The Distinctions Between a Sexual Assault in Dallas and Sexual Harassment

Sexual assault in Dallas must be treated with seriousness because a conviction can result in a stiff prison sentence for a defendant. Recently, however, sexual harassment has become a hot-button topic, because of the Hollywood scandals related to producer Harvey Weinstein.

The confusion people who are not legal experts often have is understanding the differences between a sexual assault charge and a sexual harassment complaint.

That’s largely because the two terms have been used so frequently in the past few months, that it’s difficult to distinguish between the two.

What Is Sexual Assault?

The legal language defining sexual assault varies depending on the state, but the common definition of sexual assault is any type of unwanted touching of a victim’s private areas (genitals, breasts, buttocks).

Touching can include groping, caressing, kissing and fondling, and if this type of behavior escalates to forcible penetration of a victim’s private areas, the sexual assault offense is typically charged as a rape.

Authorities can also charge anyone with sexual assault if they committed the act when the victim was unconscious or did not have the mental capacity to understand what was happening.

It’s also important to remember that sexual assault can occur between people of the same gender, between children, and between spouses.

According to Texas Penal Code 22.011, a person is charged with sexual assault if he or she intentionally or knowingly penetrated (using an object, sexual organ or body part) a victim’s sexual organ without that person’s consent. (1)

An adult can also be charged with sexual assault in Texas, if he or she touches or penetrates a child’s mouth, or private area with an object, a sexual organ or a body part such as a hand, even if that child gave consent.

Under Texas law, any person in a position of authority such as a doctor or clergyman can’t use his or her position to coerce or demand that another person perform sexual acts.

Sexual assault charges in Texas are typically second-degree felonies, but are elevated to first-degree felonies if the victim was a person that the defendant was prohibited from marrying, or was prohibited from living with as a married couple.

What Is Sexual Harassment?

The federal government defines sexual harassment as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitutes sexual harassment when submission to or rejection of this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual’s employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment. (2)

The most important difference between sexual assault and sexual harassment is that sexual harassment is not a crime.  It can be the basis for a civil lawsuit or employment consequences like firing. More generally, sexual harassment does not have to involve any type of touching.

There are two common types of sexual harassment at the workplace, including:

Seeking Sexual Relationship – This occurs when a supervisor or someone in power request a sexual relationship from the victim in exchange for some kind of benefit like a promotion, or when a supervisor or someone in power requests a sexual relationship with the threat of retaliation if the victim refuses. This is also referred to as quid pro quo.

Work Environment – This occurs when a victim is subjected to crude, sexual jokes, the exchange of sexual jokes and sexual images, or is the recipient of sexual suggestions, also known as a hostile environment.

Victims of sexual harassment have remedies such as reporting the behavior to human resources and contacting the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), a federal agency that can file a lawsuit on behalf of victims.

Defenses Against Sexual Assault

As a criminal defense lawyer, I routinely handle criminal sexual assault cases.  I do not handle civil sexual harassment cases, though. If you are the victim of sexual harassment, or if you have been accused of sexual harassment, you should contact a lawyer who specializes in those kinds of cases.

Although sexual assault cases are serious, there are some common defenses against sexual assault and sexual harassment, most often the fact that there was consent (in cases involving adults).

If a defendant can convince a jury that he or she acted with the consent in an assault or harassment case, the victim’s credibility may come into question.

In sexual assault cases, the defendant can also prove that authorities arrested the wrong person by providing a rock-solid alibi.

In addition, a defendant may seek to prove that the alleged touching did not occur at all, or did not occur with any intent to obtain sexual gratification.

Attorneys For Sexual Assault In Dallas

Attorneys for sexual assault in Dallas are trained to protect the legal rights of those accused of these serious crimes. Whether this means finding ways to reduce the charges, negotiating a plea bargain, or finding evidence to exonerate clients, sexual assault attorneys provide a valuable service.