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Messenger A California psychologist has alleged that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when both were in high school in Maryland. Many people want to understand these behaviors and work to prevent them.
It helps if we are consistent and as precise as possible when we use these terms. But what does each term mean? We are three scholars who have specialized in the scientific study of sexual abuserape, sexual assault and sexual harassment over several decades. Then, we can look at how these behaviors sometimes overlap.
Sexual abuse is mainly used to describe behavior toward children, not adults.
All 50 states have laws that recognize that children are not capable of giving informed consent to any sex act. In the United States, the age at which consent can be given ranges from 16 to 18 years.
Sexual abuse can include many different things, from touching a victim in a sexual manner to forcing a victim to touch the perpetrator in a sexual way to making a victim look at sexual body parts or watch sexual activity.
Sexual abuse of a child is a criminal act. The FBI definition says nothing about the relationship between the victim and the perpetrator and it says nothing about force. It does, however, say something about consent, or rather, the lack of it.
Think about consent as your ability to make a decision about what happens to your body. A perpetrator can compel a victim into a penetrative sex act in multiple ways. A person can penetrate a victim who is incapable of giving consent because he or she is drunk, unconscious, asleep, or mentally or physically incapacitated; or can threaten or use physical force or a weapon against a person.
State laws vary in how they define removing or ignoring consent. In contrast to the specific criminal act of rape, the term sexual assault can describe a range of criminal acts that are sexual in nature, from unwanted touching and kissing, to rubbing, groping or forcing the victim to touch the perpetrator in sexual ways.
But sexual assault overlaps with rape because the term includes rape. It include acts that are not codified in law as criminal but are harmful and traumatic. Sexual violence includes using false promises, insistent pressure, abusive comments or reputational threats to coerce sex acts.
It can encompass noncontact acts like catcalls and whistles, which can make women feel objectified and victimized. It includes nonconsensual electronic sharing of explicit images, exposure of genitals and surreptitious viewing of others naked or during sex.
Sexual harassment Sexual harassment is a much broader term than sexual assault, encompassing three categories of impermissible behavior. It is the most stereotypical form of sexual harassment, but also the rarest.
A second, and more common, form of sexual harassment is unwanted sexual attention: Note that romantic and sexual overtures come in many varieties at work, not all of them harassing.
To constitute unlawful sexual harassment, the sexual advances must be unwelcome and unpleasant to the recipient. Unwanted sexual attention can include sexual assault and even rape. If an employer were to forcibly kiss and grope a receptionist without her consent, this would be an example of both unwanted sexual attention and sexual assault — both a civil offense and a crime.Writers and Editors, linking writers and editors to resources (including each other), markets, clients, and fans; maintained by Pat McNees, writer, personal and organizational historian, journalist, editor.
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