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Sexual Assault is a type of assault classified as illegal, unlawful, and illicit activity that is both sexual and non-consensual in nature. Sexual Assault crimes involve a victim and perpetrator. The victim is reported as sustaining injuries, damage, and harm as a result of an act of Sexual Assault. A Sexual Assault perpetrator is defined as the individual responsible for committing the act in question.

Yet, Sexual Assault is an extremely broad topic in nature, due to the fact that it can include a wide variety of associated criminal activity potentially classifiable as Sexual Assault. A Sexual Assault charge does not require that intercourse or penetration take place. Any unwelcomed and illegal sexual activity can be applicable to a Sexual Assault charge.

The definition of sexual assault has changed considerably over the years. It originally encompassed crimes that fell short of rape but nonetheless involved nonconsensual sexual contact. Historically, sexual assault crimes only dealt with assaults by men against women and did not apply to assaults between spouses

Now, sexual assault has broadened to include nonconsensual sexual contact between people of all ages and all genders, and includes assaults within a marraige. In many states, sexual assault has become a blanket term for all violent sex offenses, including rape, but other states have left it as its own criminal offense.

As with most crimes, the exact parameters of sexual assault vary between states, but it is possible to draw some generalities. The following articles give a basic outline of sexual assault, including the elements of the offense, the defenses to a sexual assault charge and the penalties and sentencing possible after a sexual assault conviction.

All states prohibit sexual assault, but the exact definitions of the crimes that fall within the category of sexual assault differ from state to state. The laws share some basic elements, but the structures, wording and scope of sexual assault offenses vary considerably, so always check your local statutes for specific questions.

In general, sexual assault is involuntary sexual contact that occurs through the actors use of force, coercion or the victims incapacity. The law will consider the victim incapacitated if they do not have the mental ability to understand the nature of the sexual acts, or if they are physically incapable of indicating their unwillingness to participate in the sexual conduct.

Modern sexual assault laws cover nonconsensual sexual contact that occurs between any sex and between people of any age. For example, most sexual assault laws cover involuntary sexual contact occurring between two men, two women or two children, etc., not just an adult man and woman.

Most states have made sexual assault the umbrella term for other crimes such as rape and unwanted sexual contact. Some states distinguish between crimes involving penetration and crimes involving coerced or involuntary touching, making the former an aggravated or first-degree sexual assault and the latter a base-level sexual assault.

Most states have also extended sexual assault laws to cover spousal sexual assault. States typically accomplished this in one of three ways: by removing the specific exemption for spousal assaults that existed in many sexual assault laws; by removing marriage as a defense to the sexual assault charge; or by creating a separate law prohibiting sexual assault on a spouse.

The federal statute outlawing sexual assault tracks the general principles of sexual assault and prohibits any sexual act that occurs as a result of the actor threatening or placing the victim in fear. It also prohibits sexual acts occurring when the victim is incapacitated.

Sexual Assault Defenses + There are several defenses that can counter a charge of sexual assault. Defendants in any criminal prosecution will usually profess innocence of the crime, and that is no different for a sexual assault case. In addition, sexual assault defendants may admit to performing the actions in question but claim that they didn't amount to sexual assault because the alleged victim consented to the behavior. Finally, defendants may also choose to admit that they committed the crime, but argue that they should not bear responsibility because of insanity or mental incapacity.Innocence

In a sexual assault case, the most basic defense is a claim of actual innocence. A defendant may argue that they could not have committed the crime because they were in a different location at the time the alleged crime took place, which is known as presenting an "alibi". In order to mount an effective defense based on an alibi, the defendant must support the alibi with credible evidence that establishes that they were not with the victim at the time the crime took place.

For example, if Adam is accused of sexual assault arising out of events in New York on March 1, he can present evidence to the court that he was actually in Los Angeles on that day. Typically, the evidence provided to the court would include hotel receipts, plane tickets, credit card bills and witness corroborations.

Defendants can also claim that the victim has misidentified them as the perpetrator. Just like with the presentation of an alibi, the defendant must provide evidence to support this claim. If available, DNA evidence can accurately and reliably establish whether a defendant was present at the crime scene.

