Sexual Assault and Rape

What is the Difference Between Rape and Sexual Assault?

Rape and sexual assault are two crimes that have devastating consequences. They are also often misunderstood. Many people use these terms interchangeably or improperly, simply because they don’t know the definitions or the legal difference.

At The Embry Law Firm, we want our readers and potential clients to be informed. Understanding the difference in legal terminology can help you know how to get help if you become the victim of a crime. In this post, we explain the difference between rape and sexual assault.

What is Rape?

Rape is legally defined as any form of wanted sexual penetration. That includes penetration that is oral, vaginal, or anal. In order to be classified as rape, penetration may include a body part or an object. The U.S. Department of Justice defines rape as:

“The penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.”

What is Sexual Assault?

Sexual assault has a more broad definition, as it is defined as any unwanted sexual contact. It is not limited to penetration, but also includes touching, fondling, molestation. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, sexual assault is defined as:

“any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient. Falling under the definition of sexual assault are sexual activities as forced sexual intercourse, forcible sodomy, child molestation, incest, fondling, and attempted rape.”

Sexual assault is classified as rape when penetration is included in the act.

How Misunderstood is the Difference Between Rape and Sexual Assault?

A survey by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) found some not so surprising responses about perceptions related to sexual intercourse and sexual assault. But the survey also found some startling misconceptions about what constitutes sexual assault or rape.

The findings showed that:

  • 87 percent of women, and 82 percent of men, believe that sexual intercourse where one party does not consent is a form of sexual assault or sexual violence.
  • Seventy-four percent of women, and 71 percent of men, believe that sexual intercourse with someone who is intoxicated by alcohol or drugs also is a form of sexual assault.
  • Seventy-two percent of women, and 56 percent of men, believe that watching someone in private without their knowledge or permission is a form of sexual assault.
  • Only 60 percent of women, and 48 percent of men, believe that verbal remarks that are unsolicited are a form of sexual assault.

One of the primary reasons for the misconceptions around sexual assault and rape is the fact that legal terms, codes, and laws vary. Every state has different laws related to what constitutes sex crimes, and how each crime is defined. For example, some states do not consider it a “rape” if the party verbally protests but isn’t “physically forced” to have sex.

Difference Between Rape and Sexual Assault Cases

In Georgia, sexual assault is a broad category of laws that includes child molestation, sexual battery, aggravated sodomy, incest, rape, and sexual trafficking. The law includes definitions for these crimes and their aggravated counterparts. There are also differences in the way that sexual assault and rape cases are prosecuted, and the penalties for each. Consider the following:

Rape:

Rape is considered a felony offense. In Georgia, a rape conviction carries a sentence of 10-20 years in prison. Aggravated rape or rape with other offenses or mitigating factors can carry a sentence of life in prison, or even the death penalty.

Sexual Assault:

Sexual assault is considered a misdemeanor, and the penalties range depending on the age of the perpetrator and the victim, as well as the difference between their ages. As a general rule, the penalties for sexual assault include 1-25 years in prison, and a fine of up to $100,000. A sexual assault conviction also requires the individual be registered on the Sex Offender Registry.

What to Do if You are the Victim of Rape or Sexual Assault

If you are the victim of rape or sexual assault in Georgia, it is important that you contact an attorney to discuss your case and learn more about getting the justice you deserve. Depending on the circumstances of the crime committed against you, you may have legal options outside the scope of the criminal justice system. You may be entitled to compensation for your injuries and losses under personal injury laws.

Find out more about your rights by contacting The Embry Law Firm today. Let our sexual assault attorney help you protect your rights and ensure that you get the justice and compensation you deserve.