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The Difference Between Rape and Sexual Assault

Updated on May 30, 2010

What is the difference between rape and sexual assault?

When you think sexual assault, you might immediately think of rape. In reality, however, sexual assault is a much broader term that encompasses a variety of sexually related crimes. In most states, sexual assault includes rape; forced kissing; forced penetration, whether it be anal, vaginal, or oral; inappropriate fondling; and sexual torture. By definition, rape is forced and unwanted sexual intercourse onto an individual without his consent. Essentially, sexual assault is an umbrella term that includes all unwanted sexual contact whereas rape refers to a specific crime. Rape is always sexual assault but sexual assault is not always rape.

What Crimes are Considered Sexual Assault?
Sexual assault could even include crimes like voyeurism, exhibitionism, incest, and sexual harassment. What makes it sexual assault is that the victim did not consent to the perpetrator’s actions. In some circumstances, a person can be charged with sexual assault even if they did not use physical force against their victim. In fact, sexual assault includes cases in which an individual abused their power or authority. For example, if an adult exposes a child to pornography or pressures the child to engage in a sexual activity, he can probably be charged with sexual assault.

Rape
Rape refers specifically to forced sexual intercourse. If an individual’s actions fall short of actual intercourse, the perpetrator committed sexual assault, not rape. Rape can be committed between strangers (stranger rape), between acquaintances (date rape), between married couples (spousal rape), or even between several individuals (gang rape). Those who are convicted of rape, regardless of type, are given serious prison sentences.

Punishments
In terms of sentencing, both sexual assault and rape are very serious crimes and are classified as felonies. In most jurisdictions, persons convicted of child sexual abuse or rape must register as sex offenders. The sex offender registry allows the government and the public to keep track of the whereabouts of persons who have committed sex crimes, even after they have served their prison terms.

This text is not meant to serve as a substitute for legal advice, which can only be obtained from an attorney. Victims of rape or other sexual assault should consult a local sex crimes attorney to learn more about their legal options.

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      Khyati 

      3 years ago

      After 20 years I remmemberd that when I was 4 years old I been tried to rape but it is out of my capability to remmember what happen. When I was 15 and then after for my age 19 I was always been forced by rapest to do sex with him . But I didn't done it.it is very dangoures to go opposite of this person . And what I experience it is dangoure.he was very excited and was very eager to rape me and do sex.he was not ready to listen no from me.which was horrible for me. now my life is going on.

    • profile image

      Bill 

      3 years ago

      'I was luckily still a (physical) virgin after I was raped,'

      Could you be any funnier? Could you say something any more absurd? Stop distorting language and accept that fact you were assaulted, not raped. It's really pathetic having to see people like you redefine the language just so you can feel more victimised. It's laughable.

    • profile image

      Anonymous 

      4 years ago

      I may be starting to think that I just find this website extremely offensive! This includes other websites that like to seem to think that sexual assaults such as objects are only assault, and they aren't! I was unable to consent to a weapon, not just any object, but a weapon that was torturous and penatrating and whoever is writing upon this, probably doesn't even know what rape is like. Sexual assault is included as the outcome of rape. I was luckily still a (physical) virgin after I was raped, and whoever is posting nonsense of any sort of rape, on the Web, that includes anywhere, deserves to be reprimended. I am still going through Ptsd, living with it, and i am being treated for it. I will probably live with it, the rest of my life. Just an FYI for other rape victims, you are not weak from rape, and no one can take your power from rape. The perpetrator may have power over you, but they cannot have your spirit, or your personal state of mind!

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