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Sexual Harassment vs. Sexual Assault vs. Sexual Abuse – What’s the Difference?

Diefer Law Group
Sexual Harassment vs. Sexual Assault vs. Sexual Abuse – What’s the Difference?

Being sexually harassed or sexually assaulted can be traumatic, startling, and disappointing. The mental implications of such an instance can be long-term and last for years to come. Survivors of sexual assault and/or harassment will experience different physical and mental consequences and choose to take different measures in the aftermath of the incident. However, one thing is clear: sexual abuse and harassment are unacceptable and should not be tolerated in any form in California and the United States. 

Whether you are a survivor of sexual abuse or assault who is interested in pursuing legal justice or a curious reader who wants to become a more aware ally of survivors, it’s important to know the difference between sexual harassment and sexual abuse. By defining what each of these forms of violence is, we can better speak out against them as a society, both inside and outside of the legal justice system. 

Knowing the Difference: Sexual Harassment vs. Sexual Abuse vs. Sexual Assault

Sexual harassment and sexual abuse are both forms of violence that can have long-lasting negative impacts on a person, both physically and emotionally. Sexual harassment is any kind of unwanted sexual advances or conduct in a sexual manner that can be carried out verbally, physically, or visually. Sexual harassment is often seen in the workplace and educational settings, but it can occur in many different settings. 

Such harassment is usually carried out by a person who is in a position of prestige or power and uses the situation to their advantage. It could be a so-called friend, coworker, employer, classmate, or other person. Overall, sexual harassment instills fear and anxiety in the person being harassed and can impact their academic or professional decisions. It creates an overall hostile environment in which the person being harassed is not free to express themselves. 

Sexual abuse, on the other hand, is considered to be sexual contact or action that the person being abused did not consent to. Any physical action that has a sexual nature, such as molestation or rape, is considered to be sexual abuse. Like sexual harassment, sexual abuse can also occur across various contexts, such as at home or public spaces, and the perpetrators can be a range of different people, including family or strangers. 

Sexual abuse refers more to physical acts of sexual violence, whereas sexual harassment is more visual, verbal, or ambiguously physical. Sexual assault, on the other hand, more often refers to certain instances of nonconsensual acts rather than sexual abuse, which is usually more ongoing.

What to Do in the Case of Sexual Violence

If you are facing any kind of sexual violence, then it is important to get the emotional and physical care that you need. Be sure to take care of yourself and remind yourself that what is happening to you is not your fault. If you do decide to take legal action, it’s critical to work with attorneys that you can trust and who have existing experience with cases related to sexual harassment and sexual abuse. 

A knowledgeable sexual harassment attorney in Orange County, CA, can help you explore the different legal options that are available to you. They can also assess your situation to ensure that your immediate safety is not at risk, as well as connect you with other support networks. Overall, remember that you are not alone. Keep a support network that can support you during this time, including your attorney. 

FAQs: 

Q: How Difficult Is It to Prove a Sexual Harassment Case in California?

A: In order to prove a sexual harassment case in California, there needs to be sufficient evidence that the defendant made unwanted sexual advances or had inappropriate conduct with the plaintiff. This can be proved by having testimonies from witnesses, photographic or video evidence, emails, texts, chat messages, or recordings. A reliable sexual harassment lawyer can help build up a strong case. 

Q: Can I Press Charges for California Sexual Abuse Years After It Happened?

A: In the state of California, there are statutes of limitations on the amount of time that can pass after an instance of sexual abuse occurs, which can vary depending on the age of the perpetrator, the age of the victim, and the severity of the abuse. Recent changes to CA law have given more time for plaintiffs to press charges so that they have time to process what happened and make a decision about how they will proceed legally. An experienced lawyer can give you a better idea of how much time you have to press charges, depending on the specifics of your case. 

Q: What Is the Most Severe Form of Sexual Assault in California?

A: The most severe form of sexual abuse is commonly known as ‘rape,’ which is considered to be a felony. It is sexual intercourse that is not consented to by the person involved. The victim may not be able to give their consent based on alcohol or drug consumption, being unconscious, or being threatened. Being convicted of rape can result in large fines and years in prison. 

Q: Can I Get Fired from My California Job for Filing a Sexual Harassment Lawsuit?

A: Employees are protected under CA law from being fired as a result of filing a sexual harassment lawsuit. As a result of filing the suit, an employer cannot threaten, harass, demote, or commit any harmful action against the employee who is filing the suit. If any of these unlawful instances occur, an employee can file a separate lawsuit on the basis of retaliation. 

Attorneys Who Can Help You Seek Justice

Being subject to any form of sexual violence, including assault or harassment, can be extremely difficult. At Diefer Law Group, P.C., our compassionate attorneys are here to make sure that your voice is heard and that you optimize your chances of seeking justice for what happened. We will work with you based on the details of your case, help you build a strong argument, and handle all of the legal nuances associated with the legal process so that you have space and time to focus on your healing and empowerment. Contact one of our California sexual harassment attorneys today to learn more about what your options are for pursuing justice. 

Abel Fernandez

Abel Fernandez

Attorney Abel Fernandez believes in the aggressive representation of injured workers. Workers’ compensation law is a very difficult and frustrating area of the law. Employees routinely have medical treatment and benefits delayed or denied by insurance companies. Mr. Fernandez fights for the rights of the injured worker to get medical treatment and the maximum amount of benefits possible. We have experience fighting the insurance company and adjusters, and we are committed to obtaining the best outcome possible for our clients.


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