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Rape, Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment: What’s the Difference?

Rape, Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment What's the Difference

April is Sexual Assault Awareness month, so Sonoran Law Group will try to contribute to the cause by raising awareness of the certain sexually abusive behaviors from the perspective of criminal law.

So, what is the difference between rape and sexual assault? What is sexual harassment? How does the state of Arizona penalize these behaviors? Keep reading to learn the answers to these questions.

Difference Between Sexual Assault and Rape: What Is Sexual assault?

It is probably best to start with the US Department of Justice definition:

The term “sexual assault” means any nonconsensual sexual act proscribed by Federal, tribal, or State law, including when the victim lacks capacity to consent.

Therefore, sexual assault is an umbrella term that includes but is not limited to various sexual activities such as rape, attempted rape, and sexual harassment.

Legal definition varies from state to state, so there is no uniform set of laws and penalties for these crimes, but generally, all sexual assaults fall in one of the following three categories:

  • Penetration crimes (of a body part by another body part OR of a body part with an object)
  • Contact with a body part (genitalia, breast, buttocks or other intimate body parts)
  • Exposure of body parts (genitalia, breast, buttocks or other intimate body parts)

Sexual Harassment

Sexual assault in Arizona

Title 13 of Arizona Revised Statutes, in the article 1406 defines sexual assault as follows:

“A person commits sexual assault by intentionally or knowingly engaging in sexual intercourse or oral sexual contact with any person without the consent of such person.

The same law defines sexual intercourse as “penetration into the penis, vulva or anus by any part of the body or by any object or masturbatory contact with the penis or vulva.

The term “without consent” is also precisely defined, and constitutes one of the following possible situations:

  • The victim is coerced by the immediate use or threatened use of force against a person or property.
  • The victim is incapable of consent by reason of mental disorder, mental defect, drugs, alcohol, sleep or any other similar impairment of cognition and such condition is known or should have reasonably been known to the defendant.
  • The victim is intentionally deceived as to the nature of the act.
  • The victim is intentionally deceived to erroneously believe that the person is the victim’s spouse.

So, sexual assault is what we generally call rape. Sexual assault, or rape, is a class 2 Felony with a minimum of 5.25 to 14 years in prison. Defendants who have already been sentenced for the same felony may face even harsher sentences.

Difference Between Sexual Assault and Rape: What Is Sexual harassment?

Sexual harassment is a wider term than sexual assault or rape, and as such, it is not listed among sexual offenses in Chapter 14 of the mentioned ARS, Title 13.

Sexual harassment encompasses a range of behaviors of sexual nature, from mild transgressions to sexual abuse or assault. Many of these actions classify as sexual offenses:

  • Sexual abuse
  • Indecent exposure
  • Unlawful sexual conduct

Harassment can happen in different social settings, such as home, workplace, school, etc. When it happens in the workplace or other professional surroundings, it can constitute illegal employment discrimination.

Criminal Defense Lawyers for Sex Crimes in Arizona

If you have been charged with a sex crime in Arizona, you need to make sure that you have a strong and experienced legal team on your side.

Here at Sonoran Law Group, we have more than 20 years of experience in battling the most complex of the criminal cases.

Call (480) 400-0583 for free consultation and advice!