Social media has been flooded over the past few months in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal—and those which followed—it “me too” stories from women across the nation. Despite this, it appears there is some level of confusion regarding the differences between sexual harassment and sexual assault. The most essential differences between the two is that sexual assault involves some form of sexual contact with an intimate body part of the victim, or a sex act occurring against the will of the victim. This could include anything from grabbing a person’s privates to forcible rape. While sexual harassment can include a physical, sexual assault (such as grabbing a person’s privates), sexual harassment is a behavior—whether physical, verbal or nonverbal.
Unfortunately, it can sometimes be unclear where sexual harassment ends and sexual assault begins. The following are true of sexual harassment:
- Sexual harassment is a form of prohibited harassment.
- Sexual harassment can include unwelcome sexual advances, verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature, and/or requests for sexual favors.
- The submission to such conduct is either implicitly or explicitly made a condition or term or employment—whether obtaining employment, keeping one’s job, or obtaining a raise or promotion.
- Sexual harassment unreasonably interferes with the victim’s performance at work, and can create an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.
- Sexual harassment can also include unwelcome displays or communications of sexually offensive materials.
- Any person in a supervisory position who uses sexual behaviors to control, influence or affect a career, job or pay of an employee is guilty of sexual harassment.
- Requests for sexual favors, sexually explicit verbal comments (even sexual innuendos), obscene or sexually explicit media contact with an employee, physical touching (brushing up against, rubbing an employee’s shoulders or neck, patting an employee on the butt, etc.), or unwanted requests to perform sexual acts or sexual favors are all forms of sexual harassment.
Sexual harassment can create a hostile work environment, or can take the form of a tangible employment action (hiring, firing, promotion, failure to promote, undesirable assignment, demotion, change in work assignments, benefits or pay). Hostile work environment occurs when the sexual harassment is so pervasive, and so severe that any reasonable person would view the work environment as abusive, offensive or hostile.
Sexual assault is intentional sexual contact, using force, a threat, intimidation, or abuse of authority. Sexual assault can also occur when the victim is unable to consent due to drugs or alcohol or being unconscious. Rape, forcible sodomy and any other unwanted, indecent contact, or any attempt to commit such acts is considered sexual assault. In fact, any unwanted sexual contact which is wrongful, abusive or aggravated, or an attempt to commit such an act, is considered sexual assault. In short, sexual harassment is connected to the victim’s employment, therefore is a civil rights issue, while sexual assault is a criminal offense against another person, that generally has nothing to do with employment or work performance.
If you are charged with sexual assault, you must understand that sexual assault is a criminal offense. After an investigation, you could be arrested and charged, and will either engage in a plea deal, or will go to trial for the crime. You may also be facing a civil, personal injury case, as a separate issue from the actual criminal offense.
Contact Our Boulder Criminal Defense Lawyers
If you are facing charges of sexual assault or sexual harassment, it is important to know your legal rights. Contact the Boulder criminal defense lawyers at Steven Louth Law Offices today for a free consultation and review of your case. Call us at (303) 422-2297 to start building a solid defense against these serious criminal charges.