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Louisiana Sexual Molestation Laws

Child molestation is every parent’s worst nightmare. It strips children of their innocence and happiness. In many cases, sexual molestation can cause severe behavioral and psychological problems. You may wonder if it is worth it to make your child relive the abuse by pressing charges and asking them to testify. You or your child might just want to move on with your life and leave the sexual abuse in the past. Justice will not be served, however, unless you take legal action. The legal process is actually an integral part of the healing process for victims of sexual abuse. It is important for them to see that what happened was not their fault and the person who took advantage of them will be punished. It is also a way for them to stand up for their personal rights and feel empowered by protecting other children from becoming victims.

DEFINING SEXUAL MOLESTATION

In the State of Louisiana, sexual molestation is defined as “commission by anyone over the age of seventeen of any lewd or lascivious act upon the person or in the presence of any child under the age of seventeen, where there is an age difference of greater than two years between the two persons.” The law clearly states that lack of knowledge or ignorance of the child’s age is not a valid defense. In most instances, the offender is keenly aware of the child’s age and uses means of intimidation to fulfill his own sexual desires. Any of the following constitutes intimidation:

  • Use of force
  • Violence
  • Duress
  • Menace
  • Psychological persuasion
  • Influence of control or supervision

DETERMINING IF YOUR CHILD HAS BEEN MOLESTED

Even with such a clear cut definition of sexual abuse, the signs that your child has been molested may not be so clear. In younger children you may notice physical changes such as pain, bleeding or abrasions on the genitals or the mouth. If you notice any physical signs of abuse, take your child to a doctor immediately.
In older children the physical signs are not as noticeable. There are a variety of behavioral signs that may lead you to believe your child has been a victim of molestation including:

  • Sudden nightmares or sleep problems without explanation
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Acts distant or seems distracted
  • Sudden change in eating habits
  • Talks about an older friend
  • Writes, draws or plays in a sexual manner
  • Develops a new fear of certain people or certain places
  • Self-injury
  • Drug and alcohol abuse
  • Depression

One behavioral sign alone doesn’t necessarily mean that a child was a victim of molestation, especially if they have recently experienced another traumatic event such as a divorce or a death. If you notice more than one warning sign you should start a dialogue with your child and consider seeking the help of law enforcement professionals and/or an attorney.

UNDERSTANDING THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CRIMINAL COURT AND CIVIL COURT

The purpose of criminal court is to protect society as a whole. The prosecuting attorney is essentially representing the entire community, not just the child who was molested. Punishments will vary based on the circumstances of the abuse as well as the history of the perpetrator. Common sentences include:

  • First time offender: 1-10 years imprisonment and up to $5,000 fine
  • First time offender in role of supervision: 1-20 years imprisonment and up to $10,000 fine
  • Repeat offender: 5-40 years imprisonment and up to $10,000 fine

The younger a child is when the abuse occurs, the more likely that the perpetrator will receive the maximum penalty allowed by law.
In private civil cases, the goal is to protect the best interests of the child (as in custody cases or restraining orders) and/or to obtain monetary restitution to pay for both the physical and emotional costs of the sexual abuse.

HEALING EMOTIONAL WOUNDS

Knowing what to expect during the legal process can prevent your child from experiencing further emotional trauma. No matter how difficult you think it will be it is extremely important that you take legal action as soon as you notice signs of molestation. Ignoring the situation will only make it worse and lead to more severe problems.

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