North Texas Daily

Sex crime convictions should carry more weight

Sex crime convictions should carry more weight

Sex crime convictions should carry more weight
February 23
12:00 2023

Content warning: this story contains language and content related to sexual violence. Reader discretion is advised 

Since the #MeToo movement went viral in 2017, the stigma around reporting sexual abuse or rape has decreased. Despite this, for every 1000 cases of sexual assault or rape, only 310 will be reported to the police, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. That statistic also shows that of the cases that go to trial, convictions of those crimes will only include 25 percent of perpetrators seeing jail time. 

Part of the reason why sexual assault is within the top 10 crimes committed in the United States is this charge spans a multitude of categories within itself. For example, when facing a sexual assault charge, offenders’ crimes can include rape, groping, other non-consensual sexual acts or any combination of those and other charges.

These offenses can break down even further depending on circumstances, like suggestibility or age, making each case and its sentencing unique. If convicted, the average offender spends two to five years in prison.

In Texas, crimes like robbery have a minimum sentence of five years, though it’s not uncommon for repeat offenders to serve life sentences. Robberies should be considered serious charges on the state level due to the brutal nature of the crime, but justice systems should apply that same logic to sexual crimes.

The legal system’s misunderstanding of these crimes’ severity can lead to offenders serving shorter times than they deserve. These differences in legal opinion can result in the offender being released from prison after serving a minuscule sentence, like a former Denton youth pastor who only served 33 months after sexually abusing 14 girls in his church. 

To understand why sexual crimes are so common, with one in every six women and one in every 33 men becoming victims, the first step lies in seeing what the law uses to define these crimes. The most popular definition for sexual assault is an action that is a physical, psychological or emotional violation of another person caused by non-consensual sexual activity, according to Stuart Miller Solicitors, 

The prosecution of these crimes comes down to a “he said vs. she said” situation, where a victim and offender’s accounts are the main sources of essential details analyzed in a court case because there are often no witnesses.

Popular slogans like “Believe Women” promote believing victims first, even before a conviction. Critics raised concerns that by immediately believing victims, many people would be susceptible to false rape accusations. However, only 2 to 10 percent of total police reports are false, representing only roughly 35 percent of total cases reported to the police, according to a study from Brown University.  

The visibility of assault survivors in the modern day has allowed them a platform to talk about their experiences and hold perpetrators accountable. Their visibility, in turn, can also create a false belief that women can “cry rape” when they regret something.  A study found that 5o percent of respondents believed the myth that women routinely lie about being raped, according to an article from Meanjin.

While there is a small percentage of cases that have resulted in convictions from false allegations, a study from the National Registry of Exonerations found that since 1989, only 52 men have been exonerated due to false accusations. Either we are in an epidemic of false accusations with legal repercussions, or most women are telling the truth.

Unfortunately, increasing the time offenders serve for their crimes has shown not to decrease recidivism rates, which is the rate at which offenders commit the same crime. In order to make rape and sexual assault a more widely discouraged crime, offenders need to know that law enforcement has the ability and the will to find and stop them.

To help deepen the consequences of these offenses, society must establish severe punishment for sexual crimes with a warning in the legal system. It must stand that these crimes carry just as much weight as other violent crimes and that to commit them would guarantee ostracization and lawful punishment fit for the crime.

If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual assault or rape, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-4673 or chat with them at 

Featured Illustration by Makayla Sanchez

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Gianna Ortner-Findlay

Gianna Ortner-Findlay

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