Terms like “sexual assault” and “sex abuse” are often used interchangeably. Indeed, there are many commonalities between these terms, but there are also distinct differences in the ways they are used.
At Levin Simes Abrams, we work closely with survivors of sexual assault and abuse and are well-versed in the deep emotional considerations that must accompany their legal needs. As a women-led law firm, our team focuses on uncovering the structures and mechanisms that often allow assault and abuse to occur in the first place.
Contact us at 415-426-3000 if you or a loved one have been affected by sexual misconduct and need legal representation to move forward.
Read on to learn more about how these terms are often used and applied:
What is Sexual Assault?
The term “sexual assault” refers to sexual contact or behavior that occurs without explicit consent of the victim. Some forms of sexual assault include attempted rape, unwanted sexual touching, forcing a victim to view or perform sexual acts, and rape. It can happen in any type of setting, including social settings, home environments, ridesharing arrangements, and at school or work.
Recently, the terms rape and sexual assault have been used interchangeably, especially in light of high profile cases as well as the #MeToo movement. However, understand that the term covers a broader range of conduct that is unwanted and sexual in nature.
What is Sexual Abuse?
Similar to sexual assault, the term “sexual abuse” is used to refer to a any unwanted sexual activity that is imposed on another person. It can refer more specifically to instances where force or threats are used on persons who are not able to give consent.
Even more specifically, sexual abuse is used to describe ongoing or repeated instances of misconduct, especially where the survivor is a child and the perpetrator knows them closely.
What Are the Long-Term Effects of Sexual Assault and Abuse?
Long-terms symptoms and effects of sexual assault and abuse include anxiety, fear, post-traumatic stress disorder, feelings of guilt or shame, and shock or disbelief. These can persist for many years and even decades, and many survivors do not open up or make a report until much later in life.
The psychological effects of sexual misconduct can be the same, whether we call it abuse or assault, or whether it is a single incident or a repeated occurence.