Sexual contact between adults and children is illegal in every
state. There are a number of terms used to describe sexual assault
against children. These include statutory rape, sexual abuse, sexual
molestation, pedophilia, incest, and "impairing the morals of a
One of every four girls in our country is sexually molested by an
older child or adult before age 18. One of every six boys is also
molested by age 18. There are 300,000 cases of molestation, or child
sexual abuse, reported each year. Most sex offenders molest many
children many times. These acts can cause serious, lifelong problems
for the victims. In fact, sex offenders themselves often report
having been molested when they were children.
Most sexual assault of children does not involve force or threat of
force. But some adult offenders may frighten or bribe children in
some way to get them to keep the crime a secret. Most assaults
include sexual seduction, during which the offender slowly
encourages the child to participate in sexual acts. But sometimes
force is used. Many children who are seduced enjoy the attention
that the offender pays them and do not understand the meaning of
what is happening to them.
Statutory rape is a legal term for sexual intercourse between an
adult and someone who is below the age of consent. Typically, the
offender is male and the victim is female. Intercourse with an
underage girl is a crime even if she agrees to the act. This law is
meant to protect children from seduction.
Today, many girls mature early and may appear older than they are.
Some older men wrongly assume a girl has reached the age of consent.
This may be more likely in states where the age of consent is 18 but
partial adult privileges are granted before then. For example, girls
may be allowed to drive when they are 16 or 17 but are not
considered old enough to have sex. Some states give consideration to
men who believed that their partners were legally capable of
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