Since the prosecution has the burden of proving that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, if the defendant can raise a reasonable doubt as to whether he or she actually committed the crime, a jury should return an acquittal.Consent

Sometimes defendants in a sexual assault case will admit to the behavior in question, but argue that the victim's consent negates the charges. One of the elements of sexual assault is that the sexual behavior must occur against the will of the victim. Thus, if the defendant can demonstrate that the victim consented to the sexual contact, it will provide a solid defense to the allegations of sexual assault.

Showing consent can prove both difficult and controversial for the defendant, however. Defendants often can't provide direct evidence of consent, so they will attempt to use the victim's past sexual history as a way of showing that the victim gave consent for the sexual activities. This can backfire with a jury and paint the defendant in a negative light.

In certain cases, moreover, consent is impossible to prove. When the alleged victim is a minor, is somehow incapacitated or is mentally challenged and incapable of understanding the sexual nature of the behavior, it is impossible for the victim to consent to the defendant's actions.

States differ on the level of awareness that the defendant must have concerning the victim's inability to consent. In other words, if the defendant argues that they honestly believed that a minor victim was past the age of consent, different states will hold that claim to different standards.

Some states have a strict liability standard, which means that defendants simply cannot argue that they didn't realize the victim was incapable of consent. In these states, if the victim was incapable of consenting, no amount of good faith belief in the victim's consent will aid in a sexual assault defense.

Other states will only allow a mistake regarding consent if the defendant acted less than negligently. As long as the defendant took reasonable care to determine that the victim was capable of giving consent, a mistake could still aid in their defense.

Still other states allow defendants to make a claim of mistaken consent as long as the defendant did not act recklessly in overlooking evidence of the victim's inability to consent. If the defendant did not act in a wildly irresponsible manner, they can claim an honest belief that the victim gave consent.Insanity or Mental Incapacity

Defendants in a sexual assault case can also claim that they had a mental disease or defect at the time of the crime that should remove criminal liability for their actions. Different states apply different forms of the insanity defense, but most states will treat an offender more leniently upon a showing that their mental disease or defect prevented them from understanding the criminal nature of their actions.

Thus, if a mentally challenged individual has no understanding that unwanted sexual contact is proscribed by the law, they could most likely mount an effective defense based on mental incapacity.

Sexual Assault Penalties and Sentencing + After a jury finds a defendant guilty of sexual assault, the case goes to the judge for sentencing. Judges rely on several factors to determine a sentence. First, the criminal statutes will usually set a range of punishments for sexual assault. This will often consist of a maximum and minimum prison term, as well as fines and other penalties.

Judges also examine aggravating and mitigating factors when deciding on the exact terms of the sentence. Aggravating factors are those factors such as a defendant's criminal history and the severity of the crime that suggest a need for a harsher punishment. Mitigating factors, on the other hand, support a more lenient sentence.Just as every state has its own law concerning sexual assault, every state has a different sentencing scheme in place for people convicted of sexual assault. The federal government also has its own set of sentencing rules.

For example, in California a sexual assault conviction carries with it a possible sentence of 24, 36 or 48 months in prison, as well as a possible $10,000 fine. This type of sentence is known as "determinate" since it results in a specific term of years in prison. As mentioned above, a judge will examine the facts of the case, including aggravating and mitigating factors, in order to settle on the exact sentence.

In New York, sexual assault constitutes a class D felony. The sentencing judge has discretion to set the sentence, but the law binds the judge to impose a sentence within a certain range. Moreover, the sentence is an "indeterminate" one, which means that the judge doesn't set an exact term. Instead, the judge picks a range of years from in between the absolute minimum and the absolute maximum set by law. The defendant could serve the entire term or just the minimum amount depending on their behavior in prison and other factors. New York law sets the absolute minimum sentence for sexual assault at one to two years and the absolute maximum penalty at seven years. Judges can choose any range that falls within those limits.

