To be sure, over the last half-dozen years you have noticed that claims, trials and punishment centering on sexual assault have dominated the news media. After decades of silence and avoidance, the Me Too movement has brought this difficult topic into public view, allowing a plethora of courageous victims to come forward.
As you hear the stories of victims, however, you note that the crimes they report are often especially heinous. You may have had an undesired sexual encounter you cannot forget, even though it doesn’t seem as traumatic as what other victims have expressed. Thus, you wonder, can I call what happened to me sexual assault?
The definition of sexual assault is simple and clear
In New York, there is a clearly defined set of actions that constitute criminal sexual assault. These include the non-consensual penetration of any bodily orifice with any body part or instrument or the non-consensual touching of any intimate part of the body. If you experienced anything of that order, it was sexual assault.
Other sexual overtures may also be criminal
Even though your encounter might not have constituted sexual assault, there are other illegal acts that make up the category of sexual harassment:
- Suggestive comments, jokes, music or teasing
- Unspoken overtures such as staring, plying with gifts or making obscene gestures
- Images of any kind with sexual implications
- Uncomfortable close physical presence, including unwanted hugs
- Bartering for sexual favors
- Making sexual threats
Your reluctance to mention an unwanted sexual encounter is understandable. Of course, your attacker may be counting on you to remain silent as well.