What Constitutes a Sex Crime?
The topic of sex crimes can feel like a taboo subject for many Americans. Any sexual offense is a very serious crime with harsh penalties attached. For many of us, “sex crime” might invoke the thought of rape, sexual assault, or child pornography.
While these are all examples of sex crimes, little attention is given to lesser-known sexual offenses. It’s important to understand what constitutes a sex crime to avoid making a life-changing mistake due to your own lack of awareness.
Our justice system defines the term “sex crime” as a criminal offense that has a sexual component. This can involve actual or threatened harm that is physical, mental, or emotional in nature. Like all criminal charges, sexual offenses have severe consequences. If you are convicted of a sex crime in Kansas, you will likely have to register as a sex offender in the state’s public registry.
As you can imagine, publicly identifying as a sex offender can have irreparable consequences. From employability to geographic location to travelling, rest assured that being convicted of a sex crime will change life as you know it.
3 Sex Crimes That Get Overlooked
A heightened awareness of sexism, racism, and other social justice issues have shed light on modern issues. As our society continues to evolve for the better in the wake of the #MeToo Movement, some Americans are coming to terms with the fact that formerly “socially acceptable” behaviors are not only intolerable, but criminal in nature.
For example, marital rape was legal in every U.S. state prior to the 1970s but is now illegal in all 50 states. The shock of receiving an unwelcome sexual image was once an inevitable inconvenience of using apps like Tinder and Snapchat, but many states are now in the process of drafting legislation to illegalize cyber flashing.
Our evolving post-pandemic society is one of many reasons why it’s essential to understand what a sex crime is. Although it may seem obvious, even the most well-intentioned person can derail their life through one careless act that they didn’t know was a crime to begin with.
While it’s crucial to understand the consequences of crimes like rape, incest, and sexual assault, it’s equally important to understand the “less obvious” sexual offenses that get overlooked or disregarded completely. Consider these 3 sex crimes that people tend to overlook.
#1. Revenge Porn
Assuming you haven’t been living under a rock for the past couple decades, you’re likely aware of a familiar trend in the media these days: revenge porn.
The term is commonly used to refer to nonconsensual pornography and earned its nickname from the concept of “vengeful exes” sharing explicit images or videos of someone to inflict harm. However, keep in mind that revenge is not a required motive to reap the consequences of this crime. Offenders can be penalized for sharing explicit sexual content regardless of their motive for doing so.
Even before COVID-19, the nonconsensual distribution of sexual media was practically an epidemic of its own. In 2015, studies showed that4 in 5 American adults were sending or receiving sexually explicit images or texts.
When intimate content is distributed with malicious intent (to coerce, harass, manipulate, or harm), it can have detrimental effects on a person’s wellbeing. Such acts often impact every aspect of a victim’s life, such as:
- Online privacy and security
- Safety in public and at home
- Social circles
- Personal and professional reputation
- Relationships with family and loved ones
- Marriage or dating life
- Day-to-day activities they once enjoyed
States laws vary when it comes to defining revenge porn. Today, 42 states have illegalized the distribution of nonconsensual pornographic material. For the most part, “revenge porn” is considered a form of cyber sexual harassment or even cyberbullying in some states.
In Kansas, distributing nonconsensual pornography is considered a breach of privacy—a crime punishable under § 21-6101. Depending on the severity of the crime, offenders can face felony charges, making it all the more vital to think before sharing any potentially sensitive content.
Emoji use isn’t the only thing that has evolved in texting. For decades, the topic of “sexting” has been widely discussed in both positive and negative ways. Considering that the word itself is a mash-up of sex and texting, the definition of “sexting” is probably self-explanatory. While official descriptions vary based on state law, sexting is generally defined as an electronic exchange of suggestive or sexually explicit messages or images.
With the first use of the word dating back to 2005 (in an Australian magazine, no less), sexting is nothing new to many of us. A 2021 study revealed that 52.3% of U.S. adults engaged in sexting, while 63% of teens reported using sexting to appear flirtatious or funny.
The more pressing question isn’t what sexting is, but when sexting is a problem…and more importantly, when sexting is considered a sex crime. Consider the following guidelines to better understand sexting in the legal context:
- Sexting between two minors is illegal. Even if the parties are both underage, the crime is punishable by penalties facilitated through the juvenile justice system.
- Sexting between a minor and an adult (18 or older) is illegal. Adults who engage in sexting with an underage person face harsh consequences such as prison time, felony charges, and sex offender registration. In many cases, child pornography charges are warranted under federal law.
- Sexting between two consenting adults is legal, with “consent” being the key word to keep in mind. This does not mean that you can avoid legal repercussions if you choose to share sexual content without the consent of the other adult, as this act is also illegal.
Under § 21-5610 of Kansas law, it is a crime “to create, possess, and transmit any visual depictions, including deep fakes, depicting a minor.” State law strictly prohibits the electronic distribution of suggestive messages, images, and other media involving a minor.
#3. Cyber Flashing
Cyber flashing is another trend that is catching the attention of policymakers nationwide. While sexting and cyber flashing aren’t the same thing, the two often overlap. While sexting is broadly defined as the electronic transmission of sexual content, cyber flashing is specific to unsolicited sexual images via the internet.
The slang phrase “dick pics” is commonly used to describe cyber flashing. Common examples include opening a new Instagram message to find a nude image or receiving an unexpected photograph via Snapchat of the other user’s genitalia. Whatever the context, cyber flashing is a form of sexual harassment and even cyberbullying in some cases.
At this time, two states have criminalized cyber flashing: Texas (2019) and California (2022). While there aren’t any current federal laws that explicitly prohibit cyber flashing, many states are in the process of drafting legislation to curb the distribution of unsolicited sexual images.
Because cyber flashing often correlates to another sex crime (such as child pornography, sexual harassment, cyberbullying, or sexting), engaging in cyber flashing can have serious consequences and lead to criminal charges.
Accused of a Sex Crime? Don’t Wait to Act.
Sex crimes are a complex area of criminal defense that range from misdemeanors to felony charges. Regardless of the crime in question, it’s essential to have steadfast legal representation you can depend on throughout your case.
At Hulnick, Stang, Gering & Leavitt, P.A., we know that the only effective measure to defend your name, reputation, and freedom is to secure the dependable counsel of a skilled criminal defense lawyer. If you were charged with a sexual offense, it’s crucial to have the support of a trusted attorney who can ensure your voice is heard in court.
Were you charged with a sex crime? Don’t sit idly as your good reputation is dragged through the mud. Call (316) 665-7227 or contact us online to request your free consultation.