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Does Sexual Abuse Always Involve Physical Contact?

Blank Law, PC Team

Does Sexual Abuse Always Involve Physical Contact?

Sexual abuse affects millions of people in the U.S. annually. Since many incidences of sexual abuse go unreported, it is impossible to quantify the precise number of people affected yearly.

When sexual abuse occurs, many victims are frequently too humiliated or embarrassed to disclose or discuss it with their friends or families. Some victims may also be reluctant to disclose sexual assault to the authorities due to their concern that the abuser would cause physical harm to them or a member of their family.

Various terms for sexual abuse include sexual violence, molestation, or sexual exploitation. It refers to any sexual activity done to a person without their consent. The perpetrator may perform the unwanted sexual activity using force, the threat of force, manipulation, or intimidation. Sexual abuse includes rape, unwanted criminal sexual contact with another person’s private parts, child sexual abuse, and inappropriate touching for sexual pleasure. It also includes forcing someone to participate in pornography.

Sexual abuse can have a lasting negative effect on the victims. It may affect the quality of their lives, subject them to stigma, or take a toll on their physical and mental health. Victims of sexual abuse are typically those who perpetrators perceive as vulnerable, such as women, children, and those with a physical or mental disability. In addition, some ethnic groups or races may be more susceptible to sexual abuse. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, about 1 in 13 boys and 1 in 4 girls are victims of child sexual abuse. Also, 81% of women have reported being victims of sexual harassment or abuse.

Does Sexual Abuse Always Involve Physical Contact?

Sexual abuse is any abusive sexual behavior done by one person to the other. It occurs in various forms and may or may not include physical contact. Therefore, a person can be sexually abused without any physical contact. Also, it could happen if the abuser and victim are not at the same place or have no interaction. It may involve the words spoken by the perpetrator, sight seen by the victim, or performing sexual acts covertly and without the victim’s consent.

Therefore, any verbal, physical, or visual act that compels someone to engage in unwanted sexual activities or contact qualifies as sexual abuse. Exhibitionism, the act of exposing oneself in public (see: indecent exposure); voyeurism, which means watching a private sexual act; sexual harassment; and incest, the act of having sex with a family member, are examples of sexual abuse. Other examples are child sexual abuse, including solicitation of a minor to participate in a sexual act and involving or exposing a child to pornography. Sexual exploitation may occur at your house by a familiar person or acquaintance on a date or a stranger in a remote place.

Is Sexual Abuse the Same as Criminal Sexual Conduct in Michigan?

Although different states may have differing terminology for sex crimes, they are considered serious offenses and punished everywhere. Criminal sexual conduct (CSC) is a broad term for sex offenses in Michigan. It includes sex crimes like rape, child sexual abuse, and nonconsensual sexual contact. All forms of sexual violence are regarded as criminal sexual conduct in Michigan.

Sex crimes are typically categorized into four criminal sexual conduct degrees depending on the seriousness of the offense, whether sexual penetration or unwanted sexual contact occurred, and the victim’s age.

The four degrees are:

Criminal Sexual Conduct 1st Degree

● Criminal Sexual Conduct 2nd Degree

● Criminal Sexual Conduct 3rd Degree

● Criminal Sexual Conduct 4th Degree

First degree criminal sexual conduct deals with the most serious sex offenses involving sexual penetration with a person under 13. Offenses that involve unwanted touching of another person’s private parts for sexual pleasure are usually classified as second degree criminal sexual conduct. In such situations, the victim is also typically below 13.

Third degree criminal sexual conduct also covers offenses that involve penetration. For such crimes, the victim may be a person 13 thru 15, or some particular circumstances must have occurred. Fourth degree criminal sexual conduct covers offenses involving touching another person intimately without their consent. The victim may be between 13 and 15 and the perpetrator is older by 5 years.

Therefore, sexual abuse may fall under any of the four degrees of CSC, depending on the nature of the sex offense. Each degree of CSC is punishable by imprisonment, life imprisonment in some cases, hefty fines, lifetime electronic monitoring, and probation. Also, anyone found convicted of criminal sexual conduct may be required to register with the Michigan Sex Offender Registry.

