“What is sexual abuse?” It may seem like a simple question at face value, but understanding the nuance in defining this term can help victims proceed with their fight for justice down the road.
In a very general sense, sexual abuse is sexual contact that is unwanted and is non-consensual. Adults can consent to sexual contact. In Missouri, the age of consent for sexual contact is 17 years old. At 17, a person can legally consent to sexual acts with someone else who is also 17, or older. Anyone younger than 17 is a minor and deemed to lack the maturity and discretion to make a rational decision to consent to sexual contact. Therefore, whenever a person under the age of 17 is the recipient of sexual contact, it is by law, non-consensual.
Many have heard the term “statutory rape.” This is the term used to describe sexual contact between an adult and a minor. By law even when a minor agrees to sex, he or she did not truly do so. Due to their age, he or she lacked the legal capacity to give consent.
Sexual abuse can happen to boys and girls, men and women, and at any age. In short, sexual abuse takes many forms. It finds many victims and can be perpetrated by some of the most trusted and outwardly law-abiding people any of us will ever know.
Sexual abuse against all victims, irrespective of age or sex, is a demeaning, anxiety-provoking, life-altering event that is all too common. Sexual abuse occurs whenever someone is manipulated or forced into unwelcome and unwanted sexual contact.