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Sexual assault can happen to anyone in any situation, but the two most important things to remember are: that it’s never the victim’s fault, and there is help available in a number of different forms. Below are the acts which are defined as different types of sexual assault and what to do if it happens to you.
How is Sexual Assault Defined?
Sexual assault refers to sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the sexual consent of the victim. It’s considered non-consensual if the victim’s judgement is impaired by alcohol or drugs, or if the victim is unable to give their consent or does not understand because of mental disorder or physical or developmental disability. In addition, if the victim is a minor (considered to be under 18 years old in Californian law), is under duress or threatened by violence, menace, weapons or fear, it is considered to be sexual assault. If the victim is unconscious or is threatened by retaliation such as in the case of arrest, incarceration or deportation of the victim, it is also considered to be sexual assault.
The term sexual assault is an umbrella term that includes different forms; and differs from sexual harassment. Sexual assault refers to some form of violation through physical contact, in contrast to sexual harassment, which is usually related to verbal harassment. Forms of sexual assault include:
- Attempted rape
- Fondling or unwanted sexual touching
- Forcing a victim to perform acts that are sexual in nature, such as oral sex or penetrating the perpetrator’s body
- Penetrating the victim’s body- also known as rape
What Kinds of Acts Constitute as Rape in California Law?
It’s important to note that California has a detailed and complicated sentencing guideline for sex offenses. In certain cases, sex offenses can be considered as felonies and may fall under the “One Strike” law, which carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. This is determined by other factors such as prior convictions, the age of the victim as well as the number of victims and their relationship to them, and the use of force, threats or violence on the victim.
Californian law does not specifically define sexual intercourse, but rather the legislature defines what types of behavior constitute as rape. This includes:
- All types of sexual assault that is non-consensual can be deemed rape
- Sexual penetration can be considered as rape, regardless of how minimal or brief it was
- If the victim feels that they have been violated and/or sexually assaulted or raped, which is important in determining if the perpetrator is guilty of rape
What Should You do if You’ve Been a Victim of Sexual Assault?
It’s vital that if you’ve been a recent victim of sexual assault that you act quickly. DNA evidence is a huge advantage in a court of law, therefore once you’ve reported the case to your local law enforcement, specialized personnel will use a sexual assault kit- also known as a rape kit- to gather as much DNA as possible and look for other signs of sexual assault such as bruising, inflammation or bleeding. It’s important to have someone that can offer you support in this difficult time. If you are a victim of sexual assault that occurred previously in the past, it’s still possible to seek justice, which may be the closure you need.
After your allegation is filed, based on the evidence, there may be the option to press charges. For more information on sexual assault or what to do if you have been a victim, call as at (800) 285-1763 to talk to a professional today.