Federal law directs judges to examine a number of factors, including the defendant's criminal history and their acceptance of responsibility, when setting a punishment. The federal law criminalizing sexual assault sets a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, and also provides for fines. In addition, federal law provides that those convicted of sexual assault must compensate their victims for any expenses directly related to the crime. This can include costs for medical care, physical or occupational therapy, attorney's fees and other related expenses.

In order to learn more about specific penalties and sentencing for sexual assault, consult the laws of the jurisdiction where the conviction took place.

Sexual Assault: Definition Specific laws vary by state, but sexual assault generally refers to any crime in which the offender subjects the victim to sexual touching that is unwanted and offensive. These crimes can range from sexual groping or assault/battery, to attempted rape. All states prohibit sexual assault, but the exact definitions of the crimes that fall within the category of sexual assault differ from state to state. The laws share some basic elements, but the structures, wording and scope of sexual assault offenses vary considerably, so always check your local statutes for specific questions.

Proving Sexual Assault Charges In general, sexual assault is involuntary sexual contact that occurs through the actors use of force, coercion or the victim's incapacitation. The law will consider the victim incapacitated if they do not have the mental ability to understand the nature of the sexual acts, or if they are physically incapable of indicating their unwillingness to participate in the sexual conduct. Common examples of these charges may arise from the use of alcohol or date rape drugs, both of which can make it impossible for a victim to legally consent to sexual conduct. Modern sexual assault laws cover nonconsensual sexual contact that occurs between any sex and between people of any age. For example, most sexual assault laws cover involuntary sexual contact occurring between two men, two women or two children, etc., not just an adult man and woman. Most states have made sexual assault the umbrella term for other crimes, such as rape and unwanted sexual contact. Some states distinguish between crimes involving penetration and crimes involving coerced or involuntary touching, making the former an aggravated or first-degree sexual assault and the latter a lower-level sexual assault.

Spousal Sexual Assault and Federal Law Most states have also extended sexual assault laws to cover spousal sexual assault. States typically accomplished this in one of three ways: by removing the specific exemption for spousal assaults that existed in many sexual assault laws; by removing marriage as a defense to the sexual assault charge; or by creating a separate law prohibiting sexual assault on a spouse. The federal statute outlawing sexual assault tracks the general principles of sexual assault discussed above, and prohibits any sexual act that occurs as a result of the actor threatening or placing the victim in fear. It also prohibits sexual acts occurring when the victim is incapacitated.

Sexual Assault Defenses + There are several defenses that can counter a charge of sexual assault. Defendants in any criminal prosecution will usually profess innocence of the crime, and that is no different for a sexual assault case. In addition, sexual assault defendants may admit to performing the actions in question but claim that they didn't amount to sexual assault because the alleged victim consented to the behavior. Finally, defendants may also choose to admit that they committed the crime, but argue that they should not bear responsibility because of insanity or mental incapacity.

Innocence In a sexual assault case, the most basic defense is a claim of actual innocence. A defendant may argue that they could not have committed the crime because they were in a different location at the time the alleged crime took place, which is known as presenting an "alibi". In order to mount an effective defense based on an alibi, the defendant must support the alibi with credible evidence that establishes that they were not with the victim at the time the crime took place. For example, if Adam is accused of sexual assault arising out of events in New York on March 1, he can present evidence to the court that he was actually in Los Angeles on that day. Typically, the evidence provided to the court would include hotel receipts, plane tickets, credit card bills and witness corroborations. Defendants can also claim that the victim has misidentified them as the perpetrator. Just like with the presentation of an alibi, the defendant must provide evidence to support this claim. If available, DNA evidence can accurately and reliably establish whether a defendant was present at the crime scene. Since the prosecution has the burden of proving that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, if the defendant can raise a reasonable doubt as to whether he or she actually committed the crime, a jury should return an acquittal.

