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In Virginia, crimes of a sexual nature are among the most serious crimes in the criminal justice system because of the harm that is done to the victims and the penalties imposed on offenders. Victims of sex offenses are encouraged to seek medical attention from trained doctors and medical professionals, as well as guidance from experienced sexual abuse lawyers after an incident.
The Fairfax sexual abuse attorneys at Ashcraft & Gerel have been standing up for the rights of victims for more than 65 years. We understand the immense impact these criminal acts have on victims, which is why we provide compassionate legal guidance and aggressive advocacy on behalf of our clients.
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Examples of Sexual Offenses
Sex offenses and abuse come in many forms, but the most serious ones include:
- Pornography involving children
- Indecent exposure
- Engaging in sexual acts for money (prostitution)
- Sexual assault
- Statutory rape
Rape is also known as a sexual battery in Virginia. It is a crime of a sexual nature involving forced sexual contact. The force can be physical (violence) or emotional (threats, pressure, coercion, and intimidation). Sexual intercourse that begins without the consent of a person by another individual is a sexual battery or rape.
In Virginia, sexual assaults and rapes contain these elements:
- Sexual intercourse with a person, not his or her spouse and against that person’s will
- Sexual intercourse by force, intimidation, or threats against a victim or another individual
- Sexual intercourse with the use of the victim’s physical or mental incapacitation
- Sexual intercourse with a victim younger than the age of 13
Sexual assault in Virginia is any type of unwanted sexual contact without the consent of the victim by use of force, threats of force, coercion, and intimidation.
The state of Virginia also uses the following definitions:
- Sexual intercourse – penetration (vaginally, orally, or anally) with a finger, penis, tongue, or any other inanimate object
- Sexual contact – intentional touching of an individual’s intimate areas (includes breasts, buttocks, groin, genitalia, or clothing covering any of those regions)
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Penalties for Sexual Battery in Virginia
The penalties for committing sexual battery in Virginia vary depending on how and upon whom the act was committed. Sexual battery is a felony and those convicted are subject to jail terms ranging from five years to lifetime imprisonment. There may even be stricter penalties for acts against children under the age of 13, which may include a 25 year to life (mandatory) minimum sentence, depending on how severe the crime.
If you or someone close to you is the victim of sexual assault, you should contact local authorities and consult with sexual abuse lawyers. The damage done to a victim is often more than just physical injuries; in many cases, victims need emotional support to get through the tragedy and trauma they have experienced.
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Sexual Abuse Definitions
In Virginia, rape refers to sexual intercourse without consent by physical force, threats of injury, or any other type of duress. A common law rape is one against a woman by a man that is not her husband and against her will. Many states have laws relating to rape in which marriage, force, and gender are irrelevant. In all instances, a victim’s inability to consent is the deciding factor. Lack of consent includes victims under the influence of alcohol and drugs who are unable to say “no” to intercourse. Rape can also take place when the defendant and the victim have a relationship or know each other (date rape), and even when the defendant is the spouse of the victim.
In order to convict a person of rape, there must be sexual penetration (regardless of how minimal). Every instance of penetration can count an act of rape. The most common form of rape occurs when a person uses threats of violence or actual violence to coerce a victim into sexual intercourse. There are other forms of rape also, such as imitating a public official (i.e. a police officer) and using threats of imprisonment or punishment to force the victim into sex.
Statutory rape involves sexual intercourse with a minor under the age of consent. Anyone found to be under the age of consent legally cannot give permission to have sex with anyone. So, in other words, having sex with someone under the age of consent is a violation of the law. Even though Virginia doesn’t use the term “statutory rape,” the crime is the same.
The state has two different laws relating to statutory rape crimes:
- Carnal knowledge – if you participate in sexual intercourse with a child between 13 and 15 years old, and you are over the age of 18, it is a Class 4 felony, which is punishable by anywhere from 2 to 10 years in prison along with a $100,000 fine.
- Misdemeanor – If an 18-year-old engages in sexual intercourse with a child 15 to 17 years old, it’s a Class 1 misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to one year in a prison along with a $2,500 fine.
The two other violations of sexual abuse laws that fall under the criteria of punishable offenses in the state of Virginia are indecent exposure and sodomy. Their definitions are:
- Indecent Exposure – An individual exposing his or her private parts in a public area or some place where people are present. This includes masturbation, sexual intercourse, and exhibitionism, but not breastfeeding. Exposing your private parts to any child under 15 years of age or trying to get a child to expose theirs is a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison in addition to a fine.
