Skip to content
Trial Lawyers Fighting For Victims

Call for Free Consultation 310-776-6390

Assault, Harassment, or Rape: Learn the Terms Associated with Sexual AbuseSexual abuse, sexual assault, sexual misconduct, and sexual battery, sexual harassment, and rape all have different meanings. Some of these terms are legal terms. Others are used as catchalls and not correctly. There’s also a difference between how these terms may be used in civil cases and criminal cases.

If you are looking to file a civil lawsuit against someone in order to receive compensation, you have two years from the date of the incident to file the claim in California. In order to better understand what type of civil claim you will file, the team at Taylor & Ring provides the following glossary of terms related to sexual assault, rape, and sexual harassment, among others.

What is sexual assault?

It is quite common for news stories to interchangeably use sexual assault and rape. This is not intentional and is instead a common mistake. Sexual assault encompasses a range of criminal acts that are sexual. These acts can include unwanted kissing, touching, groping, fondling, or forcing the victim to touch the aggressor in a sexual manner. So rape can be a type of sexual assault, but not all forms of sexual assault constitute the legal definition of rape.

What is sexual abuse?

Sexual abuse is not a legal term. For the most part, the term sexual abuse is used to describe abuse towards children, not towards adults. All the states have laws in place that recognize that children do not have the ability to give consent for a sexual act. The age of consent varies from age 16 to 18. Sexual abuse can include the unwanted touching of a child in their privates, forcing the child to touch the aggressor in a sexual manner, showing the child pictures or videos of a sexual act, or forcing the child to watch a sexual act in person.

What is sexual harassment?

Sexual harassment encompasses three separate areas: sexual coercion, unwanted sexual attention, and gender harassment. The legal term for sexual coercion is quid pro quo harassment. This occurs when explicit or implicit attempts are made that make work conditions contingent so long as sexual cooperation happens. All of these actions can contribute to a hostile work environment.

Unwanted sexual attention includes all of the following:

  • Unwanted touching
  • Hugging
  • Stroking
  • Kissing
  • Relentless pressure for dates or sexual behavior

Sexual and romantic overtures at work are not always considered harassment. In order for the advancements to be unlawful, they must be unpleasant and unwelcome to the recipient. The United States Supreme Court states that they must be “sufficiently severe or pervasive” to “create an abusive working environment.”

Gender harassment is any type of conduct that disparages the gender of another person but does not present sexual interest. This type of behavior can include degrading comments about sexual activities or bodies, crude sexual images, sexual terms, and comments that are inherently sexist in nature.

What is rape?

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) released an updated definition of rape in 2012: “Penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.”

California defines rape “as an act of sexual intercourse accomplished with a person not the spouse of the perpetrator” under one of six different scenarios, listed here.

Both the state and federal versions of law are gender-neutral, which means that a person of any sex or gender can be a victim of rape.

There is no mention of the relationship between the parties involved in the FBI’s updated definition. Perpetrators of rape cannot claim innocence based on being drunk themselves or being married to the victim under federal law, though California has a separate law for spousal rape.

What is sexual misconduct?

Sexual misconduct is a term that encompasses sexual harassment, sexual exploitation, non-consensual sexual contact, and non-consensual sexual penetration. Sexual exploitation is defined as taking sexual advantage of someone in order to benefit someone else other than the victim. Examples of sexual exploitation include:

  • Voyeurism
  • Electronic transmission of pornographic material
  • Exposing genitals or breasts in non-consensual circumstances or coercing someone else to expose their genitalia or breasts
  • Recording of sexual activity
  • Allowing someone else to observe sexual activity without the other person’s consent
  • Engaging in sexual activity with someone else while knowingly infected with an STI or HIV and the other person was never informed of such a condition

Non-consensual sexual penetration is defined as the penetration of the anus or vagina by a body part or object without consent, no matter how slight. Non-consensual sexual penetration also includes oral penetration by a sexual part of the body without consent.

Non-consensual sexual contact is defined as the touching of sexual parts of the body, with or without clothing on, without consent. This also includes removing someone’s clothing without their consent, forcing another person to touch their own private parts, or touching someone with their own private parts without consent.

What is sexual battery?

Sexual battery is defined by California penal code Section 243.4 as the touching of someone else’s private areas for the purpose of sexual abuse, sexual gratification, or sexual arousal. Sexual battery is often mistaken for rape, but is not considered rape because it does not involve penetration of any kind. If penetration took place, the crime is considered rape.

The terminology you hear in courtrooms may be different from what you hear on TV or read in newspapers. No matter what words are used, you can rely on the Los Angeles sexual assault attorneys of Taylor & Ring to fight for your future. If you or a loved one has been sexually assaulted, abused, or harassed, we can help. Call 310-776-6390 or complete our contact form online to schedule a consultation today. We serve clients in Los Angeles and throughout Southern California.

 

 

Contact Us310-209-4100