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Sex Offenses: Children

Relationship To Other Sex Crimes

Both federal and state laws establish a large number of sexual crimes against children addressing acts related to, but not directly involving, sexual touching between an adult and a child. For example, crimes such as child prostitution and child pornography—commonly referred to as child sexual exploitation offenses—target manipulation of a child for an adult's sexual gratification. The prohibited conduct in child exploitation offenses, however, is the taking of pictures or selling of a child's body rather than Table 1 the direct sexual contact between an adult and a child.

Offenses such as incest, sodomy, fornication, and the crime against nature—commonly classified as crimes against morality—condemn particular sexual acts regardless of the age of the participants or the consensual nature of the act. These offenses are largely obsolete and do not constitute a significant weapon in the modern child abuse prosecutor's arsenal. Statutes designed to protect children from adult sexual manipulation are better suited and more frequently used to prosecute an adult for engaging in sexual activity with a child.

A few states retain the designation statutory rape to refer to a sexually penetrative act between an adult and a child, and in casual usage the term often refers to sexual intercourse between an adult and an older adolescent. By definition, however, the term applies to any sexual activity between an adult and a child in which a statute removes the element of force otherwise required by the common law definition of rape. Most child sex crime statutes avoid the term altogether and are more likely to designate sexual crimes against children as aggravated rape, sexual assault of a child, or sexual abuse of a child.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationCrime and Criminal LawSex Offenses: Children - Historical Developments, Fundamental Elements Of Modern Statutes, Variable Elements, The Model Penal Code, Relationship To Other Sex Crimes