RCASA Advocacy Blog: Forms of Sexual Assault

In Advocacy, Systems Advocacy on May 26, 2012 at 5:00 am

Sexual assault is defined by law as sexualized contact (sometimes referred to as carnal knowledge) with another person without consent and by force (compulsion). Victims (both men and women) of sexual assault can be compelled or forced to participate through fear, physical force, deception, other forms of coercion, or the use of intoxicants such as alcohol and drugs. Some forms of sexual assault do not require the use of force but are still considered criminal. Sexual assault has taken place if sexual contact has happened that has not been consented to in a conscious and voluntary way.

Sexual assault can take many forms.

Forms of sexual assault with force

       Sexual assault can include any adult sexual activity.

  • Contact or penetration of the vagina with the penis (intercourse, rape)
  • Anal contact or penetration (sodomy)
  • Oral contact of the male on the genitalia of the female (cunnilingus)
  • Oral contact of the female on the genitalia of the male (fellatio)
  • Hand to genitalia contact (masturbation, fondling, or penetration)


       Contact between any body parts and the private parts of another can be construed as lewd and lascivious conduct or sexual battery (a legal term for any other ill-defined behavior that is intended to arouse sexual pleasure for the assailant). Lewd and lascivious conduct and sexual battery are very broad categories of sexual assault used by law enforcement when exactly what happened is not clear.


       Forced nudity, photography, and video of people in sexual poses against their wishes are also forms of sexual assault.

Forms of sexual assault without force: In other sexualized behaviors, including groping in crowds, secret photographing, or peeping, force or fear of harm may be absent due to the nature of the activity. These behaviors are still regarded as sexual assault. When the acts are ill defined, the lack of consent and the intent to arouse sexual gratification will be used as a test to determine if the behavior is a sexual assault.

Date rape: Date rape is a sexual assault that occurs when you already have a relationship with the person who assaulted you and you have agreed to be with that person in some form or another (such as to be on a date). A date, however, does not imply any consent for sexual contact, and a sexual assault that takes place during a date is still a sexual assault and will be treated as such by law enforcement.

Spousal rape: In spousal rape, a husband can be accused of sexual assault on his own wife. Although uncommon, a dysfunctional marital relationship can lead to both physical assault and sexual assault against a spouse. This is a form of domestic violence. These assaults are handled the same as any other sexual assault allegation by law enforcement.

Statutory rape: Statutory rape is sex with a minor. A minor is a person younger than 18 years. Quite a bit of confusion exists about this law. Some states allow intercourse with minors who are emancipated (freed of control from their parents), and other states allow minors to marry. Many minors engage in sexual intercourse with other minors and are not prosecuted. Adult engagement in sex with minors is generally not tolerated, and adults should not engage in intercourse with younger people unless the adult is sure the youth is emancipated or older than 18 years. This crime is legally known as a strict liability crime. This means that if a person has sex with a minor, no excuse is acceptable to a court, including being duped, mistaken, or ignorant of the law. If a person has sex with a minor, he or she can be charged with statutory rape, to which no defense exists. To avoid this crime, extra caution is needed when engaging in sex with someone at or near the age of 18 years.

If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual assault and need(s) help, please call us on our hotline: (540) 371-1666. There are many resources available for victims and their families. All information is kept confidential.


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