Sexual violence occurs all over the planet. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines this crime as “any sexual act, attempt to obtain a sexual act, unwanted sexual comments or advances, or acts to traffic, or otherwise directed, against a person’s sexuality using coercion, by any person regardless of their relationship to the victim, in any setting, including but not limited to home and work.” Rape (by intimate partners or by strangers), child sexual abuse, incest, , stalking, sexual harassment, forced prostitution for the purpose of sexual exploitation, and domestic violence are all forms of sexual assault, directed against both males and females.
In some parts of the world, it is estimated that one in four women will experience sexual violence by their partner, and up to 33 percent of adolescent girls will start their sex life with an abuse. In general, sexual violence and abuse has been a neglected area of research – partially caused by incomplete police reports, biased medico-legal accounts, or the low number of victims who seek immediate assistance after being sexually abused. Despite this fact, there is uncontestable evidence of the tremendous physical and psychological impact it has on victims, starting with substance abuse, self-harm, depression, and borderline personality disorder to trauma, body memories, sleep disorders, and suicide.
In the wake of scarred victims, shattered lives, and frightened communities, as well as in response to the ever-growing sexual abuse rate, the U.S. federal law landscape was reshaped over the last two decades. Here are the four federal acts that guided the new approach towards sex offender laws:
On July 27, 1981, 6-year-old Adam Walsh disappeared from a mall in suburban Florida. His severed head was later found floating in a canal 120 miles north of the mall. Police never found his body.
With the boy’s father becoming the host of “America’s Most Wanted”, the case garnered national attention, and in July, 2006, President George W. Bush signed into law the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, instructing states to apply the same criteria for “posting sexual offender data on the internet.”
Coming from the rental video store, Jacob Wetterling and two of his friends were approached by an armed white male about a quarter of a mile away from Jacob’s house. The man ordered the three boys to lay down in the ditch, but only grabbed Jacob and headed for a nearby wooded area shortly after. Neither of them has been seen since the incident, which took place on October 22, 1989.
The Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children and Sexually Violent Offender Registration Act (that was included in the Federal Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994) requires states to establish lifelong registration as sex offenders of individuals classified as sexual predators.
The Pam Lychner Sexual Offender Tracking and Identification Act of 1996 (Lychner Act) requiring the FBI to establish a national database in order to track the whereabouts of certain convicted sexual offenders became effective in October, 1997. The bill was named after Pam Lychner, a former flight attendant who was assaulted by a twice-convicted felon at her house and only managed to escape after her husband interrupted the attack.
The murder of Megan Kanka, occurring in July, 1994, in New Jersey (the 7-year-old girl was raped and murdered by neighbor Jesse Timmendequas)led to the passing by Congress of another amendment to the Federal Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, commonly referred to as “Megan’s Law”, which required states to implement a sexual offender database that would notify communities of registered sexual offenders moving into a neighborhood.
In theory, these laws were passed to deter crime and make sure child rapists, repeat offenders, and other criminals belonging to “the worst of the worst” category received punishment proportional to the harm they inflict. In reality, what they managed to do is turn large groups of people into outcasts who will never manage to get their lives back after sex offenses and be reintegrated back into society.
Currently, some states are revisiting their approach towards sex offender laws, looking to make punishments more lenient. Until then, fighting such sex crime charges is going to be incredibly difficult without having the expert legal assistance of a criminal defense lawyerto investigate charges, help reduce bail, and challenge the evidence against the defendant, all essential acts in the quest for rights protection.
About the Author
Andrew M. Weisberg is a criminal defense attorney in Chicago, Illinois. A former prosecutor in Cook County, Mr. Weisberg,is a member of the Capital Litigation Trial Bar, an elite group of criminal attorneys who are certified by the Illinois Supreme Court to try death penalty cases. He is also a member of the Federal Trial Bar. Mr. Weisberg is a sole practitioner at the Law Offices of Andrew M. Weisberg.