- Education and Science
The Difference Between Rape and Sexual Assault
What is the difference between rape and sexual assault?
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
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 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.
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.