What constitutes sexual assault should be clear to us all. It should be self-evident, but it isn’t – as least as far as the law is concerned. And that lack of understanding has contributed to a culture of confusion. This is particularly true among victims who may have trouble reconciling something that inherently feels like they have been violated, with laws that make them stop and question whether they really have.
While definitions and terminology regarding sexual assault crimes vary widely among the states and between state and federal laws, sexual assault should generally be defined as “any type of sexual contact or conduct that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient.”
The type of sexual contact or conduct determines the type of sexual crime committed. Falling under this definition are sexual crimes such as rape, attempted rape, statutory rape, and sexual battery. Also falling under this definition are “non-physical” sexual offenses, such as voyeurism and public indecency, and non-criminal sexual misconduct, such as sexual harassment.
In many states, the term ‘sexual assault’ is an “umbrella term” that includes various offenses. As mentioned above, sexual assault involves some form of sexual conduct or contact. When you or a loved one are the victim of any form of sexual assault, reach out to our trusted sexual assault attorneys.
Rape is a form of sexual conduct that involves non-consensual penetration, however slight, of any of the following:
▪ Penis into vulva;
▪ Contact between mouth and penis, vulva, or anus; or
▪ Physical insertion of any body part or instrument into the vulva or anus of another.
Rape itself can generally be placed into three categories: (1) forcible rape; (2) incapacitated rape; and (3) statutory rape.
- Forcible Rape: In forcible rape cases, a perpetrator engages in sexual conduct with another by compelling the other person to submit by force or threat of force.
- Incapacitated Rape: These cases involve engaging in sexual conduct where the offender substantially impairs another person’s judgment or ability to resist by giving them drugs or intoxicants. This also includes an offender who knows or should know the other person’s ability to resist, or consent is substantially impaired.
- Statutory Rape: Statutory rape is nonforcible sexual conduct with an individual below the state’s age of statutory consent, regardless of whether the minor willingly agreed or initiated the sexual conduct. Many states have adopted a “Romeo and Juliet” clause to prevent romantic relationships between individuals who are close in age from being prosecuted.
While many aspects of sexual battery are like rape, states sometimes distinguish sexual battery as a crime that involves an offender who engages in sexual conduct with another by fraud, manipulation, or “non-forceful” coercion. This type of coercion can include exploiting the vulnerability of the victim, intimidating the victim, or using nonphysical threats such as releasing intimate photos of the victim. Additionally, sexual battery can involve a perpetrator who misuses their position to engage in sexual conduct with victims. This would include teachers and students, prison staff and prisoners, clerics and minor members of the church, and mental health professionals and their patients.
Sexual imposition is similar to rape, except whereas rape involves sexual conduct (i.e., penetration), sexual imposition involves non-penetrative “sexual contact.” This includes “groping” which is the non-consensual touching of the genitals, buttocks, or breasts of another for the purpose of sexual arousal.
Solicitation is essentially attempting to persuade or induce another person to engage in sexual activity for hire. Soliciting a minor or a person with a developmental disability carries more significant criminal penalties.
Importuning is a solicitation offense. It does not usually involve a specific sex act. Instead, it involves an offender soliciting minors to engage in sexual conduct.
Voyeurism is the “peeping Tom” offense. It is an invasion of privacy. It often involves an offender spying or secretly recording others while in a state of nudity.
Think of this as “flashing.” Public indecency involves a person publicly exposing their private parts or publicly engaging in consensual sexual conduct. Sometimes it is that creepy guy in a dirty raincoat. However, it can also include acts not generally thought of as “sex crimes” such as a girl “flashing” at a concert or a guy publicly urinating.
Sex trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery in which sex traffickers target victims and then use threats, violence, or other forms of coercion to force or compel individuals, often minors or immigrants, to perform commercial sex acts. This can include forcing the individual into prostitution, pornography, stripping, or working in illicit massage parlors.
It is unlawful to harass a person because of their sex. Harassment can include unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other verbal or harassment of a sexual nature. It can also involve harassment that is not sexual – such as making offensive comments about a person’s gender or sexuality. While not usually criminal in itself, if an individual engages in harassment knowing it could cause a person or their family mental distress, the offender could be criminally charged with menacing.
Stalking is a commonly used term to refer to an individual who engages in unwanted and repeated surveillance of a victim. Stalking can include following the victim or waiting outside their home or work. It can also include using technology to gather information about a victim, track them, or engage in repeated non-consensual communications (e.g., repeated phone calls, emails, texts, etc.).
Child Sexual Abuse
Child sexual abuse is a form of abuse where any person under the age of 18 is the victim of unlawful sexual activity. While it often includes physical contact, it does not need to. It can also include taking pornographic images of a child or engaging in obscene digital interactions with a child.
It is illegal to create, record, photograph, distribute, display, receive, or possess any material that shows a minor engaged in sexual activity or in a state of nudity. Child pornography laws can also involve minors “sexting” nude images to each other even when both parties consent.
Incest is defined as sexual activity between two closely related family members. Unsurprisingly, all states prohibit sexual relations between children and their parents. Quite surprisingly, not all states criminalize sexual relations between adults and their siblings, aunts & uncles, and grandparents. For example, in Ohio, incest is legally allowed if one party is not a parental figure to the other.
The term “revenge porn” commonly refers to distributing sexually explicit material of someone without their consent, usually an ex, intending to humiliate them. While most states do not have laws criminalizing this practice, revenge porn victimization is frequently connected with other crimes, such as blackmail – where the offender threatens to release intimate images or damaging information unless the victim complies with their demands.
Rely On a Sexual Assault Attorney From Boyk Law
There are multiple different types of sexual assault. When you or someone you love has experienced this type of trauma, reach out to our firm for compassionate guidance.