- Sodomy – Sexual intercourse involving oral or anal copulation is usually a matter for consenting adults. It is an illegal act when done against a person’s will or when done to a child, even though there is no law against it for consenting adults.
Another form of sexual abuse is prostitution, or the exchange of sex acts for money. It is a crime to engage in, agree to, or offer any type of sexual activity for monetary compensation. The only state in which prostitution is legal is Nevada.
It is also illegal to solicit a person for sex by offering them money. Solicitation starts the minute you agree to pay money for sex and take action to pursue sex. It is encouraging another person to commit a crime. Even if you do not commit the act, making an offer to pay for sex is an illegal act. If you show any intent to complete the act, like going to an ATM to withdraw cash, you are committing a crime.
If you are caught soliciting someone to commit a sex act for money, or if you offer to have sex with someone for money, you are breaking the law. You can be a “John,” or a person attempting to purchase sex, or you can be a prostitute, a person attempting to receive money for committing a sex act. Either way, you will be guilty of solicitation.
Solicitation convictions often come with penalties like fines and jail time. You will also have to deal with social stigmas that will follow you for quite a while. Even though you are innocent until found guilty, it may be hard to deal with the backlash of being accused.
Sexual abuse lawyers will be able to assist you if you are caught attempting to solicit for sex. The laws are very confusing, and you will not be able to defend your case on your own. An experienced sexual abuse lawyer will be able to understand the specific details of your case and help you get the justice you need. Let an attorney handle the court case so you can be sure you do not suffer long-term after-effects of your arrest. You don’t want to put your fate in the hands of someone with no experience.
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Sex Offender Penalties in Virginia
The state of Virginia has very specific methods to prevent sex offenders and abusers from continuing to commit offenses. Some methods are extreme and invasive, and others are to make the public aware of the crimes.
The methods the state uses are:
- Chemical and Surgical Castration – drug treatments to lower an offender’s sex drive
- Civil Commitment – keeping offenders in prison to prevent habitual offenders from committing sexual offenses in the future
- Halloween Sex Offender Laws – restricting the conduct of offenders on Halloween night
- Residency Restrictions for Sex Offenders – Virginia (and many other states) forbid offenders convicted of sex crimes from living near schools or other areas where children congregate
- Amber Alerts – alerts to spread the information of child abductions to help rescue children and prevent them from abuse
Offenders found guilty of committing illegal sex acts often face penalties for the duration of their lives. They will have to register as sex offenders and comply with the laws regarding registration. Some may even face severe medical restrictions (i.e., chemical castration) to prevent them from harming anyone in the future. Even when the offenses are not as severe as others, (i.e., statutory rape between a consenting minor close in age to an adult or a minor that takes nude photos of himself or herself), the punishment can be harsh.
The laws in Virginia relating to sex crimes and abuse are constantly changing. They may be difficult to understand, and you probably will not be able to defend yourself without legal counsel. You should contact an experienced sex abuse attorney if you or someone you love is a victim of sexual abuse or if accused of committing a sex offense.
Virginia Child Pornography Laws
Federal laws and Virginia state laws make it a crime to sell, produce, or possess pornographic materials that exploit anyone under the age of 18. Child pornography laws also extend to computer use, and sharing and distributing images and materials involving children is against the law. Federal laws prohibit child pornography—like manufacturing, distributing, possessing, or accessing with the intent to view—and usually relate to illegal activity across state lines on the internet or via mail. Not only may the federal authorities prosecute, but state prosecutors also have the option of pursuing child pornography abusers. Most states will sentence convicted offenders to register as sex offenders for the duration of their lives.
Anyone found guilty of a pornography-related crime relating to children (state or federal) will have to register as a sex offender. Each offender will have to provide their name, address, and all past offenses for tracking and monitoring purposes.
What Should You Do If You Are a Victim of Sexual Abuse in Fairfax, Virginia
If you or someone you know is a victim of sexual abuse, your first step is to contact the local authorities and report the incident. Once you have made a report with the police, you can then begin the healing process necessary to take your life back. There may be more than physical injuries associated with your attack or the incident. Sexual abuse victims often need counseling to deal with the emotional scars left after the attack. An experienced sexual abuse attorney will be able to direct you to the appropriate resources to get the help you need to start healing.
Contact the Fairfax Sexual Abuse Lawyers at Ashcraft & Gerel for Help
If you or someone you know is the victim of a sexual assault or sexual abuse, you need to call an attorney for assistance to get you the justice you deserve. The sexual abuse lawyers at Ashcraft & Gerel can help you get your life back on track after your assault. We can navigate through the confusing legal paperwork so you can focus on getting better.