sex crimes


Sex Crimes are categorized as offenses that come into existence as a result of violence during the sexual act, when there is no consent by one of the parties to the sexual act, or when an individual engages in sexual intercourse with a party that is legally unable to give consent to the act, for example, a child. These crimes have very dire consequences for the persons that are found to have violated the laws governing them. The punishment is not only a jail term but also an official recognition as a sexual offender. The person that has been registered as a sexual offender will find it very difficult and rough to be employed, to get good housing, and even to take part in some social events for as long as the person lives.

There are quite a number of offenses that fall into the category of sex crimes. The majority of these crimes involve illegality or forced sexual conduct against another person’s will. In the United States of America, each and every state has laws that regulate the different types of sexual crimes. This means the manner in which these crimes are handled may differ from one state to another, however, in all the states, sexual crimes are grievous offenses which are punishable. Persons who go commit these offenses are treated as sex offenders and they are included in the state and the federal sexual offender registry.


  1. Child Pornography

In the US, it is a crime to take part in the production, distribution, or even be in possession of pornographic material that contains a minor, a person under the age of 18. Persons who use the internet to spread to spread pornographic images or videos that contain children are similarly punished using child pornography laws. Exploiting the minors sexually is a grievous offense punishable by the state[1]. There are some people that tend to sell children, this is also prohibited by the federal laws[2].

There has always been some argument claiming that the protection of children from pornography should be under the First Amendment. This argument has however never been successful. The judicially has repeatedly noted that the images of child pornography are not protected as freedom of expression because of such a material brings an inference that violation was committed during the production of the material[3].

In an event where there are explicit images of minors that have been shared on the social medial platforms, this includes the selfies that have been taken by the minors themselves, oversharing of these photos may constitute child pornography. The reason behind the introduction of child pornography laws is to protect children from being exploited. However, the majority of these laws don not bring any differentiation. For example, if a minor sends his or her explicit photo to another minor who is his or her boyfriend or girlfriend, then the two will be in for prosecution. This area is however still under scrutiny.

  1. Prostitution

Prostitution is regarded as one of the oldest professions. It is also known by many other different names such as streetwalkers etc. In the United States, prostitution is prohibited country-wide except for Nevada. However, prostitution in Nevada is highly regulated. Offering sexual services or agreeing or making an agreement to give those services in exchange for money would constitute prostitution whether the actual services were provided or not[4]. For example, if a man asks for a sexual favor from a woman on the streets in exchange for money and the woman agrees, and then it turns out that the man was a police officer, the man can successfully arrest the woman for merely agreeing to the transaction even if the actual transaction never took place.

The federal government does not prosecute prostitution in most of the cases, instead, it leaves it to the state government to handle it in accordance with their laws. However, the federal government is always at the forefront in ensuring that minors are not trafficked for purposes of prostitution, either between the states or from other countries into the country. This the introduction of the Mann Act in 1910. The Act was meant to prevent the importation or the transportation of individuals from one place or state to another or from other countries into the country for purposes of commercial sex working. This Act has been reviewed over the years and amended so as to fit the current trends and emerging situations.

An individual who is paying for sexual favors is called the solicitor. This person could be prosecuted for solicitation of prostitution. Solicitation of prostitution is a sexual offense that involves the exchange of money for sex. The covenant does not necessarily have to explicit. The behavior and actions of the individuals are enough to show that there is an agreement between the two of them. Solicitation charges can be enhanced by solicitation of prostitution to a person who has not attained the age of 18, this will actually make misdemeanor charges elevate to felonies.

In summary, the crime of solicitation of prostitution would have been completed at the point where the parties agree to carry out the transactions, whether they go-ahead to carry out the act is immaterial. Solicitation refers to the act of supporting a person to carry out a crime. Whether the crime is actually carried out or not is immaterial. Any other act that will show the furthering of the agreement such as withdrawing money from the bank could be additional support on the willingness to commit the crime.

