What's the Difference Between Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment?

What’s the difference between sexual assault and sexual harassment? Not many people had thought about this question until the recent allegations against celebrities and CEO’s. With the increasing national attention being placed on sex crime allegations both old and new, many are questioning both past and present behaviors and discovering how important it is to understand the law and your rights.

Let’s be clear: sexual misconduct of any kind is unacceptable. Yet many companies and organizations fail to equip their employees with knowledge of what sexual misconduct is, let alone what the differences between sexual assault and harassment are.

For example, most people know that sexual violence and sexual abuse is not okay in a working environment, but both men and women may not be aware of what constitutes as sexual advances or requests for sexual favors in the workplace. Nor are many people aware of how steep the consequences for these actions may be. For example, facing Texas sex offender registration can alter the course of one’s life.

The history of sexual assault, sexual harassment, and the law

Some of the confusion over sexual assault and sexual harassment starts with our own government struggling to keep up with changing times and culture. The differences between sexual assault and harassment haven’t always been well-defined by law.

However, amendments and updates to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 have provided structure and guidance on sexual assault and harassment. This has helped guide state law, including within our great state of Texas.

What constitutes sexual assault in Texas?

In Texas, sexual assault is described in section 22.011 of the Texas Penal Code. Sexual assault can be broadly defined as non-consensual sexual contact, including forced penetration (rape), statutory rape, groping, and sexual acts performed through the abuse of government authority.

The action(s) must have been performed knowingly and intentionally in order to meet Texas’s legal definition of sexual assault.

Sexual assault charges are considered a second degree felony, punishable by a 2-25 year prison sentence and a maximum fine of $10,000. If your charges are upgraded to aggravated sexual assault — a first degree felony — you could be facing a minimum 5-99 year prison sentence and a fine not to exceed $10,000.

What constitutes sexual harassment in Texas?

Sexual harassment is covered in Chapter 21 of the Texas Labor Code, where it is listed that sexual harassment and employment discrimination is prohibited.

Sexual harassment in the workplace may include:

  • Unwelcome exhibition or communication of sexually offensive content
  • Creating a hostile work environment through sexually charged or intimidating behavior
  • Basing employment decisions on compliance to sexual requests
  • Basing employment itself on condition of sexual favors or requests

Note that similar to sexual assault, sexual harassment is not restricted to actors of the opposite sex. Sexual harassment may occur between two members of the same sex.

Sexual harassment involves individuals, but it can also involve companies. In Texas, sexual harassment may involve private employers with more than 15 employees, or any state agency of any size.

The difference between sexual assault and sexual harassment: working environment

Broadly speaking, the difference between sexual assault and sexual harassment is that the latter typically takes place in the workplace.

Sexual assault is a crime against that can occur against any person, anywhere. Meanwhile, sexual harassment connects unwelcome sexual advances with an employee’s standing or job performance. Despite this difference, sexual assault and sexual harassment may often be related, as will be discussed further below.

The difference between sexual assault and harassment: penal vs. labor codes

In addition to the fact that sexual harassment occurs in relation to the workplace, another difference between sexual assault and sexual harassment in Texas is their different places in the law: sexual harassment, which is listed in the Texas Labor Code, is not automatically a crime; sexual assault, which is listed in the Texas Penal Code, is considered a crime.

However, alleged victims of sexual harassment often sue both individuals and companies. Further, alleged sexual harassment can quickly escalate to sexual assault charges. If touching, sexual actions, or abuse are alleged, you could find yourself looking at Collin County court dates.

Don’t let sexual assault or harassment ruin your reputation

Sexual assault and sexual harassment are hot button topics right now, and rightfully so. But even the slightest hint of sexual assault and harassment allegations can derail an innocent person’s freedom, regardless of whether or not the accusation is true.

The Wilder Firm, led by a former chief prosecutor, is uniquely qualified to defend your case. Whether you’re battling sexual harassment allegations, fighting Dallas warrants, or trying to figure out parole violation consequences in Texas, The Wilder Firm won’t rest until it’s achieved the best outcome on your behalf.

Call us day or night at (214) 855-7737, or request a free consultation today.

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