Consent Sometimes defendants in a sexual assault case will admit to the behavior in question, but argue that the victim's consent negates the charges. One of the elements of sexual assault is that the sexual behavior must occur against the will of the victim. Thus, if the defendant can demonstrate that the victim consented to the sexual contact, it will provide a solid defense to the allegations of sexual assault. Showing consent can prove both difficult and controversial for the defendant, however. Defendants often can't provide direct evidence of consent, so they will attempt to use the victim's past sexual history as a way of showing that the victim gave consent for the sexual activities. This can backfire with a jury and paint the defendant in a negative light. In certain cases, moreover, consent is impossible to prove. When the alleged victim is a minor, is somehow incapacitated or is mentally challenged and incapable of understanding the sexual nature of the behavior, it is impossible for the victim to consent to the defendant's actions. States differ on the level of awareness that the defendant must have concerning the victim's inability to consent. In other words, if the defendant argues that they honestly believed that a minor victim was past the age of consent, different states will hold that claim to different standards. Some states have a strict liability standard, which means that defendants simply cannot argue that they didn't realize the victim was incapable of consent. In these states, if the victim was incapable of consenting, no amount of good faith belief in the victim's consent will aid in a sexual assault defense. Other states will only allow a mistake regarding consent if the defendant acted less than negligently. As long as the defendant took reasonable care to determine that the victim was capable of giving consent, a mistake could still aid in their defense. Still other states allow defendants to make a claim of mistaken consent as long as the defendant did not act recklessly in overlooking evidence of the victim's inability to consent. If the defendant did not act in a wildly irresponsible manner, they can claim an honest belief that the victim gave consent.

Insanity or Mental Incapacity Defendants in a sexual assault case can also claim that they had a mental disease or defect at the time of the crime that should remove criminal liability for their actions. Different states apply different forms of the insanity defense, but most states will treat an offender more leniently upon a showing that their mental disease or defect prevented them from understanding the criminal nature of their actions. Thus, if a mentally challenged individual has no understanding that unwanted sexual contact is proscribed by the law, they could most likely mount an effective defense based on mental incapacity.

Sexual Assault Penalties and Sentencing + After a jury finds a defendant guilty of sexual assault, the case goes to the judge for sentencing. Judges rely on several factors to determine a sentence. First, the criminal statutes will usually set a range of punishments for sexual assault. This will often consist of a maximum and minimum prison term, as well as fines and other penalties. Judges also examine aggravating and mitigating factors when deciding on the exact terms of the sentence. Aggravating factors are those factors such as a defendant's criminal history and the severity of the crime that suggest a need for a harsher punishment. Mitigating factors, on the other hand, support a more lenient sentence. Just as every state has its own law concerning sexual assault, every state has a different sentencing scheme in place for people convicted of sexual assault. The federal government also has its own set of sentencing rules. For example, in California a sexual assault conviction carries with it a possible sentence of 24, 36 or 48 months in prison, as well as a possible $10,000 fine. This type of sentence is known as "determinate" since it results in a specific term of years in prison. As mentioned above, a judge will examine the facts of the case, including aggravating and mitigating factors, in order to settle on the exact sentence. In New York, sexual assault constitutes a class D felony. The sentencing judge has discretion to set the sentence, but the law binds the judge to impose a sentence within a certain range. Moreover, the sentence is an "indeterminate" one, which means that the judge doesn't set an exact term. Instead, the judge picks a range of years from in between the absolute minimum and the absolute maximum set by law. The defendant could serve the entire term or just the minimum amount depending on their behavior in prison and other factors. New York law sets the absolute minimum sentence for sexual assault at one to two years and the absolute maximum penalty at seven years. Judges can choose any range that falls within those limits. Federal law directs judges to examine a number of factors, including the defendant's criminal history and their acceptance of responsibility, when setting a punishment. The federal law criminalizing sexual assault sets a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, and also provides for fines. In addition, federal law provides that those convicted of sexual assault must compensate their victims for any expenses directly related to the crime. This can include costs for medical care, physical or occupational therapy, attorney's fees and other related expenses. In order to learn more about specific penalties and sentencing for sexual assault, consult the laws of the jurisdiction where the conviction took place.

