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International examples

In the United States, national outrage about sexual violence against children is not uncommon. These days, previously hidden or unsolved cases of child sexual abuse are being addressed more frequently, thanks to stronger punishments for sexual offenders and the courage of female victims who have come forward with their cases.

Jaycee Dugard, who was held captive and sexually assaulted at the age of 11 for 18 years, was finally set free, and Jennifer Schuett, 27, went public to talk about having been raped at the age of 8 with the hope of finding the offender.

In most advanced countries, the statute of limitations does not apply to sex crimes or it is suspended until the victim becomes an adult. In Germany and France, the suspension is lifted when the victim turns 18; in the U.S., the age is 25. If the same law were applied in Korea, then victims would not feel the need to take justice into their own hands such as in the famous 1991 case where a sexual violence victim killed her attacker since the law could no longer punish him.

Moreover, if the Cho Du-sun case had happened in California, the offender would have been sentenced to life without parole, one expert said. In California, offenders are sentenced to 15 years in prison for kidnapping a child under 14; the sentence changes to life in prison if the child is sexually assaulted. In Florida, the death penalty can be applied to sexual offenders against children even if it is their first offense.

In European countries, there are harsh penalties for sexual offenders against children. In France, adult offenders get at least 15 years in prison, and if the victim is under the age of 15, the offender gets 20 years. In England, offenders receive a life sentence if the victim is under 13. In Switzerland, offenders receive a life sentence without exception.

There’s a world of difference between these countries and Korea, where criminal sentences can be reduced if the offender was intoxicated when the crime was committed. Many other countries have additional penalties for crimes committed under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

By Park Hye-min
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