No one should engage in any type of sexual contact without the free and informed consent of their partner. Any sexual contact that occurs without consent is an act of sexual violence, including unwanted touching, sexual assault, and harassment. While laws and definitions vary from state to state, there are two types of sex crimes that a perpetrator may commit: forcible and non-forcible.
What Is a Forcible Sex Offense?
A forcible sex offense refers to any sexual act that one person performs on another person without his or her consent. The crime can involve using force to commit a sexual act, failing to obtain the other person’s consent prior to sexual contact, or engaging in a sexual act with a person who is unable to provide consent. People who are asleep or heavily intoxicated cannot provide consent, and a person who engages in sexual activity with a sleeping or intoxicated person commits a forcible sex offense.
Common examples of forcible sex offenses include the following.
- Forcible sodomy
- Sexual assault with an object
- Unwanted fondling
What Is a Non-Forcible Sex Offense?
A non-forcible sex offense involves people who the law does not believe have the capacity to consent. The individual may be unable to fully comprehend the sexual act or may not have the ability to provide or revoke consent. In many states, underage minors, the intellectually disabled, and people who have a physical disability or other impairment that renders them helpless are unable to consent to sexual acts.
As a result, consent is not a valid defense to sex crimes involving these individuals. A person who engages in sexual activity with a minor cannot avoid criminal charges by saying he or she did not know the person was underage. A perpetrator who assaults someone who is impaired, however, may be able to claim that he or she did not know about the physical helplessness or mental disability if he or she provides reasonable proof.
What to Do After a Sexual Assault
If you are the victim of any type of sexual assault, it is important to seek help and get to safety as soon as possible. If you are in immediate danger, call 911. You should also seek urgent medical care if you need it.
The National Sexual Assault Hotline operated by the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) can connect you with local sexual assault resources and find a trained advocate who can accompany you to the hospital or police station. You can call the Hotline 24 hours per day, seven days per week at (800) 656-4673 (HOPE).
The Hotline can also tell you how and where to receive a forensic medical exam. During the exam, a trained forensic nurse will ask questions and collect pieces of evidence to use in a future case against the perpetrator. If you are unsure whether you want to report, you can ask the nurse to store your exam kit for a later date.
After receiving the exam, you can choose whether or not you want to report the crime to law enforcement. You do not have to report the crime to law enforcement, and you do not need to file a police report to receive a forensic exam. However, filing an initial report will not automatically trigger a police investigation; after you file, you can choose whether or not you want to press charges.
If you need legal assistance, a sexual assault attorney can help. Your lawyer can explain the resources and legal options available to you, helping you navigate your path forward. Contact an Uber attorney as soon as possible following the assault to discuss your next steps.