Over the course of the last year or so, concerns regarding sexual assault, sexual harassment, and other forms of sexual misconduct have grabbed national headlines. Film mogul Harvey Weinstein was accused of multiple incidents of sexual assault last fall. In May, legendary entertainer Bill Cosby was convicted on three counts of sexual assault. Around the same time, ridehailing company Uber was rocked by allegations of systemic sexual harassment and gender discrimination, and the list goes on. Sex crimes haves been a problem for much longer than a year, but only recently, it seems, have people become more comfortable talking about it.
Sexual misconduct, obviously, can happen anywhere, anytime, and to anyone. It is not limited to Hollywood parties or celebrity entertainers. Victims of sex crimes deserve to have the support of law enforcement and prosecutors, but such allegations often boil down to the word of the victim against that of the alleged perpetrator. If you have been accused of a sex crime, it is important to understand as much as you can about the situation.
In most situations, the specific action that constitutes a crime is an objective one. If you drive a car with a blood-alcohol content over the legal limit, you have objectively broken the law. If you walk out of a store with merchandise that you did not pay for, you have objectively committed theft. Most sex crimes—excluding those in which age is a factor—are more challenging because the whether or not the objective act is illegal depends almost entirely on the “victim’s” will.
When two adults engage in a sexual act by mutual agreement, a crime is not being committed. The very same act, however, can become criminal if one of the adult does not consent to the act taking place. In the context of sex, the lack of consent can be extremely difficult to determine, communicate, and prove.
Sex crimes are also unique in that there are rarely witnesses or evidence that a crime was committed—with obvious exceptions for forcible rape and similar offenses. While a sexual predator may attempt to isolate a victim, sexual activity is generally a private matter by its very nature.
When two people are alone together, there is not usually surveillance video or audio recordings to prove either person’s version of the events. This means that even if one party felt violated by a sexual encounter, there is often no way to know for sure that the other party knew there was a problem. He or she may have crossed a very serious boundary without ever knowing that the boundary existed.
It is important to understand that the above thoughts are not intended to condone or excuse sexual misconduct. Instead, they are meant to show how difficult it can be to prove that a sex crime was even committed. Of course, an allegation of a sex crime does not need to be proven true in order for the accused person’s reputation to suffer. The existence of an accusation can be enough to destroy personal and professional reputations and to ruin a career. Individuals accused of sexual misconduct are frequently convicted in the court of public opinion, with little regard for what actually happened.
If you or someone you love has been charged with a sex crime that you did not commit, contact an experienced San Jose sex crimes defense attorney immediately. Call 408-277-0377 to discuss you available options with Wesley J. Schroeder, Attorney at Law, today.