Here's The Real Difference Between Sexual Harassment & Sexual Assault, Since Some People Still Don't Get It

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Since Some People Still Don't Get It

While social media newsfeeds continue to be flooded with #MeToo stories in the wake of the recent Harvey Weinstein scandal, there still appears to be some confusion regarding the difference between sexual assault and sexual harassment, as well as what constitutes either in the first place.

While each state defines sexual assault and harassment slightly differently under the law, experts tend to agree on the more broad definitions of the two:

According to Stanford law professor Michele Landis Dauber, "the hallmark of sexual assault is some form of sexual contact that is with an intimate body part of the victim or penetration or oral copulation that occurs without the consent and against the wishes or will of the victim. . . . That would include everything from grabbing someone 'by the pussy' to forcible rape. It's a broad category that includes a lot of different conduct, but it isn’t that hard to figure out what it is."

Meanwhile, attorney John Winer defines sexual harassment as "severe or pervasive conduct of a sexual nature."

So what's the real difference between these often conflated terms?

"Sexual assault almost always assumes a physical assault of a sexual nature. Sexual harassment includes both physical assault of a sexual nature, verbal forms, and other forms," explains Winer.

In other words, sexual harassment is a behavior. It's not just physical; it can be verbal and nonverbal too.


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