Sexual violence is an all-encompassing term that refers to any sexual activity that occurs without the consent of the victim. It can include acts of physical violence, such as sexual assault or abuse, as well as electronic harassment, inappropriate comments, and stalking. Sexual assault is one of the most common forms of sexual violence.
If you are a survivor of sexual assault, it can be difficult to know what to do next. Many survivors do not believe their experiences rise to the level of assault and refrain from pursuing criminal or civil charges against their perpetrators. However, any sexual act that occurs without consent is wrong—and understanding the definitions of these crimes can help you know when to seek assistance.
The Definition of Sexual Assault
Sexual assault is a term that refers to any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without consent. There are multiple acts that rise to the level of sexual assault, including rape, unwanted touching, and domestic abuse.
Consent is an important concept when discussing sexual violence. Before a sexual act occurs, both parties involved must provide their free and informed consent. You cannot obtain consent through force or coercion, which may include psychological force or manipulation. You cannot consent to sexual activity if you are intoxicated or mentally or physically incapacitated.
If a sexual act occurs without consent, it is sexual assault.
Different Types of Sexual Assault
There are multiple acts of sexual violence that fall under the definition of sexual assault.
- Rape and attempted rape: This crime involves penetration without the consent of the victim. Legal definitions for rape vary from state to state, and both completed and attempted rape are forms of sexual assault.
- Unwanted sexual touching: This act involves any sexual touching that occurs without the consent of the victim, such as groping, kissing, or fondling.
- Domestic violence: Domestic violence involves abuse by one person against his or her domestic partner, such as a spouse or boyfriend or girlfriend. While domestic violence can encompass physical and emotional abuse, it can also involve acts of sexual violence such as rape.
- Child sexual abuse: Minors do not have the ability to consent to sexual activity. Any sexual act involving a minor is an act of child sexual abuse. Pressuring a child to engage in sexual activities, indecent exposure, and any other type of sexual contact with a minor is sexual assault.
- Stranger sexual assault: While most perpetrators of sexual violence know their victims, strangers can assault strangers as well. Stranger rape can occur as a blitz assault, during home invasion, or in a public setting through the use of date rape drugs.
Seek Legal Help for Sexual Assault
Sexual assault is a violent crime that can cause serious damage to a person’s mental and physical well-being. If you are a survivor of sexual assault, you have legal options available to you. You can hold the perpetrator accountable for his or her actions through multiple avenues, including concurrent criminal and civil charges.
Criminal cases result in penalties for the perpetrator, while civil lawsuits help survivors recover compensation for the damages they suffered due to the assault. If you believe you may qualify for this litigation, contact a sexual assault attorney with experience advocating for survivors as soon as possible. Your lawyer will explain your available legal options and help you take your first steps to justice.