Definition: What is Sexual Assault?

Sexual assault is any forced, unwanted and nonconsensual sexual contact or activity including touching, kissing, exhibitionism, and intercourse—anal, vaginal, or oral. Sexual assault can take the form of:

  • Harassment
  • Exposing/flashing
  • Forcing a person to pose for sexual pictures
  • Fondling
  • Unwanted sexual touching

In most extreme cases, sexual assault may involve force which may include but is not limited to:

  • Use or display of a weapon
  • Physical battering
  • Immobilization of the victim

More often, sexual assault involves coercion and taking advantage of an individual who may be frightened, intimidated, or incapacitated (under the influence of drugs or alcohol, sleeping, or as a result of some disabilities) and therefore, incapable of making a decision on his/her own.

Sexual assault is a crime of violence, the purpose of which is to overpower, control, and/or humiliate another person. Sexual assault is a brutally destructive attack on the victim’s sense of personal integrity and competence, as well as their basic trust in others.