Sexual Assault and Sexual Battery

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Sexual Crimes:

Sexual-related crimes are sexual assault, rape, and sexual battery. The three offenses share the common element of sexual intercourse forced on another without the person’s permission or consent. However, an offender can commit each of these offenses within the same incident, which they often do.

You have to look at the laws of the state where the alleged crime occurred to determine the precise offense, the definitions, penalties, and punishments for these crimes. Each State’s laws on offenses differ. Oftentimes, sexual assault is an umbrella term that covers both offenses of rape (penetration) and sexual battery.

The term “sexual battery” refers to criminal sexual touching in most states, including Virginia and Louisiana. Contrarily, in a few states like Florida, the term refers to the more serious offense of rape or criminal sexual penetration.

Let us look at these two legislations:

 In Florida:

Sexual battery” means oral, anal, or vaginal penetration by, or union with, the sexual organ of another or the anal or vaginal penetration of another by any other object; however, sexual battery does not include an act done for a bona fide medical purpose.”

Florida Statute s. 794.011

In Louisiana,

An accused is guilty of sexual battery if he sexually abuses, as defined in § 18.2-67.10,  …

6. “Sexual abuse” means an act committed with the intent to sexually molest, arouse, or gratify any person, where:

a. The accused intentionally touches the complaining witness’s intimate parts or material directly covering such intimate parts;

b. The accused forces the complaining witness to touch the accused’s, the witness’s own, or another person’s intimate parts or material directly covering such intimate parts;

c. If the complaining witness is under the age of 13, the accused causes or assists the complaining witness to touch the accused’s, the witness’s own, or another person’s intimate parts or material directly covering such intimate parts; or

d. The accused forces another person to touch the complaining witness’s intimate parts or material directly covering such intimate parts.

Virginia § 18.2-67.10. Code of Virginia.

As we can see from the two cited laws, the sexual battery in Florida refers to rape or sodomy. However, in Virginia, the offense is non-consensual contact with another person’s intimate body parts. “Intimate parts” mean a person’s genitals, anus, buttocks, breasts, or groin. The common exception to all such contact is an act done for a bona fide medical purpose or normal sanitary care.

Proof of Sexual Battery:

To prove sexual battery in most states, the state prosecutor must show beyond all reasonable doubt that:

  • The accused sexually abused the victim, which could have included sexual contact with intimate parts of the victim’s body or oral, anal, or vaginal penetration of the victim with a sexual organ or object, and aggravating factors.
  • There was no consent to sexual contact of an intimate nature, a sexual act, or sexual activity. So, If the victim is under 12 years of age, there is a presumption of lack of consent.
  • presence of aggravating factors such as
    • the offender applying threats, force, or ruse to the victim,
    • Where the victim is physically incapacitated or mentally challenged,
    • Where the victim is sixty-five years old or older,
    • Using or threatening to use a deadly weapon;
    • Using actual physical force likely to cause serious personal injury,
    •  Where there are two or more perpetrators

Earlier Exceptions to Sexual Battery:

In past decades, legislation and courts provides the following exceptions to sexual battery:

  • Only women could complain of rape.
  • Forcible oral penetration or forcible penetration with a physical object did not constitute rape.
  • Spouses cannot commit sexual battery or rape against each other.
  • The testimony of the victim requires corroboration.

Currently, this is no longer the position as many states have abandoned these ideas. Currently, men, women, and spouses can complain of sexual battery. Moreover, oral penetration and penetration using physical objects constitute sexual battery or rape. The prosecution does not need to corroborate the testimony of the victim to prove its case.

In other words, anyone can commit or be a victim of sexual battery, sexual assault, and rape. Sex workers can also complain of sexual battery as long as there is proof of a lack of consent.  

Children, Old People, and Sexual Battery:

It can happen to anyone, regardless of age or gender. Thus, people of any age or gender may commit or be a victim of such crimes. As regards children, courts throughout the United States presume a lack of consent in cases involving children under a certain age. Usually, an adult sexually touching a child below the age of 13 or with or without her consent is an offense.

In States like Louisiana, sexually touching a person of sixty-five years of age or older without the person’s offense is an aggravated sexual offense. Lack of knowledge of the victim’s age is not a defense.

Punishment:

The punishment for sexual battery in Louisiana is imprisonment, with or without hard labor for not more than ten years. Note that this is without the benefit of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence. But, in Florida, the offender is liable to 12 years imprisonment or more.

The length of imprisonment may increase depending on the age of the victim and the presence of aggravating factors. For instance, if the victim is under the age of thirteen years when the offender is seventeen years of age or older, or is mentally challenged or above sixty-five years of age or older, then the offender shall be imprisoned at hard labor for not less than twenty-five years but not more than ninety-nine years. At least twenty-five years of the sentence imposed shall be served without the benefit of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence.

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