In the United States, it is not unusual for a woman to be arrested or charged with rape if she has sex with a man.
But when a man has sex and a woman is arrested, that woman’s case is considered a “sex crime,” according to the National Law Center on Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence.
“If she’s charged with a crime, she’s also in violation of the statute, and if she is convicted, she can lose her job, lose her house, lose custody of her kids,” says Kristin D. Lasker, a sex crimes attorney and the founder of the National Legal Defense and Education Fund.
“If you don’t have a criminal record, you can get away with it.”
For example, Laskar says, if a woman who was raped is charged with aggravated battery, she is considered guilty of aggravated battery.
She can face up to a year in prison and a $10,000 fine.
“It’s the same thing for rape cases where the women were the aggressors, or they were the victims,” Laskers says.
“And in most cases, a rape case will never get prosecuted if you’re the victim,” Likers adds.
The National Law Centers’ report notes that the law against sex crime can vary by state, depending on the specific statute.
But according to Laskes, if the law is not clear, then you’re not safe.
“The more the statute is vague, the more likely you are to be charged with it, especially if the woman is not a victim,” she says.
The Law Center’s report says that states vary by what counts as a “crime.”
“For example,” the report says, a woman can be charged “for the sex act” if she “commits a felony for the purpose of committing a crime” or if she was “an accessory after the fact to a crime.”
A crime is defined as a crime committed against someone under the age of 18, and it can include: Sexual conduct against someone older than 18; sexual contact with a minor; unlawful sexual intercourse with a person older than 14; unlawful oral copulation with a child younger than 13; or sexual penetration of someone younger than 16.
For example: If a man who was accused of rape by a woman was found to be in violation, the case is deemed a “sexual crime.”
The case could be considered a misdemeanor, though Lasks says she has seen cases in which the charges were dismissed.
For some people, the problem of sexual assault is compounded by the fact that many rapists are teenagers.
A study released in June by the Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network found that nearly 1 in 10 sexual assault cases were initiated by someone under age 18.
“This is a problem because the victim of this crime may not know what to do,” Liskers says, “so they may be reluctant to report the crime.”
But Laskrs says that many of these women can’t afford lawyers or have a history of domestic violence.
So when a case gets dropped, it can be a financial burden for them, as well.
“There’s also a perception of that the woman was trying to protect her boyfriend,” she adds.
“She may not have been telling the truth.
The truth is, she may have been trying to get away from him.”
If you or someone you know is in crisis, contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-4673.
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