Below you will find information on special legal considerations related to sex offenses, including community notification laws and other legal restrictions on convicted sex offenders. Sex Offenders and Sex Offenses: Overview Sex Offender Registration and Restrictions: Halloween Sex Offender Laws - Many states have enacted laws restricting the behavior of convicted sex offenders on Halloween. Registration Requirements: Impact of Jacob Wetterling - The unsolved abduction of Jacob Wetterling led to the enactment of national sex offender registry laws. Community Notification Laws (Megan's Law) - Every state must provide information about the location of individuals convicted of sex offenses. Megan's Law Resources by State - A list with links to each state's sex offender registry website. Residency Restrictions for Sex Offenders - Several states prohibit those convicted of sex crimes from living in certain areas, such as near schools. Other Prevention Issues for Sex Offenders: Chemical and Surgical Castration - Some states allow drug treatments to lower a convict's sex drive, and at least one state permits the surgical castration of sex offenders. Civil Commitment - Some states order the civil commitment of habitual sex offenders in order to reduce the risk of future crimes. Amber Alerts - Amber alerts spread information about child abductions to aid in the rescue of the child. Specific Sex Offenses: Child Pornography Indecent Exposure Prostitution Rape Sexual Assault Statutory Rape

What is sexual assault? Sexual assault and abuse is any type of sexual activity that you do not agree to, including:Inappropriate touching Vaginal, anal, or oral penetration Sexual intercourse that you say no to Rape Attempted rape Child molestation

Sexual assault can be verbal, visual, or anything that forces a person to join in unwanted sexual contact or attention. Examples of this are voyeurism (when someone watches private sexual acts), exhibitionism (when someone exposes him/herself in public), incest (sexual contact between family members), and sexual harassment. It can happen in different situations:  in the home by someone you know, on a date, or by a stranger in an isolated place.

Rape is a common form of sexual assault. It is committed in many situations — on a date, by a friend or an acquaintance, or when you think you are alone. Educate yourself on “date rape” drugs. They can be slipped into a drink when a victim is not looking. Never leave your drink unattended — no matter where you are. Attackers use date rape drugs to make a person unable to resist assault. These drugs can also cause memory loss so the victim doesn’t know what happened.

Rape and sexual assault are never the victim’s fault — no matter where or how it happens.

What do I do if I've been sexually assaulted? These are important steps to take right away after an assault: Get away from the attacker to a safe place as fast as you can. Then call 911 or the police. Call a friend or family member you trust. You also can call a crisis center or a hotline to talk with a counselor. One hotline is the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673). Feelings of shame, guilt, fear, and shock are normal. It is important to get counseling from a trusted professional. Do not wash, comb, or clean any part of your body. Do not change clothes if possible, so the hospital staff can collect evidence. Do not touch or change anything at the scene of the assault. Go to your nearest hospital emergency room as soon as possible. You need to be examined, treated for any injuries, and screened for possible sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or pregnancy. The doctor will collect evidence using a rape kit for fibers, hairs, saliva, semen, or clothing that the attacker may have left behind.

While at the hospital: If you decide you want to file a police report, you or the hospital staff can call the police from the emergency room. Ask the hospital staff to connect you with the local rape crisis center. The center staff can help you make choices about reporting the attack and getting help through counseling and support groups.

Where else can I go for help? If you are sexually assaulted, it is not your fault. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or support. Help is available. You can call these organizations: National Domestic Violence Hotline 800-799-SAFE (7233) or 800-787-3224 (TDD)National Sexual Assault Hotline 800-656-HOPE (4673)

There are many organizations and hotlines in every state and territory. These crisis centers and agencies work hard to stop assaults and help victims. Find contact information for these organizations. You also can obtain the numbers of shelters, counseling services, and legal assistance in your phone book or online.

How can I lower my risk of sexual assault?

There are things you can do to reduce your chances of being sexually assaulted. Follow these tips from the National Crime Prevention Council.

Be aware of your surroundings — who’s out there and what’s going on.

Walk with confidence. The more confident you look, the stronger you appear.

Know your limits when it comes to using alcohol.Be assertive — don’t let anyone violate your space.

Trust your instincts. If you feel uncomfortable in your surroundings, leave.

Don’t prop open self-locking doors.

