From a legal standpoint, there is a big difference between sexual abuse, assault, and harassment. A specific sex crime has a corresponding punishment. Some offenses, like rape, carry much more severe penalties than others, like harassment.
While the legal definition of these crimes can vary by state, it is generally accepted that sexual violence is any unwanted sexual act directed at another person. It also refers to a sexual act that is obtained without the person’s consent and often through violence or intimidation.
The severity of a sexual offense conviction varies greatly depending on the crime. However, one thing that all these convictions have in common is that you must register as a sex offender, which can have lifelong consequences.
Legal Definition of Sexual Assault
The terms “sexual assault” and “rape” are often used interchangeably. However, legally speaking, sexual assault can refer to any kind of unwanted sexual contact or behavior. Examples of such behavior can include:
- Forcible intercourse (rape)
- Attempted rape
- Forcible sodomy
People often confuse sexual assault and sexual violence, however, under the law, there is a distinction. While all sexual assaults are a form of sexual violence, the latter term is much broader and includes acts such as:
- False promises
- Catcalling or whistling
- The sharing of explicit images
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Sexual Harassment Categories
Sexual harassment is defined as unwanted sexual advances or requests, as well as unwanted physical contact or verbal statements of a sexual nature. While unwanted sexual attention may sound like a mild crime, it can be quite serious. There are three main categories that sexual harassment tends to fall into:
- Coercion (intimidation or pressure)
- Unwanted sexual attention
- Gender harassment
Unwanted sexual attention and coercion are commonly reported in the workplace. Another type of sexual harassment to take note of is gender harassment. This behavior might not involve any sexual contact or advances whatsoever. Instead, it focuses more on demeaning remarks based on gender.
Sexual Abuse Involves Children
The term “sexual abuse” is most often used to describe conduct toward children rather than adults. Every state in the country has laws with regard to a child’s inability to consent to a sexual act. The age of consent varies by state, but the range is between 16 and 18 years of age.
Someone who is charged with sexual abuse may be accused of many different crimes, including:
- Touching the victim in a sexual way
- Forcing the victim to touch him or her in a sexual way
- Forcing the victim to look at or watch a sexual act
- Forcing the victim to look at intimate body parts
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Penalties for Sex Crimes
The penalties for sexual harassment, assault, and abuse vary greatly depending on the severity of the offense and the state in which the crime was committed. Even for more mild offenses, you will likely be facing potential jail time. For more serious crimes, you could end up spending the rest of your life in prison. You will also likely be facing financial penalties.
The punishments for these types of crimes are not limited to incarceration and fines. The requirement of all those convicted of any sort of sex crime to register as a sex offender can affect where they are able to live and work for the rest of their lives.
Sex offenders are also viewed very negatively by society. Having a conviction for a sexual offense can haunt every aspect of your life. Even if you are convicted of a minor offense for which you are innocent, the designation as a sex offender can severely damage your relationships and long-term life prospects.
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Possible Defenses Against Accusations
Most sex crimes occur in areas where there are no witnesses. As a result, it is often difficult to prove that a defendant was guilty of the crime for which they were accused. Some of the most common legal defenses used in sex crime cases are:
- Mistaken identity
- Disputes about consent
- Biased interviews
- False accusations
A criminal defense lawyer may also be able to get evidence dismissed if it was obtained illegally. We use a variety of strategies that can result in your evidence being inadmissible in court. Understanding the difference between sexual assault, harassment, and abuse is key to knowing how to approach your case.
Fight For Your Freedom if You’ve Been Accused
Have you been charged with sexual assault, abuse, or harassment? At Simmrin Law Group, we understand that your reputation is on the line, in addition to your freedom. You may have been charged with a crime you didn’t commit, but the system is not on your side.
A criminal defense lawyer will have extensive experience helping their clients fight these types of charges. If you’re thinking about finding legal representation, don’t delay. The longer you wait, the more difficult it will be to get the charges against you dropped or reduced.