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What Are Indecent Liberties?

Jail time is one possible consequence for taking indecent liberties.
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  • Written By: A. Pasbjerg
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 11 November 2014
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When a person knowingly initiates an unwanted sexual interaction with another person, usually a minor, this is known as indecent liberties. There are various types of behaviors that can qualify as this type of crime, all of them sexual in nature. In most cases, the person committing the crime is knowingly engaging in behavior that is unwanted by the victim, although in some states if the victim is a minor, the act will still be considered a crime even if there is consent. Taking indecent liberties is almost always considered a felony, and conviction typically leads to a sentence including time in prison.

Typically, indecent liberties occur when an adult perpetrates inappropriate sexual behaviors on a minor, though interactions with other types of people who are in a vulnerable or incapacitated state may qualify. A person who is mentally disabled or unable to make the rational decision to engage in sexual acts may be considered a victim. Those who are physically weak or disabled and therefore unable to defend themselves may qualify; for example, a frail, elderly patient may be the victim of a younger caretaker. A perpetrator may be someone who is in a position of power over the victim, such as a doctor or therapist.

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There are several types of behavior that can fall under the definition of indecent liberties. Physical sexual contact, either initiated by the perpetrator or solicited by the perpetrator from the victim, qualifies; however, physical interaction is not absolutely necessary for the crime to have been committed. Exposure of the perpetrator's genitals to the victim usually also meets the criteria. Inappropriate sexual language with the intent of initiating sexual arousal is another possible qualifying behavior. Encouraging the victim to be involved in creating sexually explicit materials such as pornography can also lead to a charge.

In most states, taking indecent liberties is considered a felony charge, especially between an adult and a minor; if the crime is committed by a person under 18 on a minor, the charge may only be a misdemeanor. The level of the felony can vary from state to state, and the specific nature of the crime may also affect it. Typically, the charge is considered very serious and those convicted can expect to serve at least some time in jail. As with the level of felony, the recommended prison sentence can vary, but often at least several years in jail may be involved.

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anon341407
Post 7

@Agni3: I was molested as a child and I never molested anyone else. Most who haven't committed suicide from being molested, do not become offenders.

Please be careful. What your saying could be interpreted as every victim becomes an offender. It's not true and that stereotype must end. It makes dealing with my PTSD even more difficult. I'm 46. I was 7 when it began. It destroyed my life in a way worse than death. I never got any justice. That scumbag is still free.

poppyseed
Post 6

@Charred – I think you make some interesting points here. Although I’m not sure that a person wearing their pants down too low is an actual indecent liberty, I do wish they’d pull the things up. There is nothing at all flattering about that particular fashion trend.

However, I do like the point that you made about breastfeeding in public quite a bit. It is amazing to me at the number of people who more or less ran away when they saw me nursing my babies in public, even though I was completely covered.

It isn’t indecent in the least, and even if you aren’t totally covered up, it’s not as if much more than the back of a baby head can be seen.

Even my husband at first wanted me and the baby to sit in a hot car while he went into the grocery store because she was hungry. Don’t worry – we settled that little problem quickly enough.

Agni3
Post 5

I was shocked the other day to find that one of my old students had made the paper in a most unsuitable way; she was caught in a 16 year old girl’s bedroom by the victim’s mother after taking indecent liberties with the girl.

I found it extraordinarily chilling, although I had known that the young woman was headed down the wrong path years ago in school. And while I don’t agree with her behavior at all, it seems to be a terrible cycle, really.

You see, knowing the predator before he or she was a predator can help a person to understand why they become what they become.

I just happen to know that indecent liberties were forced on her as well, to the point where she was passed around at parties by those far older than her. This is even how she was introduced to homosexual acts.

It just goes to show that most predators are actually a part of a vicious cycle begun by older predators.

Charred
Post 4

I agree with everything that has been said so far, except I’d like to address a beef that I’ve had with the indecent exposure law in some states.

In one state in particular, breastfeeding was once part of the indecent exposure law, although I understand that has since changed.

When it was part of the law, however, I thought to myself, you’ve got to be kidding. Surely a mother has a right to breastfeed in public, as long as she stays covered. There is nothing indecent about that.

If you want to know something that I think should be considered indecent exposure, it’s anyone who walks down the street with their pants hanging half way down.

I know some people think that’s nitpicking, but I didn’t think underwear was supposed to be shown in public. And so that nobody thinks I’m picking on guys alone, I’d also like to extend it to girls wearing super mini skirts.

MrMoody
Post 3

@SkyWhisperer - I remember watching the movie “Doubt.” That movie covered this topic, but in a kind of oblique way (hence the title of the film).

You never really see the accused person, the priest in this case, doing anything overtly sexual. You just see bits and pieces of affection that he directs towards a child in the movie, and you see a nun superior who is insanely suspicious, and seems to have an axe to grind with the priest.

I won’t spoil the ending, but the public is definitely invited to draw its own conclusions about things along the way.

SkyWhisperer
Post 2

@miriam98 - That’s tragic. However, I don’t think the punishment is inappropriate frankly.

Too often in our society sexual perverts get little more than juvenile detention (if they’re minors) or a year or so in jail. You have to realize that taking indecent liberties with children is something that harms those kids for life.

I know of one lady at work who was sexually abused by her dad. She has since recovered, thankfully, but it did affect her deeply.

miriam98
Post 1

I am ashamed to admit that our daughter once attended a parochial school by a man who succumbed to one of these indecent liberties with a child. He didn’t approach her, thankfully, but unfortunately he did approach several of the younger boys.

I won’t go into all of the sordid details. He was a gym teacher and apparently the school had heard, through the grapevine, of some of these encounters, but they never had proof at first.

So they gave him a warning.

Finally they had proof, by videotape, but by then it was too late. The word was out, parents were furious, and lawsuits started flying fast. Of course it went to court and the guy pleaded guilty. He is now serving life in prison.

When the verdict was read, some of the kids who knew him wept because he had always seemed like such a nice guy, and it was supposed to be a good school. Nowadays, however, you have to be very careful about these things.

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