What Are Sex Offenders
A sex offender is someone who has committed a sex crime. He or she may also be known as a sex abuser, sexual abuser, or sexual offender. There are different classifications of sex offenders. Some types of offenses may be under the sex crime category, but the average person would not consider it to be a sexual offense. For example, a man caught urinating in public may carry the title of sex offender due to exposure. Typically, when people imagine what a sex offender is, they imagine the worst sex crimes such as rape and child pornography.
Sex Offender Laws
Sex offender laws can vary from state to state. Some may be intended to protect one person and some are to protect all parties involved. Here are some examples of the sex offender laws you may come across.
- Age of consent laws. Age of consent is different in each state. Depending on the state, the age of consent for sexual acts is typically 16, 17, or 18 years old. This law is intended to protect against statutory rape.
- Laws against rape. It wasn’t until 1993 that marital rape became outlawed in all fifty states.
- Laws against exhibitionism. This type of offender may also be called a peeping Tom” and the act may be termed “indecent exposure.”
- Laws against incest. In Alabama, incestual marriage is legal. In some states, marriage between siblings or parents and children are illegal but marriage between first cousins is allowed.
- Laws against sexual assault.
- Laws against child pornography. These laws have recently been applied in cases of underage sexting.
- Laws against pedophilia. This protects against child sex abuse.
- Obscenity laws. Obscenity laws have faced challenges related to freedom of speech and the First Amendment. In 1973, the United States Supreme Court created a system for determining what could be prosecuted as obscene versus what was protected under free speech.
- Laws against voyeurism. Voyeurism is non-consensually spying on someone in an intimate act such as undressing. Laws have not always kept up with the times in terms of technology. For example, video voyeurism is only illegal in 9 states. Upskirting, where an offender takes photos or video up an unsuspecting woman’s skirt, has faced legal battles in the United States. In Massachusetts, a court ruled that taking photos up women’s dresses and skirts was allowed since women were otherwise clothed, however, a law was later passed to make this act illegal.
- Laws against frotteurism. This protects people from having someone rubbing their genitals against them without consent.
- Laws against bestiality. This protects animals from essentially being raped by people, given that they cannot consent to sex.
- Laws against necrophilia. Necrophilia involves having sex with a corpse. Believe it or not, necrophilia is not illegal in every state.
- Laws against sodomy. These laws were overturned throughout the United States in 2003 with the Supreme Court case of Lawrence v. Texas.
- Laws against prostitution. Most states have laws against prostitution. Nevada is an exception.
- Laws against pimping.
- Laws against human trafficking.
- Laws against public urination. These laws may be tied to laws against exhibitionism.
- Laws against streaking. These laws can also fall under exhibitionism.
- Laws against sexual harassment.
- Laws against owning “marital aids.” These are items like vibrators and other sex toys.
There are also several federal sex offender laws.
- Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act. This federal law was implemented in 2006 and organizes sex offenders into three tiers based on the severity of the offense. Tier 1, the least serious tier, requires that offenders update their location every year for 15 years. Tier 2 offenders must update their whereabouts every 6 months for 25 years. Tier 3 offenders have to update their whereabouts every three months for life. It creates a national sex offender registry, and states must disclose information on Tier 2 and Tier 3 offenders.
- Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children and Sexual Violent Offender Registration Act. Enacted in 1993, this law forced states to form registries of violent sex offenders and offenses against children, but disseminating the information wasn’t required.
- Megan’s Law. This law is a subsection of the Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children and Sexual Violent Offender Registration Act. This 1994 law required not only sex offender registration but also a complete database and for high-risk sex offenders whereabouts to be made public.
The legal consequences of committing a sexual offense vary from state to state as well as depending on the type of crime committed. In addition to needing to register as a sex offender if found guilty, sex offenders may be restricted in terms of where they can live and work. For example, they may be required to live and work a certain distance from schools, daycares, and playgrounds. There are localities that may create even stricter exclusion zones, such as including areas around stadiums, pet stores, churches, bus stops, movie theaters, and more. The distance required may fall anywhere from 500 and 2,500 feet. Sometimes these exclusion zones can completely drive sex offenders from communities. Other punishments against sexual offenses can include fines, prison time, probation, and even chemical castration, which is legal in nine states.
Sex Offender Statistics
- Every 98 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted.
- 60,000 children are victims of sexual assault each year. 80% of the time, they were assaulted by a parent.
- 90% of adult rape victims are female.
- 21% of transgender college students have been assaulted.
- 55% of sexual assaults occur at the victim’s home.
- One out of every six American women has been the victim of attempted or completed rape.
- Seven out of ten rapists know their victim.
- 60% of all inmates who are raped in prison are victims of prison staff.
- 57% of sex offenders are white.
- Weapons (like guns and knives) are used in only 11% of sexual assaults. Most of the time, assailants use their fists, teeth, and feet as weapons against their victims.
- Out of every 1,000 rapes, 994 perpetrators will walk away free.
- Two out of three sex crimes go unreported.