Sexual Assault vs Sexual Harassment: The Differences Explained


In the United States, approximately 21.3% of women have been victims of attempted or completed rape. With such alarming statistics, it is surprising to learn that many people don’t fully understand the difference between sexual assault and sexual harassment.

Understanding the differences can help us work to prevent these acts. It will also enable us to take the proper action when they do take place.

This article will consider the differences between sexual assault vs sexual harassment.

What Is Sexual Harassment?

Sexual harassment is a broad legal offense and refers to unwanted sexual attention. For a better understanding, we can break it into two categories.

Quid Pro Quo

This Latin phrase means “something for something” and refers to expressed or implied requests for sexual favors. Usually, the offenders are superiors or supervisors at work.

The harasser sometimes threatens punishment or termination. Other times, they offer a benefit, such as a promotion.

Hostile Environments

Sometimes sexual harassment occurs in situations where an individual’s speech or conduct creates an unsafe atmosphere. The harasser may make crude jokes, requests for dates, inappropriate touching, or offensive comments about your gender.

What Is Sexual Assault?

Typically, sexual assault is sexual contact without consent. The offender may use force, abuse their authority, or intimidate the victim. Frequent acts of sexual assault are groping, molestation, and rape.

Remember, not resisting physically or verbally does not always constitute consent. That applies if you were intoxicated, unconscious, or physically unable to refuse.

Sexual assault must be dealt with swiftly and with the utmost seriousness. If you or someone you know has suffered assault, it is vital to report the offense to the authorities.

Sexual Assault vs Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is generally a civil matter. Workplaces have protocols when workers make claims, and they expect employees to follow these protocols by reporting the incidence.

Sometimes, employees are not satisfied with the investigations that take place at their work. They may wish to take legal action by suing the harasser or an employer.

However, sexual harassment is not a criminal charge unless it moves past harassment. The harasser will not receive jail time, only financial penalties.

If sexual harassment intensifies to the following offenses, it is considered a crime.

  • sexual assault (which can occur in many forms)

  • sexual battery

  • cyberstalking

  • stalking

  • sexual cyberharassment

You may have experienced both sexual harassment and criminal sexual assault. If you are not sure which of these offenses, you have been a victim of, consult a lawyer. With their experience and many cases handled, they can help you identify the best course of action.

What Can Victims of Harassment and Assault Do?

Now that you better understand sexual assault vs sexual harassment, you can take steps to get help. No matter which offense you experienced, you may have legal rights. Therefore, speak with a lawyer right away.

An experienced professional can provide the help you need. Lawyers will help you determine the exact offense that occurred and assist you in reporting it to the proper authorities.

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