Lock your door and your windows, even if you leave for just a few minutes.

Watch your keys. Don’t lend them. Don’t leave them. Don’t lose them. And don’t put your name and address on the key ring.

Watch out for unwanted visitors. Know who’s on the other side of the door before you open it.

Be wary of isolated spots, like underground garages, offices after business hours, and apartment laundry rooms.

Avoid walking or jogging alone, especially at night. Vary your route. Stay in well-traveled, well-lit areas.

Have your key ready to use before you reach the door — home, car, or work.

Park in well-lit areas and lock the car, even if you’ll only be gone a few minutes.

Drive on well-traveled streets, with doors and windows locked.

Never hitchhike or pick up a hitchhiker.Keep your car in good shape with plenty of gas in the tank.

In case of car trouble, call for help on your cellular phone. If you don’t have a phone, put the hood up, lock the doors, and put a banner in the rear mirror that says, “Help. Call police.”

More information on sexual assault For more information about sexual assault, call womenshealth.gov at 800-994-9662 (TDD: 888-220-5446) or contact the following organizations:Loveisrespect.org
Phone: 866-331-9474 (TDD: 866-331-8453)

National Center for Victims of Crime
Phone: 800-394-2255 or 202-467-8700 (TDD: 800-211-7996)

National Crime Prevention Council
Phone: 202-466-6272

National Domestic Violence Hotline
Phone: 800-799-7233 (TDD: 800-787-3224)

National Sexual Violence Resource Center
Phone: 877-739-3895 or 717-909-0710 (TDD: 717-909-0715)

Office on Violence Against Women, OJP, DOJ
Phone: 202-307-6026 (TDD: 202-307-2277)

Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network
Phone: 800-656-4673 or 202-544-1034

What to Do if You've Been Sexually Assaulted or Raped If you have been sexually assaulted or raped or think you have been, first, you must overcome the stigma of reporting the event. The stigma of reporting a sexual assault or rape for both women and men is not as great as it once was, and this change works in favor of the victim. The women's movement and the media have done a great deal to remove the stigma of being a victim of sexual assault.
 If sexual assault has taken place, you should report the crime for many important reasons, including the following:
To keep the same person from assaulting others
To provide psychological closure for you
To rule out medical problems related to the assault
Sexual assault is an emotionally charged crime in which advocacy for victims is strong. Many people involved in sexual assault work have been victims of sexual assault themselves. These people take on the role of advocates and serve as support for victims of sexual assault. Special sexual assault exam centers have been set up in most cities to work with victims of sexual assault in a sensitive manner.
Report sexual assault to law enforcement as soon as possible. Although you may have many reasons for delay (such as fear, guilt, and confusion), any delay in reporting can and will be regarded as suspect and inevitably used to imply that you are making a false allegation.
Tell family and friends immediately, and inform law enforcement at the same time. Family and friends can be helpful during the most difficult early moments after an assault.
Use these steps in reporting sexual assault:
When reporting sexual assault, document as many details as possible, including what happened, when it happened, anything that was said by you or the assailant, your attempts to resist the assault, any marks you might have left on the assailant, any weapons that were used, and other injuries you sustained -- as soon as possible. Accurate recall of events will fade quickly, and documentation in sufficient detail soon after an incident is thought of as more reliable evidence in the legal proceedings that will follow.
Note the location and time of any events. Describe the number and characteristics of the assailant or assailants. Write down as much detail as possible about the circumstances surrounding the assault as soon as possible after the assault. Make an effort to recall each and every aspect of what occurred during the assault and turn over this information to law enforcement. Maintain as much evidence as possible in its intact state. Do not wipe away or throw away any secretions that can be identified. Do not wash or change clothing, bedding, furniture, or any fabric. Put these items into dry paper bags and seal them.
Resist the strong urge to clean up by washing, showering, and douching. You will be given a special sexual assault exam by trained health professionals at a hospital, and specimens that will be collected are very important in proving the guilt of the assailant. Many of these specimens contain DNA evidence that can provide conclusive proof of the identity of the assailant.




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