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What is Institutional Sexual Assault?

August 08, 2019

By van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim

Recently, two married teachers were convicted of having a sexual relationship with a girl that is now 19, but was just 16 at the time. The abusive relationship lasted for over two years, with the group sometimes having as many as 80 interactions in a day that included text messages. Now, the teachers have been convicted of several charges, including institutional sexual assault.

For many, the term is a new one. What is institutional sexual assault? How does it differ from other types of sexual assault?

Institutional Sexual Assault Defined

Institutional sexual assault is defined in 18 Pa. C.S.A. Section 3124.2. Under this legal statute, the crime is defined as sexual contact between two people that have a specific relationship. Typically, one is in a position of power or authority over the other. The statute specifically deals first with minors, and then employees of schools, both of which apply to the latest case. However, other employees may face these charges as well if they assault those in their care. These employees may include those that work in:

  • Correctional facilities
  • Juvenile detention facilities
  • Youth camps or development centers
  • Residential facilities
  • Mental health institutions

Any sexual contact between these employees and those they care for will result in charges of institutional sexual assault.

Penalties for Institutional Sexual Assault

The penalties for institutional sexual assault in Pennsylvania are severe. This is for two reasons. The first is that the people that commit these crimes are responsible for the health, safety, and welfare of those that are in their care. The second reason is that, unlike in the most recent story, victims of this crime are often unable to leave the facility and therefore, escape the perpetrator of the crime. The law judges these two factors severely and as such, issues severe punishments for those found guilty of the crime.

If convicted of institutional sexual assault, a person faces up to seven years in state prison. They may also be charged fines ranging between $2,500 and $15,000. However, institutional sexual assault is often accompanied by other charges. Some of these include endangering the welfare of a child and corruption of minors. If convicted of these additional crimes, a person could face several more years in prison and higher fines.

Those convicted of institutional sexual assault may also be forced to register on the state’s registry of sexual offenders. As with other crimes, a conviction will also remain on a person’s criminal record permanently, which could prevent them from gaining employment, housing opportunities, and more. Those charged must speak with a criminal defense attorney that can help prevent that from happening.

Call a Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Attorney that can Help

If you’re facing any charges of sexual assault, you likely have an idea of how serious those charges are. Charges do not have to turn into a conviction, however. At van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim, we are the Allentown criminal defense attorneys that are passionate about helping those charged avoid conviction and sentencing. We will build a strong defense for you and ensure your rights are upheld throughout the entire process. This is a scary time for you, but you don’t have to go through it alone. Call us at (215) 486-0123 or fill out our online form so we can get started on your case.



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