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Is There a Difference Between Molestation and Sexual Abuse?

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Yes, there’s a difference between molestation and sexual abuse. Many people are confused about the differences between molestation and sexual abuse, however. According to the National Child Abuse & Neglect Data System (NCANDS), about 9 percent of neglect or child abuse cases involve sexual abuse.

Molestation and sexual abuse of a child are despicable crimes, and Texas’s child molestation laws are among the strictest on the books. Let’s review the definitions and differences between these crimes in Texas in the following sections.

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Sexual Abuse and Child Molestation in Texas

Sexual abuse typically involves either sexual intercourse or deviant sexual intercourse (DSI). Any act that includes inappropriate touching or exploitation of a child—even without touching—may be as devastating and harmful to his or her well-being. Sexual offenses that involve touching may include:

  • Fondling the child
  • Making the child touch an adult’s genitalia
  • Any amount of penetration of a child’s anus or vagina with a non-medical purposed object or penis

Sexual offenses that don’t involve touching may include:

  • Indecent exposure/exhibitionism in the presence of a child;
  • Showing pornographic materials to a child;
  • Knowingly exposing a child to an act of masturbation or sexual intercourse

The primary difference between sexual abuse and molestation concerns the child’s age. Sexual abuse happens to people of all ages. Molestation happens only to younger children. Molestation may occur when a child is:

  • Inappropriately touched
  • Forced to perform an oral sex act
  • Forced to watch an adult perform masturbation

In short, child sexual abuse and molestation involve sexual contact between a person at or above the age of consent and one who is younger than the age of consent.

Texas Sexual Abuse and Molestation Laws

Chapter 21 of the Texas Penal Code provides definitions of the types of child-specific sexual abuse:

  • Continual sexual abuse of a child involves “deviate” sexual contact with one child or more, at least two times.
  • The victim in this scenario must be younger than 14 years old.
  • The accused must be at least 17 years old.
  • Aggravated kidnapping is said to occur when the accused lures away or abducts a child with the intention to sexually abuse or violate the child.
  • Sexual performance, prostitution, or trafficking of a child is punishable under this section.

Title Five, Chapter 22, Sections 22.011-22.021 of the Texas Penal Code describe the Texas Sexual Assault Statute. Under the law, a child is less than 17 years old. An act of sexual assault occurs:

  • Without consent from the victim if and when he or she was threatened with physical violence; or
  • Actual violence occurred; or
  • When the victim can’t prevent the act from being performed; or
  • Without the consent of the victim

The law says it doesn’t matter if the defendant is a health or medical provider, public servant, a member of the clergy, or an employee in the victim’s residential facility.

A sexual assault charge may rise to aggravated assault if one or more of the following actions occur:

  1. The victim sustained serious bodily injury or attempted to murder him or her;
  2. The victim feared serious bodily injury, kidnapping, or fear of death;
  3. The defendant used a deadly weapon or showed the victim such a weapon during the criminal action(s);
  4. One or more people acted with the defendant to commit the sexual assault offense;
  5. The defendant used flunitrazepam, ketamine or rohypnol, a date rape drug, with the intention of committing a sexual assault crime;
  6. The victim is disabled or elderly;
  7. The victim is 13 years of age or younger;
  8. The act occurred when the child was to receive medical care in which the child’s sexual organs or mouth were penetrated by the defendant’s sexual organs or mouth;
  9. The child was married to the defendant when the offense occurred;
  10. The defendant was three years older or less than the victim child when the offense occurred; or
  11. The child was 14 years old+ and wasn’t prohibited from a marital union with the defendant

As you can see, Texas laws concerning sexual crimes against children are quite complex. Don’t consider self-defense if you’re charged with sexual abuse or molestation of a child. You need experienced, aggressive defense.

Sexual Abuse and Molestation Comparison

Sexual abuse occurs over a prolonged period in which the child victim is physically penetrated. If Kevin forces a 12-year-old girl in his after-school group to watch him masturbate on two separate occasions, he can be charged with sexual abuse of a child.

In comparison, an act of molestation might not include penetration. Children are less likely to tell a parent or other adult about sexual abuse. Sexual abuse or a child or child molestation charges are exceptionally serious offenses in Texas:

  • Molestation of a child often refers to sexual contact or sexual relations with a child who hasn’t reached the age of puberty.
  • Any sexual act, conduct, or indecent act that’s intended to satisfy or arouse sexual desires of the adult or child, is considered molestation.
  • The mens rea of molestation may be lascivious, lewd intent.
  • A charge of molestation is typically considered as a more serious offense than statutory rape.

For instance, if Jack’s sister accuses him of fondling and inappropriately touching her six-year-old daughter, she brings a child molestation charge.

Statutory rape is said to occur because the law says that an individual under the age of consent can’t consent. However, proving the use force in statutory rape isn’t typically required to prove the crime.

In comparison, a child molestation offense may require the proof of force. If force is involved in sexual conduct involving a child, Texas prosecutors may elect to prosecute the defendant under aggravated rape or child molestation charges.

Statutory rape, on the other hand, often refers to sexual relations with a post-pubescent minor. Typically, the offense occurs when an individual of legal adult age and an individual who’s younger than the age of consent.

Texas’s law references a three-year age gap. If the statutory age is 17 years of age, then a relationship between 25-year-old John and 16-year-old Kelly would be statutory rape. In comparison, a sexual relationship between an 18-year-old James and a 16-year-old Nell is not.

The above comparisons are offered for educational purposes only. To discuss your matter in detail, contact an experienced attorney right away to discuss your charges.

Have you been charged with molestation or child abuse in Texas? Attorney Brett Podolsky can help »

Punishment for Sexual Abuse or Molestation of a Child

Life as you know it will change if you’re convicted of a sex crime against a child. Where you live, work, or go to school in the future may be impacted by a permanent criminal record.

If a defendant is charged with sexual abuse or molestation of a child, he or she faces criminal prosecution in Texas. According to the Texas Penal Code, a charge of sexual indecency with a minor is a third-degree felony offense. In contrast, embezzlement, assault and battery, and arson are also third-degree felony offenses in Texas:

  • If convicted of a third-degree felony in Texas, the offender faces two to 10 years in jail plus various fines.
  • If convicted of continuous sexual assault of a child, the offender faces first-degree felony punishments, including five to 99 years in prison and maximum fines of up to $10,000.
  • After serving the required punishments, the convicted felon must also comply with the Texas Sex Offender Registration Program.

Don’t risk going it alone. You need serious, aggressive legal defense now. Call Brett A. Podolsky, board-certified criminal defense attorney, to discuss your matter at 713-227-0087.

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