Whether the person had the legal ability to give consent—including if the person met the age of consent, if the person was too intoxicated to consent, or if the person was mentally or physically disabled, or otherwise vulnerable.
These laws can help victims pursue justice if they were abused or unable to give consent.
What Are Mandatory Reporting Laws?
Mandatory reporting laws require that a person reports any suspicion of child sexual abuse or neglect to the proper authorities. These laws are designed to protect minors from sexual abuse and exploitation.
Although mandatory reporting laws vary from state to state, certain professionals are commonly required to be mandatory reporters—especially those who work with children or are in positions of power. These professions generally include daycare workers, medical professionals, foster care workers, police officers, school employees, and members of the clergy.
Although the exact timing and procedural requirements vary by state, these laws generally require that a mandatory reporter make either an oral or written report to the state’s child protective services department immediately or within 12-48 hours after discovering the suspected abuse.
In other states, there are no mandatory reporting laws. This means that any person who suspects child abuse or neglect is required to report their suspicions to the authorities.
What Are Statute of Limitation (SOL) Laws?
Statutes of Limitation (SOL) are laws that set a time limit on how long after an event or crime that a claim or lawsuit can be filed against a perpetrator. Most civil and criminal cases have SOLs on how long you have to file your claim, including car accident lawsuits, trespassing lawsuits, and debt collection lawsuits. Severe felony crimes, like murder, usually do not have SOLs.
For cases involving sexual abuse, the laws surrounding SOLs vary from state to state. Generally, SOLs around sex abuse crimes vary from 10-21 years after the abuse took place. Some states offer exceptions to their SOLs, such as if DNA evidence is discovered, which gives the survivor more time to pursue a lawsuit if they wish to do so.
In recent years, some states have moved to remove their SOLs for sexual assault cases, as part of a growing understanding of the many reasons why sexual abuse survivor may not immediately come forward to report a crime.
What is the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA)?
The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006 helped to establish a national sex offender registration system called the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA).
This law requires states to accurately monitor and track convicted sex offenders following their release, helping to protect members of the community from harm. Offenders are required by law to register with state authorities, and failure to do so can result in fines and a prison sentence of up to 10 years.
What Are Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) Programs?
In 1984, the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) was passed. This bill established the Crime Victim’s Fund Victim, and these funds are distributed to survivors through state-operated Victims Compensation Funds (VCF).
VCFs are programs that provide direct financial compensation to a victim of a crime. These funds are meant to compensate for an expense that resulted from the crime, such as expenses for mental health counseling, medical bills, or lost wages. The funds of VCF programs are supported through millions of dollars of criminal fines, forfeited bail bonds, and penalty fees on convicted criminals.
In the case of sexual abuse victims, there are a number of state VCF programs created to support survivors, including but not limited to the following state programs:
- In New York, the Office of Victim Services allows survivors to apply for benefits.
- In New Jersey, the Victims of Crime Compensation Office helps survivors apply for benefits.
Learn More About Sex Abuse Laws
If you’re interested in learning about sex abuse laws in your state and how an attorney might be able to help you get justice, please fill out our form below or contact us at (800) 888-2244. When contacting our legal team of partners, we will ensure your identity will remain private.