Must Child Sexual Abuse Involve Physical Contact?

Child sexual abuse refers to any sexual act involving a child and an older child, adolescent, or adult (see: MCL 750.145(c2) Child Sexually Abusive Activity). Thus, sexual acts between a child and an adult are considered child sexual abuse. However, where the sexual act occurs between a child and an adolescent, older child, or other children, it may be challenging to determine if the children are sexually abused as some sexual behavior is considered innocent exploration and not abuse. Therefore, children playing with other children may not be seen as child sexual abuse.

Any person who engages in sexual acts with a child may be charged with child sexual abuse even if the child willingly participated in such acts. In Michigan, the age of consent is 16. Thus, children below 16 cannot give consent to any sexual conduct. Also, it does not matter if the child initiated the sexual act as the law would still regard it as molestation. Adults are expected to make responsible decisions that protect children and prevent child sexual abuse in such circumstances.

Like the other forms of sexual violence, child sexual abuse can happen with or without physical contact. You may be charged with child sexual abuse if you have molested a child, whether or not sexual penetration occurred. Also, behaviors like exposing your private parts to a child for sexual pleasure or taking pictures of children in sexual poses are considered child sexual abuse (see: child pornography). In addition, forcing children to participate in child pornography or view sexual images or videos amounts to child sexual abuse. Learn more about Michigan pornography laws here.

What are the Available Legal Defenses to a Sexual Abuse Charge?

There are many available legal defenses against a sexual abuse charge. A sex crimes defense attorney can evaluate your case and help you determine which ones are better suited to your particular case.

Consent is a common defense against sexual assault charges. If the victim is an adult who willingly consented to the sexual activity, it may serve as a valid defense in court. However, if the victim is a child below the consent age, even if they consented to the act, it would still be regarded as child sexual abuse.

Another defense against a sexual abuse charge is innocence. Suppose you did not commit the crime and can prove your innocence through an alibi, eyewitness testimony, expert testimony, or physical evidence. In that case, it can serve as a valid defense against sexual assault charges.

Furthermore, if you can prove a physical incapacity at the time of the offense, it may completely exonerate you from the crime or reduce the punishment you would face. Or, if your mental health is so severely affected that it rendered you incapacitated at the time the offense occurred, it may serve as a legal defense against sexual assault. Learn more about sexual assault defense strategies here.

Will You Be Required to Register as a Sex Offender if You are Convicted of Sexual Abuse in Michigan?

If you are convicted of sexual abuse in Michigan, you may be required to register as a sex offender. Most criminal sexual conduct convictions require that the perpetrator registers with the sex offender registry. Depending on the severity of the offense, your criminal record as a sex offender may be made permanent, or you may be allowed to delete it after some time (learn how to get off the sex offender registry here). In addition, for cases of child sexual abuse, you will be mandated to register as a sex offender. You may also be punished by life imprisonment or a lengthy prison sentence and subjected to lifetime electronic monitoring.

Why You Need a Criminal Defense Lawyer if You are Accused of Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse is a serious offense with harsh penalties. You must hire a CSC defense attorney if you are accused of sexual assault or sexual abuse. Even if you are innocent of the accusation, you still need legal representation to help establish your innocence.

Sexual assault charges may have a long-lasting detrimental impact on your life. You could potentially lose your job and be denied employment, housing, or immigration opportunities. So, you must retain legal counsel immediately to begin organizing your criminal sexual conduct defense against the allegations. A criminal sexual conduct attorney can guide you through the criminal justice system, advise you on the best legal defenses, and increase your chances of avoiding a conviction.

Hire Michigan Criminal Defense Attorney Nicole Blank Becker

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If you or your relative is charged with sexual abuse or child sexual abuse, you need excellent legal representation to fight the charges. Attorney Nicole Blank Becker is a top sex crimes defense lawyer with decades of experience handling sex offenses. She can help you defend yourself and avoid a sexual abuse conviction. Contact her today to schedule your free consultation on your case.

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