Sexual Abuse is difficult to sum up, as it takes many different forms. But the legal definition of the sexual abuse of a child refers to any act of a sexual nature that involves an underaged minor. It could be the seduction of a child by a trusted relative, that becomes a long-standing sexual relationship between that child and an adult. Or, it could be a single violent act performed by a stranger. Either way, both instances would count as child sexual abuse, and both are considered to be criminal acts in the state of Michigan.
Because sexual abuse takes many different forms, there are a number of different statutes to cover all of the different varieties. However, regardless of how "harmless" the act may have seemed to the adult, or how willing the minor was to participate, any sexual contact between an adult and an underaged minor is illegal in Michigan.
This could include:
- Sexual penetration (voluntary or involuntary)
- Child pornography
- Child prostitution
- Child-on-child abuse
Signs of Sexual Abuse in Children
Unless the sexual act is witnessed by another person, reported by the victim, or accidentally stumbled upon by a third party, sexual abuse often goes unrecognized. However, there are a number of relatively common signs and symptoms of sexual abuse.
Children who are the victims of sexual abuse and sexual assault may exhibit physical discomfort when sitting down if the assault was recent. Depending upon the age and size of the child, and the degree of force used in the assault, the child may have sustained injuries in the genital region, and may also, in extreme cases, have internal organ damage, which causes considerable pain. Some sexually assaulted children contract infections and STDs as a result of the assault, which can cause a number of unpleasant symptoms that range from pain all the way up to death.
Effects of Sexual Abuse of Children
The effects of sexual abuse in children are both short and long term, with behavioral and psychological problems arising almost immediately after the abuse first takes place, and often lasting for the victim's entire lifetime.
The psychological effects of sexual abuse include depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder, dissociative disorders, guilt, shame, low self esteem, and suicidal ideations. In addition, studies have shown that victims of sexual abuse often struggle with disrupted sleep patterns and nightmares, along with denial, repression and unexplained phobias. They also have greater difficulty adjusting to intimate relationships.
Behavioral effects of childhood sexual abuse can include eating disorders, aggression toward others, They also are known to struggle with self-destructive behaviors, which can include substance abuse problems, cutting or burning, and promiscuity in the form of regular unprotected sex. In severe cases, victims have been known to engage in cruelty to animals.
Does Statutory Rape Count as Sexual Abuse of a Child?
Statutory Rape, a term no longer used in Michigan law, refers to a sexual act between a legal adult and a person who the law has determined is not able to consent to sex. Minors under the age of consent, physically incapacitated persons, and mentally handicapped persons are all considered legally unable to consent to sex.
However, this term is used most commonly to refer to situations where a teenaged couple engages in consensual sex, but one of them is over the age of consent, and the other is still underaged. We have defended numerous cases over the years where a teenaged boyfriend and girlfriend have engaged in consensual sex as part of an ongoing relationship that they share, but upon discovery the parents of the underaged teen reports the other to the police. In Michigan, the legal age of consent is 16.
It is important to remember, however, that even though the sex may have been entirely consensual and part of a long-standing relationship, if one of the partners is legally an adult while the other is underaged, this counts as third degree criminal sexual conduct. It may be thought of as a form of sexual child abuse, but it is charged as a sex crime, and would need to be defended by aggressive, experienced sex crime defense attorneys.
The Consequences of Child Sexual Abuse
Child Sexual Abuse is often charged not as child abuse, but rather as a sex crime. Under Michigan law, there are many different sexual crimes against children that are prosecuted based on the specific situation in which the crime took place.
For example, the age of the victim at the time of the alleged sexual act will play a role in determining which charges are brought. Other factors include whether or not force was used to subdue or threaten the victim, whether the victim was under the authority of the accused (e.g. teacher or coach), and whether or not the victim was a blood relation of the accused.
Criminal sexual conduct charges can be very serious, and require the skills of a defense attorney with many years of experience defending those who are accused of sex crimes. This includes child pornography crimes, which are equally serious, and can result in many years in prison if not properly handled by a skilled defense lawyer.
Child Sex Abuse Defense Attorneys
Being accused of sexually abusing or assaulting a child is one of the most horrific and frightening accusations a person could face. Sex crimes are considered to be some of the worst crimes a person can commit, and when the alleged victims are children, the media and general public can be very quick to judge, and very harsh in their treatment.
A politically motivated prosecutor, whose position is affected by public opinion, knows this only too well and can be doubly severe in dealing with those accused of sexually abusing children. Whether the accused is a parent, a teacher, or simply an older boyfriend, these types of allegations are incredibly serious and need to be handled by an experienced and skilled sex crimes defense attorney.
At Kronzek & Cronkright, we have decades of experience representing those accused of sex crimes, protecting their rights and defending them against false allegations. If you've been accused of sexually abusing a child, you need expert help right now. Don't leave your future in the hands of an inexperienced or weak attorney whose afraid to fight for your future. Call us immediately. We can help.
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