What’s the Difference Between Sexual Assault and Rape?

Read through the news headlines and you’re sure to come across stories of sexual assault and rape. Each year in the United States, there are approximately 321,500 victims (12 years or older) of sexual assault and rape, according to RAINN, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network.

While both sexual assault and rape have similarities, there are some distinct differences between the two charges. Learn more about the differences between sexual assault and rape and what you can expect as an outcome to these types of cases.

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What Is Sexual Assault?

In layman’s terms, sexual assault refers to any type of verbal, physical, visual, or sexual act that forces an individual to engage in sexual contact without their affirmative consent and against their will.

Sexual assault is often considered a form of sexual violence that can include a range of acts and behaviors, such as:

Remember, when talking about consent, it is not just about getting a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer from the victim. Instead, it is about understanding how the person is feeling and not taking advantage of someone who may not be in the state of mind to fully consent to any type of sexual act. Consent should be an informed, sober, voluntary, and mutually agreed and should not include coercion and should never be implied. It’s also important to remember that sexual assault is not just limited to strangers. Family, friends, teachers, students, doctors, patients, coaches, religious leaders, co-workers, classmates, and significant others can all be guilty of sexual assault.

What Is Rape?

Rape is often used interchangeably with sexual assault. However, the definition of sexual assault is broad, whereas rape is a specific act. Rape is a form of sexual assault that typically involves sexual intercourse or another type of sexual penetration that is carried out with a person against their will and without consent. Rape may also include threats of violence, and weapons may be used to try and subdue the victim. However, in the majority of rapes, nothing is used beyond physical force.

Just like sexual assault, rape occurs when there is a lack of consent. Note that there are some special circumstances in which any type of sexual act is considered rape, even if the victim consents. People who are not able to give consent include any individuals who are under age, individuals who have diminished capacity due to a disability or other factor, or individuals who are inebriated due to the ingestion of drugs or alcohol. It’s also considered rape anytime you say ‘no’ during a sexual act and the perpetrator continues on without your consent.

It is also still considered rape even if the victim:

Both sexual assault and rape can happen to anyone, regardless of gender, age, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. Women are not the only ones who can be victims of rape. Both genders can be perpetrators or victims. Like sexual assault, rape can include a variety of factors and situations. Rape may include coerced or forced oral sex, masturbation, anal sex, or intercourse. The circumstances of rape can also vary regarding who was involved, how long it lasted, and what injuries were caused.  It can also include penetration of objects. Rape can also be across-gender (e.g. male-on-female or female-on-male) or same-gender abuse (e.g. male-on-male or female-on-female).

Sexual Assault, Rape, and Civil Law

On our “For Justice’s Sake” podcast, Attorney Daniel Adamson highlights the differences between sexual assault and rape:

“The terms rape and sexual assault are often interchangeably used in criminal and civil court, but there is a difference.

O.C.G.A. section 16-6-1 covers rape and O.C.G.A. 16-6-3 covers statutory rape. Under Georgia law is rape occurs when a person has “carnal knowledge of a female forcibly against her with her will or a female who’s less than 10 years of age.” Carnal knowledge is the penetration of the female sex organ by the male sex organ. Those would be considered rapes under Georgia law.

Sexual battery or sexual assault is a little different. It’s when a person commits an offense where they make physical contact with another person’s intimate body parts without that person’s consent. And then aggravated sexual battery, or assault is when a person intentionally penetrates a sex organ or anus of another person with a foreign object without that person’s consent.”

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When to Contact a Lawyer?

Sexual assaults and rapes happen every day. Unfortunately, many victims do not receive justice for the crimes committed against them. If you have been the victim of a sexual assault or rape, it’s important to report the incident immediately to law officials. You will then want to hire a qualified Atlanta sexual assault lawyer to represent you. Although you can’t go back in time to prevent the abuse from ever happening, you can help ensure that the perpetrator receives the punishment he or she deserves for their crimes.

For victims, the aftermath of a sexual assault or rape can cause long-lasting mental, emotional, and physical pain. Fortunately, an experienced sexual assault lawyer can help determine if you’re able to recover damages from any at-fault parties. A lawyer can often help you with pain and suffering, punitive damages, lost wages due to the inability to work, medical care and expenses, and recovery from any physical disability or disfigurement caused by the assault.

No one ever expects to be sexually assaulted. When it happens, you may feel blindsided and not know where to turn. Having a reliable sexual assault lawyer can help give you peace of mind as you move forward with the case. As the victim of a sexual assault or rape, you have rights. You may also be entitled to compensation and the right to see the perpetrator punished for his or her crimes. If you or a loved one has been a victim of any type of sexual assault or rape, contact a personal injury lawyer in Atlanta.

Continued Reading:

Taking Legal Action and Understanding Sexual Assault Law