Sexual harassment in general terms often refers to physically harming a person of a sexual nature. In fact, the legal definition of the term varies from state to state. In some states, sexual assault is synonymous with rape – forced intercourse or unprotected sex. In other states, sexual assault is not a known crime, and instead, consensual sexual behavior is defined as rape, criminal penetration, criminal sexual assault, or sexual assault.
Most states separate the offenses of sexual penetration from the offenses of sexual contact. Another category of sexual offenses may involve sexual intercourse for which the victim does not have the capacity to consent or the offender maintains a position of authority over the victim. (More on these categories below in the “Consent Element”).
Rape and criminal sexual penetration “sexual penetration”, the criminal behavior is generally referred to as involuntary sexual penetration or sodomy. Sexual penetration is usually defined as penetration into the vagina by a body part or object. Sodomy is generally defined as oral sex – contact between the mouth and the penis or female genitalia – or penetration of the anus by a body part or object.
Most states also define crimes against sexual conduct that do not include oral sex abuse or sodomy. Behavior that is sexual in nature and occurs without the consent of the other person is commonly referred to as sexual harassment or criminal sexual contact. (Note: Some states define sexual battery as sexual penetration, while others describe it as merely sexual intercourse.) The common definition of sexual battery is touching an intimate part of the body (subject to the condition). with or without clothing. Passion or sexual pleasure without the other person’s consent; or forcing another person to touch the intimate part of the offender’s body.
Lack of consent is a crucial part of sexual crimes. Sexual conduct is criminal when sexual contact is refused because:
the offender forces another person to have sexual intercourse against their will, or
another person is considered incompetent or has reduced capacity to consent.
When sexual contact with a mentally incapacitated or mentally ill person occurs, the question of consent could be whether the person had the capacity to knowingly consent to the sexual contact.
In some states, sexual relations with a minor are only criminalized if the perpetrator is older than the victim by a certain number of years, eg. more than three years. These middle age laws allow a fifteen-year-old girl to have sex with her eighteen-year-old boyfriend without the latter’s actions being criminal. However, if a 21-year-old has sex with a 15-year-old of the same status, sexual intercourse is a crime.
Many states also criminalize sex between a competent person – such as a teacher, police officer or jailer – and someone who has authority over him – a student, someone in police custody center or a prisoner in a jail or jail. The reason for criminalizing this behavior is that the ability to agree is impaired by the authority that the teacher or other authority has over the student or other person.
Many states also criminalize sexual intercourse between a psychotherapist or other mental health care provider and a client or patient on the grounds that the nature of the relationship makes the client or patient incapable of giving informed and voluntary consent.
Defendants accused of sexual assault have the usual defense available to all criminal defendants, which begins with “Someone else has committed this crime.” A defendant may also allege that the sexual activity was consensual. In a sexual assault case, important questions may arise as to what constitutes consent or what constitutes denial. This led to the infamous question of when “no” means “no”. Is it as soon as the word is said, or does the victim need to protest more strongly?
Another possible defense is the insanity defense, in which the defense argues that the defendant is mentally ill and did not have the ability to control his behavior, commit criminal intent, or understand what he was doing, or his actions were illegal.
Sexual Assault Laws on Rape and Criminal Sexual Penetration usually define this behavior as a severe punishment offense. Sexual contact offenses can be a felony or a misdemeanor.
Many states classify rape as first and second degree rape or the categorization of more violent rapes. The charge will depend on the type of force used, if the sexual assault resulted in severe physical injury or if it was committed with a deadly weapon, such as rape at gunpoint. Possible sentences range from one year to life in prison, depending on each state’s statutory provisions or sentencing guidelines. Some states impose minimum prison sentences or require courts to impose prison sentences without probation or initial parole. In other states, the judge may have some discretion as to the length of the sentence and whether the defendant should be allowed to spend part of the sentence on probation instead of imprisonment.
Criminal offenses involving sex and sex batteries that do not involve penetration are generally less serious crimes and less punishable than rape or criminal penetration but criminal sexual contact that results in bodily harm or is committed with a deadly weapon or by more than one person is generally a felony. However, criminal unarmed sexual contact involving the use of force or coercion may be considered an offence. A perpetrator convicted of a minor offense may be sentenced to up to one year in prison, but is not required to serve the sentence in prison.
A person who commits a sexual offense will face other sentences in addition to jail or prison. Sex offenders may need treatment while incarcerated or on parole. Almost inevitably, they will face the stigma of being registered sex offenders for several years or a lifetime.
Like a court in which an offender is required to undergo drug or mental health treatment, a judge may order a convicted person to participate in the treatment of sex offenders. Some prisons also have sex offender treatment for inmates. (The effectiveness of these treatments is controversial.)
Each state has a program to register and report sex offenders. Sex offender registration laws require a person convicted of a sex offence to register with law enforcement or other public safety agencies where they live. A sex crime that requires registration is generally any crime that involves penetration or sexual contact as an element. In some states, minors must register.
To register as a sex offender, you must enter your name, address and crime details in the registration record. Some or all of this information is available to the public and every state has a website for sex offenders that the public can find. Failure to register is also a crime.