Legal Resources

Laws in Iowa

Here are some relevant laws and legal definitions for the state of Iowa:

Consent is not specifically defined in Iowa. However, Iowa law defines “sexual abuse” as any sex act between persons where;

  • the sexual act is done by force or against the will of the other
  • the consent or acquiescence of the victim is procured by threats of violence
  • the victim is under the influence of a drug inducing sleep or otherwise in a state of unconsciousness
  • the victim is suffering from a mental defect or incapacity which precludes giving consent
  • the victim lacks the mental capacity to know the right and wrong of conduct in sexual matters

It is not necessary to establish physical resistance by a person in order to establish that an act of sexual abuse was committed by force or against the will of the person.

Sexual Abuse in the First Degree

In Iowa, a person commits the crime of sexual abuse in the first degree if, in the course of committing sexual abuse, the defendant causes serious injury to another. A serious injury creates a risk of death, or causes permanent disfigurement or sustained impairment, including disabling mental illness. Examples of serious injuries include bone fractures and severe post-traumatic stress disorder. Any injury to a child that requires surgical repair under general anesthesia is also considered a serious injury. (Iowa Code §§ 702.18, 709.2.)

Sexual Abuse in the Second Degree

Second degree sexual abuse occurs when, in the course of committing sexual abuse (Iowa Code § 709.3.):

  • the defendant uses or threatens to use force that creates a risk of death or serious injury,
  • the defendant displays a weapon in a threatening manner,
  • the victim is under the age of 12, or
  • the defendant is aided by one or more persons, and the act is committed by force or against the victim’s will.

Sexual Abuse in the Third Degree

Sexual abuse in the third degree encompasses a number of crimes, including any sexual act performed by force or against the other person’s will. Abuse in the third degree includes crimes involving drugs. The offense occurs when the victim is under the influence of a controlled substance, which prevents the person from giving consent, and the defendant knew or should have known of the person’s condition. The substance Rohypnol (also known as Flunitrazepam), a hypnotic commonly associated with “date rape,” is included within the class of drugs specified in the statute.

The statute of limitations for sexual abuse is 10 years.

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Laws Outside Iowa

Relevant Laws – By State

You can search for state-specific laws, policies and definitions related to sexual assault on the RAINN website. RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network) is the largest national organization dedicated to issues around sexual violence. 

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National Center for Victims of Crime
Provides assistance and resources for victims of crimes, including sexual assault.
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National Organization for Victim Assistance (NOVA)
Provides education and resources for victims of crime and crisis.

Office for Victims of Crime
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