The terms sexual assault, sexual abuse, and sexual harassment have all been in the news lately, especially in the #MeToo era.
Many people want to understand the differences between the three to help understand the how the behaviors are different, to be as precise as possible when describing them, and to work to prevent them.
All three terms have similarities and often overlap. They also have varying degrees of civil and criminal penalties, and a lawyer can help if you have been a victim of sexual abuse, sexual assault, or sexual harassment.
Sexual abuse is a form of mistreating children and is most often used to describe sexual conduct that victimizes children, rather than adults.
Because children are not capable of giving informed consent to a sexual act, sexual acts with children are illegal and can be punished criminally and through civil penalties.
Sexual abuse may include touching a victim in a sexual manner, forcing the victim to touch the perpetrator in a sexual way, or making the victim look at sexual body parts or watch sexual activity.
Sexual assault describes a range of criminal acts that are sexual in nature, and can include unwanted touching, unwanted kissing, rubbing, groping, or forcing the victim to engage in sexual acts.
Sexual assault usually occurs between adults who are capable of giving consent to the sexual acts, but the sexual acts are unwanted.
Sexual harassment usually occurs in the workplace and refers to unwanted sexual attention, “quid pro quo” sexual harassment, or gender harassment.
Quid pro quo sexual harassment refers to implicit or explicit attempts to condition work upon sexual favors. This is the classic “Sleep with me or you’re fired” form of sexual coercion that is stereotypical but uncommon.
Unwanted sexual attention occurs when a victim is the recipient of unwanted touching, hugging, stroking, kissing, or sexual pressure. To be illegal, the sexual advances must be unwanted and unpleasant to the victim, and must be “sufficiently severe or pervasive as to create an abusive working environment.”
Sexual harassment also includes gender harassment, where the victim is made to feel “less than” based solely on their gender. Examples include comments about a particular gender being ill-suited for a particular occupation, such as women being poor leaders, or men being unable to perform childcare. These actions constitute sexual harassment because they are sex-based, not because they involve sexuality.
How a Lawyer Can Help
If you have been a victim of sexual abuse, sexual assault, or sexual harassment, receiving compensation may be the furthest thing from your mind. However, you may have a right to compensation for the physical and emotional injuries you sustained.
Organizations often try to cover up instances of sexual abuse, sexual assault, or sexual harassment. But the consequences for victims can be severe and may include feelings of low self-esteem, feelings of worthlessness, or attempts to engage in self harm. Unfortunately, the results of sexual assault, sexual abuse, or sexual harassment can take years to manifest.
At Robenalt Law, we hold perpetrators of sexual assault, sexual abuse, and sexual harassment and the organizations that employ them accountable.
Businesses, schools, and other organizations can face civil and criminal liability for the actions of their employees. They also face liability for attempting to cover up those actions.
If an organization is made aware of sexual assault, sexual abuse, or sexual harassment and fails to take appropriate steps to prevent it, the organization can be held liable. Compensation may include payment for:
Damage to family relationships
Costs for medical treatment
Costs for psychological treatment
Pain and suffering
If you or someone you care for was the victim of sexual abuse, sexual assault, or sexual harassment, the experienced lawyers at Robenalt Law can help. We have extensive experience helping people who were victims obtain the financial compensation they deserve.
Financial compensation will never make up for the trauma of what happened, but it can help pay for medical and psychological treatment, compensate for damaged relationships, and much more.
Tom Robenalt started his litigation career at a large firm in Cleveland where he defended institutions and employees accused of sexual assault and sexual harassment. For the past 25 years, he has used that experience to help victims and the families of those injured as a result of sexual abuse.
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