Sexual assault, which is a general term encompassing rape, sexual battery and sexual harassment, is the forcible, non-consensual subjection of a person into an unwanted sexual activity by the use of physical or emotional violence. It can be physical, verbal or visual (e.g voyeurism).
Sexual assault statutes vary from state to state but basically it is based on the precept that no one has the right or the privilege to coerce sexual contact and that a person has the right to determine who may touch hiss/her body and “when and under what circumstances”. Moreover, “each person has the right not only to decide whether to engage in sexual contact with another, but also to control the circumstances and character of that contact” (Brody et al 2000, p.426).
The act of sexual assault is consummated when the assailant has intended to perform forcible nonconsensual sexual contact but fails to actually complete the act (Lindemann & Kadue 1999, p. 373). Herein, a demarcation line is drawn between rape and sexual assault because on the basis of this definition, sexual assault is tantamount to attempted rape and sexual battery.
One author kept one step ahead by suggesting that sexual assault has been institutionalized since time immemorial and that the culprit is patriarchy, which propagates male gender domination favoring man’s power to exploit without legal restraint women and children “whose consent is mainly taken for granted unless actively withheld and whose communications are consistently devalued or misinterpreted because of patriarchal values and assumptions” (Pickard et al 2002, p.542).
Many state laws are also one in affirming that to convict the sexual assailant, it must be proven beyond reasonable doubt that “there was sexual penetration and that it was accomplished without the affirmative and freely-given permission of the alleged victim” (Brody 2000,