Texas Penal Code Sec. 22.011 defines sexual assault in a manner which covers a wide range of incidents, most of which involve an allegation that the accused caused penetration by a sexual organ without the victim's effective consent. Sexual assault can include vaginal, anal or oral sex, and the accused can be a male or female. Further, the statute sets the minimum legal age of consent at 17. Charges of sexual assault of a child are considered aggravated if the child is under 14 years of age, if a deadly weapon is used, if a "date rape drug" known as rohypnol or ketamine was used with the intent of making the offense easier to commit, or if serious bodily injury is threatened.
A separate crime, Indecency with a Child, is defined by Texas Penal Code Sec. 21.11 as either engaging in sexual contact (defined as touching of the genitals with intent to arouse or gratify someone sexually) with a child, exposure of one's anus or genitals to a child under 17, or causing the child to expose his or her anus or genitals to the actor with the intent to arouse or gratify someone sexually. Indecency with a Child by Contact in most circumstances is a Second Degree Felony (2 to 20 years), and Indecency with a Child by Exposure is a Third Degree Felony (2 to 10 years).
Criminal Statutory Rape, as defined in Texas Penal Code Section 22.011(a)(2) is another unique form of rape charge in that its victims consent to the sexual acts, although they are not of age to do so with someone over the age of 19. Like many states attempting to mitigate the rigidity of statutory rape laws, the state of Texas has a “three year rule,” which states that consensual sexual acts between two people who are over the age of 14 and are within three years of age of another, do not comprise criminal statutory rape.
Defendants accused of statutory rape often claim that they had no reason to know that their partner was underage, or that the victim lied about their age and a reasonable person would have believed them; but other than the 3-year age gap exception, there are no other exceptions to statutory rape in Texas.
In addition to these criminal penalties, Texas law requires those who have been convicted of certain sex offenses and other crimes to register as a sex offender upon release from state supervision. Most of the information that convicted sex offenders are required to provide is made available to the public in the Sex Offender Database. This database is accessible on-line from the Texas Department of Public Safety's Web site. Only certain information, like the offender's social security and driver's license numbers and any information that could identify the victim, are kept confidential.
Additionally, local law enforcement may contact schools, print notices in the local newspaper or send out postcard notifications to alert members of the community of the presence of certain high-risk offenders in their neighborhoods.
The false accusation of rape is the intentional reporting of a rape where no rape has occurred. It is difficult to assess the prevalence of false accusations because they are often conflated with non-prosecuted cases under the designation "unfounded." However, in the United States, the FBI Uniform Crime Report in 1996 and the United States Department of Justice in 1997 stated 8% of rape accusations in the United States were regarded as unfounded or false.
David Lisak's study, published in 2010 in Violence Against Women, classified as false 8 out of the 136 (5.9%) reported rapes at an American university over a ten-year period. Applying IACP guidelines, a case was classified as a false report if there was evidence that a thorough investigation was pursued and that the investigation had yielded evidence that the reported sexual assault had in fact not occurred.
It is extremely difficult to assess the prevalence of false accusations, and there are many reasons other than falsity that can result in a rape case being closed as unfounded or unproven. However, while researchers and prosecutors do not agree on the exact percentage of false allegations they generally agree on a range of 2% to 10%. Although these percentages may not seem high, a false accusation of sexual assault immediately changes the life of the accused, jeopardizing careers, marriages, and reputations. More than any other type of crime, an accusation of sexual wrongdoing destroys a person’s life.
In some instances, a person makes false allegations because of jealously, or in an attempt to seek revenge on someone who did not reciprocate their feelings. Accusations of sexual misconduct also frequently come up in divorce or child custody cases, student-teacher relationships, employer-employee relationships and in any other context where the accuser may have a motive to lie.
Even if the defendant is innocent, it often requires an entire trial in order for this determination to be made, during which the defendant may well be ostracized or publicly ridiculed by the media.
Public hysteria regarding child molestation has changed the rules of the criminal justice system; physical and sexual abuse cases involving minors must be defended in an entirely different manner than the normal criminal case. In many cases, the child accuser does not have to appear in court and face the accused; instead, the state can offer the child's testimony through a video tape made by agents of the prosecution. "Hearsay" evidence may be admitted in a case, and there is often no physical evidence presented. The state does not have to prove guilt, but simply make the accusation; Once the accusation is made, the defendant must prove innocence beyond a reasonable doubt. Failing that, the jury will very often not take a chance the defendant may be a child molester, and will convict.
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