When Are You a Victim of a Pennsylvania Sexual Offense?

Published on November 28, 2015

Understanding Sex Offenses and the Law in Pennsylvania

On our website, we use terms like sex assault and sex abuse interchangeably.  In court, our Pennsylvania sex assault attorneys must be more specific. Under Pennsylvania law rape, sexual assault and sexual abuse are different crimes and carry different penalties.

According to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court (Commonwealth v. Bonadio,490 Pa. 91, 95, 415 A.2d 47, 49 (1980) (Flaherty, J., plurality)), the state has a duty to:

  1. Protect the public from accidental and intentional offensive displays of sexual behavior
  2. Prevent people from being forced to submit to sexual contact against their will
  3. Protect children from being sexually used by adults
  4. Eliminate cruelty to animals

Pennsylvania sexual assault laws are designed to uphold these duties.

Rape vs. Sexual Assault

Many people are confused about the difference between sexual assault and rape. These are both types of sexual violence. The term sexual assault is generally used to refer to sexual contact without consent. The term rape is used when any sort of force is used to initiate unwanted sexual contact.

Rape

In Pennsylvania, a crime is considered rape if any type of force or threat of force is used to compel the victim to engage in sexual intercourse. It is also rape if the victim is unconscious or otherwise unaware that sexual intercourse is occurring or has a physical disability that makes the victim incapable of giving consent.

A sex crime is also considered rape if the assailant uses drugs, alcohol or other substances to impair the victim’s ability to resist or provide consent without the victim’s permission or knowledge.

If sexual penetration involves anal or oral intercourse, the crime is considered involuntary deviate sexual intercourse.

Rape and involuntary deviate sexual intercourse are first degree felonies in Pennsylvania. Both crimes are punishable with up to twenty years in prison. The assailant may receive up to ten years of additional prison time if date rape drugs or other substances are used in the assault.

Rape of a Child

“Rape of a child” occurs when the victim is less than 13 years old. The crime is a first degree felony and is punishable by up to forty years in prison. If the child is injured, the crime may be considered “rape of a child with serious bodily injury” and is punishable with a maximum term of life imprisonment.

Sexual Assault

Sexual assault in Pennsylvania refers to sexual intercourse or deviate sexual intercourse without consent. In most cases, sexual assault is a second degree felony.

Statutory Sexual Assault

Statutory sexual assault refers to sexual intercourse with a victim who is under the age of 16. If the assailant is 11 or more years older than the victim, the crime is a first degree felony. If the assailant is more than four but less than 11 years older than the victim, the crime is considered a second degree felony.

Other Sex Crimes in Pennsylvania

Institutional sexual assault: Institutional sexual assault occurs when a state or county employee of a licensed residential facility serving children engages in sexual intercourse, deviate sexual intercourse, or indecent contact with an inmate, patient, detainee or resident. Institutional sexual assault is 3rd degree felony.

Aggravated indecent assault: Aggravated indecent assault occurs when the assailant penetrates the genitals or anus of the victim with any part of the body without the victim’s consent. This does not include good faith medical, hygienic or law enforcement procedures. Aggravated indecent assault is a 2nd degree felony. If the victim is less than 13 years old, the crime is a first degree felony.

Indecent assault: Indecent assault occurs when a victim is brought into contact with bodily fluids, including semen, urine or feces, without consent. The crime may be considered a misdemeanor or felony depending on the circumstances of the assault.

Incest: Incest is a 2nd degree felony that occurs when knowingly marries, cohabits or has sexual relationships with an ancestor, descendant, sibling, half sibling, uncle, aunt, nephew or niece.

Justice for Pennsylvania Sex Crimes

It is estimated that more than half of sex crimes go unreported. We understand that victims can find it hard to talk to police about their experience. However, 98 percent of rapists are never punished. This means they are free to commit further assaults.

The Sex Abuse Attorneys at Ostroff Injury Law fight to hold those who commit sex crimes accountable. We are not criminal lawyers, but we can help you get justice through the civil courts. Call us at 855-880-6667 to learn more.

Free Consultation

Talk to one of our sexual abuse lawyers about your case.