Many Washington residents are unsure of the difference between sexual harassment and sexual assault. While both of these violations can be processed in a court of law, there are clear and specific delineations between the two. Below are some common questions that help explain what constitutes sexual assault in the State of Washington.

What Is The Difference Between Sexual Harassment And Sexual Assault?

A person who is sexually assaulted is also a victim of sexual harassment; however, sexual harassment does not always lead to sexual assault. By definition, sexual harassment is unwanted and unwelcome sexual advances or requests for sexual favors. This includes sharing unwelcome pornographic photography, making unwanted sexual advances, inappropriately telling sexually explicit jokes, indecent exposure, inappropriate comments about a person’s body, and inappropriate and unwelcome touching.

To reach sexual assault ,the inappropriate touching must be directed towards the breasts, genitals, or derrière. For example, an unwelcome individual who puts their arms around your waist while speaking explicitly about your body would be committing sexual harassment. However, if they then place their hand on your derrière or breast, the situation will have escelated to sexual assault.

Sexual harassment is often reported within the workplace, but can occur in many settings outside of the professional arena while at school, extracurricular activities, or in public or social settings.

What Constitutes Sexual Assault In The State Of Washington?

How Is Sexual Assault Defined By Law?

Sexual assault includes any unwanted and nonconsensual sexual touching, including rape and attempted rape. By law sexual assault is defined as:

• Nonconsensual direct or indirect touching of the genitals, breasts, or derrière.

• Nonconsensual sexual penetration, by other body parts or objects.

• Forced exposure of the genitals, breasts, anus, or derrière.

Who Is At The Most Risk For Sexual Assault?

A common misconception is that only women are victims of sexual assault and sexual harassment: No one is immune to sexual assault in any walk of life or level of income. While it is estimated that women ages 16-19 are four times more likely to become victims of sexual assault than others, the numbers are hard to determine with certainty, as it is assumed that only 16% of all rapes and sexual assaults are reported.

How Do You Report Sexual Assault?

There are many steps that need to be taken when someone is sexually assaulted and/or sexually harassed. Depending on their physical and emotional condition, a person should either immediately seek medical attention or call 911 to report a sexual assault to the authorities. It is vital after a sexual assault not to shower or bathe so that you do not remove any evidence of the assault. Sexual offenders can be complete strangers, family members, friends, colleagues, or acquaintances. Remember: if their actions were unwelcome, nonconsensual, and of a sexual nature, they have committed a crime against you.

While each state has slightly different definitions of what constitutes as sexual assault, most definitions are fairly similar. If you have further questions you can reach out to your local police department for resources and guidance.

Vincent Sanderson writes on law, politics, criminal justice, education & business. Readers who’d like to learn more about the law of sexual assault should view the resources from Petersen Criminal Defense NE.

Image credit goes to TallahasseeAttorney.

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