“Force” in Allegations of Child Sexual Abuse

The district attorney is often not required to show proof that physical force was used when prosecuting allegations of child sexual abuse.  This is important because a potential response to these types of allegations is that the alleged victim initiated and participated in the sexual activity – no force was used. However, depending on the particular charges the accused person is facing, the prosecutor may not be required to show force at all.  And, even if there is a required showing of force, it can be very minimal.

In many instances there is no requirement of force when a person is accused of a sex crime against a child.  For example, in most jurisdictions, there is no requirement that force be used in order to substantiate or prove a charge of child molestation, statutory rape or aggravated child molestation.  With these types of charges, the prosecutor only need show that the alleged act (the touching or sexual contact) occurred, that sexual gratification was involved, and the age of the alleged victim.  

With these types of charges, if the alleged victim is below the legal age of consent, there is often no requirement to show that the alleged acts involved force, as a Decatur criminal lawyer can explain.  For example, if a twenty-year-old is alleged to have had sex with a fourteen-year-old, in many jurisdictions this can be charged as child molestation or statutory rape.  There is often no additional requirement that the fourteen-year-old was “forced” to participate in the act. In other words, a person could possibly be convicted of child molestation or statutory rape even if the alleged victim willingly participated in or even initiated the sexual contact.  This is because, according to the law, a person under the age a certain age (typically fourteen or sixteen, depending on the jurisdiction) is incapable of giving consent to sexual activity.

A common exception to this is the charge of forcible rape.  In Georgia for example, before a person can be convicted of rape the prosecution must show proof that force was used.  This additional requirement applies even if the alleged victim is below the legal age of consent. So, in order for the prosecution to successfully prosecute a charge of rape there must be some showing of force.  

However, even in these instances, the law often allows a very broad interpretation of what constitutes force.  Physical force is often not required. Even verbal threats can constitute force. Also, even under this exception, if the child is extremely young (ten years old or younger), force will be assumed and the prosecutor does not need to prove it by showing specific acts or threats.

Thanks to our friends and contributors from Andrew R. Lynch, P.C. for their insight into criminal charges.

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