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Sexual assault

The term sexual assault covers many sexually related crimes such as sexual harassment, rape, inappropriate touching, child molestation, exhibitionism (exposing oneself to another person in public), voyeurism (watching other’s sexual act without their knowledge and consent) and obscene phone calls.


The elements of sexual assault can be generally described as (1) any sexually related activity (verbal, physical or visual) (2) that forces another (3) to participate in unwanted sexual acts or receive unwanted sexual attention.


Not all categories of sexual assault involve force or the threat of force. The majority of crimes such as harassment, voyeurism or exhibitionism merely expose the victim to unwanted sexual attention that the law general provides a protection against. Sexual harassment is the hardest to define category of sexual assault. Sexual harassment includes unwanted sexual advances, requests for sexual services, unwanted touching, sexual comments and jokes that are uninvited by the victim and result in unwanted sexual attention or embarrassment. 


As with most crimes there are certain aggravating factors that add to the severity of punishment. Aggravating circumstances include situations where; the assault is committed against a person who is mentally or physically incapacitated; the victim is too young (under 13 in some states under 16) or too old (a senior citizen); the assault disfigures the victim; a deadly weapon is used during the assault; or the defendant is a family member or close relative of the victim.


Both the elements and the penalties for sexual assault vary state by state. Potential penalties include jail time, probation accompanied by community service and rehabilitative programs for sex offenders, registering as a sex offender, and fines.  Aggravated sexual assault is considered a felony sexual offense in every state and carries a more serious penalty which is determined by the law of each individual state.


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