Pathways to Understanding
What is Sexualized Violence?
There is no consistent criminal law definition of sexual assault throughout the United States. Individual states, tribes, territories, and the federal government each use their own definition. Typically, however, criminal laws define sexual violence to include non-consensual genital, anal, or oral penetration of the victim by a part of the assailant’s body or by an object, or vice versa. The contact may be accomplished with force, threat of force, or without the victim’s consent. (A victim may be unable to consent due to her/his age, mental capacity, intoxication, etc.) Many jurisdictions also criminalize any sexual activity that occurs: between family members; when the victim is a minor; or when the accused is over the age of 17 and is the guardian, supervisor, teacher, babysitter or otherwise in a position of power over and/or has responsibility for the victim. Girls, boys, women and men can all be victims of sexual violence.
Sexual violence refers to rape (including acquaintance rape, rape by stranger(s), rape within a marriage or intimate relationship, rape by a friend, date, family member, acquaintance, etc.), as well as attempted rape, incest, child sexual abuse, exhibitionism, voyeurism, obscene phone calls, fondling, sexual harassment, and forced prostitution. Married women and women in committed relationships may be raped or otherwise sexually assaulted by their partners. It is critical for everyone to understand that in the U.S., marital rape is a criminal offense in every state.
Rape is defined as an event that occurred without the individual’s consent that involved the use of force or threat of force, and that involved sexual penetration of the victim’s vagina, mouth, or rectum. This is a very conservative definition of rape that meets the legal definition of forcible rape in all jurisdictions within the United States and in the federal criminal code. Attempted forcible rape is legally defined in most jurisdictions as attempts to commit forcible rape that are not successful.
- Legal statutes in Massachusetts as well as at the federal level also prohibit rapes which occur when a perpetrator engages in a sex act with an unwilling victim who is unconscious or who is intoxicated with alcohol or drugs to the point that their ability to appraise or control their conduct is substantially impaired. The Federal Criminal Code defines this type of rape as aggravated sexual abuse by other means. Sometimes it is referred to as drug or alcohol facilitated rape. The term incapacitated rape is sometimes used to describe drug or alcohol facilitated rape as well as when the victim is either unconscious or too impaired for any reason to know what she/he is doing or give consent.
- Another type of rape is statutory rape. This occurs when a perpetrator commits any type of nonforcible sex act with an under aged child. In Massachusetts no individual below the age of 16 can consent to a sexual act. In the Federal Code, sex act is defined as any type of sexual penetration (i.e. vaginal, anal, or oral) including any penetration of the vagina or anus by hands, fingers, or objects.
From the United States Department of Justice Website: http://www.justice.gov/criminal/ceos/subjectareas/childporn.html
Victims of Child Pornography
Child pornography is a form of child sexual exploitation. Federal law defines child pornography as any visual depiction of sexually explicit conduct involving a minor (persons less than 18 years old). Images of child pornography are also referred to as child sexual abuse images.
Federal law prohibits the production, distribution, importation, reception, or possession of any image of child pornography. A violation of federal child pornography laws is a serious crime, and convicted offenders face fines severe statutory penalties.
It is important to distinguish child pornography from the more conventional understanding of the term pornography. Child pornography is a form of child sexual exploitation, and each image graphically memorializes the sexual abuse of that child. Each child involved in the production of an image is a victim of sexual abuse.
While some child sexual abuse images depict children in great distress and the sexual abuse is self-evident, other images may depict children that appear complacent. However, just because a child appears complacent does not mean that sexual abuse did not occur. In most child pornography cases, the abuse is not a one-time event, but rather ongoing victimization that progresses over months or years. It is common for producers of child pornography to groom victims, or cultivate a relationship with a child and gradually sexualize the contact over time. The grooming process fosters a false sense of trust and authority over a child in order to desensitize or break down a child´s resistance to sexual abuse. Therefore, even if a child appears complacent in a particular image, it is important to remember that the abuse may have started years before that image was created.
Furthermore, victims of child pornography suffer not just from the sexual abuse inflicted upon them to produce child pornography, but also from knowing that their images can be traded and viewed by others worldwide. Once an image is on the Internet, it is irretrievable and can continue to circulate forever. The permanent record of a child´s sexual abuse can alter his or her live forever. Many victims of child pornography suffer from feelings of helplessness, fear, humiliation, and lack of control given that their images are available for others to view in perpetuity.
Unfortunately, emerging trends reveal an increase in the number of images depicting sadistic and violent child sexual abuse, and an increase in the number of images depicting very young children, including toddlers and infants.
Our culture of violence