Sexual Assault and Sexual Abuse

Whereas the crimes of criminal sexual abuse and sexual assault were once part of the same general crime of “rape” in Illinois, for a great many years these crimes have been separate and distinct offenses with specific elements which define the differences these offenses. Although the penalties differ for each, depending in large part on the particular circumstances, each is serious in its own right and a conviction for many such offenses could require registration as a sex offender under the law. It is therefore important to understand the differences between the two basic crimes of sexual assault and sexual abuse, as well as their more serious aggravated versions.

Sexual Assault in Illinois

Under Illinois law, sexual assault happens when:

  • Sexual penetration occurs, and either
  • The aggressor uses force or threatens the use of force, OR
  • The violator knows that the victim doesn’t understand the nature of the sexual act, or
  • Is not able to give a “knowing” consent, OR
  • The victim is related to the perpetrator while the victim is under the age of 18, OR
  • The person accused of sexual assault is over the age of 17 while the victim is over 13 but under 18 and the accused is in a position of authority, trust or supervision over the victim

Aggravated Criminal Sexual Assault

Although a sexual assault is already a felony in Chicago and across Illinois, it can also be upgraded to a higher, more serious felony class which is called an Aggravated Criminal Sexual Assault under some circumstances including those in which:

  • A dangerous weapon was used in the commission of the offense
  • The victim suffered bodily harm
  • Any person’s life was endangered or threatened
  • Sexually assaulted a victim while committing or attempting to commit another felony
  • The victim was 60 years or older or had a physical disability
  • The perpetrator drugs or administers any controlled substance without the consent of the victim
  • A firearm was used during the offense
  • A firearm was discharged during the offense
  • A firearm was discharged during the offense and someone was harmed or killed as a result.

In any set of circumstances, sexual penetration is a necessary element for it to be considered sexual assault. Otherwise, it likely falls under the category of sexual abuse.

Sexual Abuse in Illinois

Illinois law states that criminal sexual abuse happens when:

  • “Sexual conduct” occurs by threat of force or use of force, or the defendant knows that the victim doesn’t understand or isn’t able to give consent for this conduct, OR
  • Sexual conduct or penetration occurs with a defendant who is under the age of 17 years and a victim who is also under 17, but over 9 years of age, OR
  • Sexual conduct or penetration occurs with a victim is at least 13 but less than 17 years old, and the accused is less than 5 years older.

Sexual intercourse is not necessary for the crime of sexual abuse to be charged, as many other forms of sexual penetration or fondling can also result in sexual abuse charges. Sexual abuse often happens when one party maintains an authority position in the victim’s life. A commonality between many sexual abusers is that they are often in such a position of power, such as teachers, coaches, leaders, clergy or relatives. In other circumstances, sexual abuse may be what is sometimes considered as “consensual” between two young people (although their ages do not actually allow for the concept of consent). This is sometimes referred to as “statutory rape”. Sexual abuse is sometimes a misdemeanor and sometimes a felony.

Aggravated Criminal Sexual Abuse

When a criminal sexual abuse is charged, but there are other aggravating factors as provided in the Illinois statute, the charge may be upgraded to a higher felony-level offense that is called Aggravated Criminal Sexual Abuse. Some of the aggravating factors which may lead to this enhancement include:

  • Using, threatening to use, or displaying a weapon
  • Causing bodily harm to the victim
  • Victim being 60 years old or older
  • Victim having a physical disability
  • Threatening or endangering the life of another
  • Committing sexual abuse during the course of another felony
  • Administering a controlled substance to the victim without consent
  • Sexual conduct when the victim is under the age of 18 and a family member
  • Sexual conduct when offender 17 or over and victim under 13 years old
  • Sexual conduct with a victim at least 13 but under 17 years old and the threat of force or force is used
  • Sexual conduct when offender under 17 and victim under 9 years of age
  • Sexual conduct when offender under 17 and victim is at least 9 but under 17 years of age and force or threat of force is used
  • Sexual conduct or penetration when the offender is at least 5 years older and the victim is at least 13, but under 17 years of age
  • Victim having a profound or severe intellectual disability
  • Sexual conduct when offender 17 years old or older and holds a position of supervision, authority or trust over the victim who is at least 13, but under 18 years old.

How a Criminal Attorney Can Help

Facing sexual abuse or sexual assault charges can be intimidating and confusing. Your first step should always be to contact an experienced criminal attorney to discuss your options. You should make sure to keep records of any forms of communication that you had between you and the alleged victim. A knowledgeable lawyer will be able to formulate a legal plan to increase your chances for success both in and out of the courtroom.

Contact an Experienced Illinois Criminal Defense Attorney Today

If you are accused or charged with either sexual assault or sexual abuse, you should contact the Chicago defense attorneys at Mitchell S. Sexner & Associates LLC for more information immediately. Our experienced attorneys are ready to fight for your rights during every step of the complex legal process. Call our attorneys at (800) 996-4824 for a free initial consultation.