  1. Rape

According to common law, rape is unlawful by a man against a woman who he is nor married to by coercion or threat and without her consent. However, this definition has undergone review over the years in the states to broaden it in such a manner that gender, marriage, and force are not relevant. This is considering the fact that even the males can be raped as it has proven over the years. In rape, the lack of willingness of the victim is the most vital element. Unavailability of consent includes the circumstances where the victim is not in a position to give consent, for example when the victim is under the influence of drugs or alcohol. A person who is under the influence of alcohol has impaired judgment and therefore he or she cannot give consent[5]

For a rape offender to be convicted, the prosecution must prove that there was a sexual penetration that was not consented to, however slight it might have been. Every instance of penetration will be treated as a rape count. Rape by coercion is the of the most prominent rape cases, in this case, the rapist would use force or threats of violence to force the victim to engage in sexual intercourse. Rape could also be obtained forcefully by using other forms of duress such as blackmailing the victim. One can be prosecuted even in an event where she is in a relationship with the victim.

In the United States, there are some states where rape is under the classification of sexual assault. Sexual assault is a term that is used to refer to a broader aspect than just rape. The statutory rape crime is inclined towards sexual intercourse with a person who has not attained the age of 18 years. Persons under the age of 18 years do not have the capability to give consent to sex legally. Even in an event where their actions signify that they have consented to sexual intercourse, the law will make an assumption that they did not consent t it considering the fact that they have not yet attained the age of majority[6] These statutory rape laws vary from one state to another, the different states have set their age of majority differently.

The majority of the states in the US administer punishment using the laws the deal with sexual assault, minor corruption, and carnal knowledge of children. More than half of the states in the US treat rape as a felony in an event where one of the parties to the act is several years older than the other party or parties, where the older party is the offender. In ana event where the parties have almost the same age but one of the parties is below the age of majority, then the court may treat it as a misdemeanor.

  • Defenses to the Rape charges

Almost every criminal charge has a defense that comes along with it. The most common defense that offenders use is misidentification. This defense is common and it intends to achieve the fact that the person being charged in court for the rape case is not actually the real perpetrator of the offense and that the victim misidentified the offender. The defense always comes up with a good alibi. For example, if one is accused to have raped person X in Virginia in February, the accused could come up with an alibi that he was in Los Angeles on the whole month of February, and especially on that particular day. Where both the accuses and the accuser were both drunk, the idea of consent will be very difficult to prove.

  • Punishment for Rape

The offenders of rape laws are normally subjected to long prison sentences. The period of imprisonment varies from one state to another. To add on the imprisonment, the offenders are officially registered as sexual offenders on both the state and the federal registry for the rest of their lives. This registration negatively impacts their entire lives.


  • Indecent exposure

It is a crime to intentionally display one’s genitals in the public. This is because it will result in the rest of the public to be alarmed or offended. The motive of indecent exposure differs from one person to another, however, in most cases, it happens because the perpetrator intends to achieve some sexual satisfaction or to incite sexual replies. Exposing one’s genitals refers to the bare show of the genitals. However, in an event one flashes his or her underwear, however revealing it may appear, it will not constitute indecent exposure as per the state laws of the majority of the states. Showing of female breasts could also constitute indecent exposure, however, there is an exception for mothers who are breastfeeding[7].

There is one question that usually arises, what about the persons who urinate in public? Whether this qualifies as an indecent exposure is entirely dependent on the laws that have been put up by the various state laws. The circumstances of the act would also be very key in determining this, for example in an event where one urinates in direct view of the public but at night, the person would have a good alibi as he or she could claim that the intention was not to arouse sexual feelings or offending any person because of the vision impairment caused by darkness.


In conclusion, there are a number of laws that have been put forth in relation to sexual acts. The intention is to maintain the morality of the people and to protect the vulnerable in society from being sexually harassed. The punishment for these offenses has been made grieve so that it could scare the potential offenders from committing the offense. For example, if one is found to have committed a rape offense, he or she is likely to be behind bars for years and at the same time, the offender will be registered as a sexual offender, something that will greatly affect the life of the offender for the rest of his or her life even after having served the jail term. There are other organizations that have been set up to enforce, educate, and champion for protection of minors and other vulnerable persons in the society from sex and related offenses.


duncan nyakundi morara Duncan Nyakundi Morara | Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology


[1] 18 U.S.C. § 2251

[2] 18 U.S.C. § 2251A

[3] New York v. Ferber

[4] Mann Act, 18 U.S.C. § 2421

[5] United States Code (18 U.S.C. §§ 2241–2248)

[6] U.S. Code § 920 – Art. 120

[7] 25 CFR § 11.408


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