Protecting Children from Sexual Abuse
Too often, children are the direct victims of sexual violence—nearly ½ of all victims are under the age of 18. In some instances, children can also become indirect victims. Sexual assault leads to thousands of pregnancies each year, and many survivors choose to raise children that were conceived as a result of the crime. All survivors of sexual violence—children and mothers alike—should be able to live without fear of future harm.
Blocking perpetrator's parental rights
Many survivors choose to raise children that were conceived as a result of the sexual assault. In some states, perpetrators of the crime, even if convicted, can sue for parental rights, such as custody and visitation. While a number of states have laws preventing these suits, protection is not universal across the country. RAINN, along with congressional leaders like Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), Rep. Tom Marino (R-PA) and others, have taken steps to increase protections for survivors and their children.
You can learn more about which states have enacted laws to stop perpetrators from exercising parental rights by visiting RAINN’s State Law Database.
Protecting children from perpetrators
When perpetrators of child sexual abuse and other sex crimes are convicted, they may face penalties that include prison time, financial penalties and court fees, and/or registration with a law enforcement agency that makes certain information public on a sex offender registry. A complete list of all state, territorial, and tribal registries can be found on the National Sex Offender Public Website (NSOPW). Criminal punishments like these may reduce the chance that a perpetrator could harm another child. The laws and regulations that determine punishments vary from state to state. Over time, RAINN, along with key lawmakers in Congress, have taken steps to increase protections for children by increasing penalties for convicted and repeat offenders, as well as adding regulations to tighten the registration requirements for sex offenders.
RAINN’s work on these issues
RAINN supports laws and regulations that protect children from predators, facilitate the prosecution of perpetrators, and ensure that punishments and restitutions fit the severity of the crimes. Through media outreach, direct conversations with state and federal stakeholders, and testimony before the U.S. Congress, RAINN has raised the profile and visibility of issues affecting children and mothers as a result of sexual violence.
RAINN’s State Law Database is updated annually to include accurate information on how to report child sexual abuse, mandatory reporting requirements, and statutes of limitations for specific crimes. Policy experts at RAINN also actively track court decisions to stay up to date on issues pertaining to child sexual abuse and the overall safety of children.
RAINN has also led campaigns to pass and renew key federal laws to protect children and other survivors from perpetrators.
- The Kilah Davenport Act of 2013 requires the Department of Justice to report on child abuse prevention laws in each state and increases allowable federal penalties against those who have been previously convicted on child abuse charges and re-offend.
- Adam Walsh Child Safety and Protection Act enhances penalties for child sexual abuse and tightens the registration requirements for sex offenders.
- Rape Survivor Child Custody Act is an amendment to the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015 that incentivizes states to enact laws that block some parental rights, such as custody and visitation, for perpetrators of sexual assault.
The Rape Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) website provides general information that is intended, but not guaranteed, to be correct and up-to-date. The information is not presented as a source of legal advice. You should not rely, for legal advice, on statements or representations made within the website or by any externally referenced Internet sites. If you need legal advice upon which you intend to rely in the course of your legal affairs, consult a competent, independent attorney. RAINN does not assume any responsibility for actions or non-actions taken by people who have visited this site, and no one shall be entitled to a claim for detrimental reliance on any information provided or expressed.
1 U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, Sex Offenses and Offenders. 1997.