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Classified as Sexual Abuse

Published: May 14, 2012
Dear TeenHealthFX,


Can sexual abuse be classified as sexual abuse if the victim is not raped or sexually assaulted by the other person (or people as the case may be)?


Signed: Classified as Sexual Abuse

Dear Classified as Sexual Abuse,


Probably the best way for TeenHealthFX to answer this question is to give an over view of how sexual abuse and sexual assault are defined and that should give you the answer to your question. Each state and countries criminal code may describe the offenses in different terms but most of them follow the same general guide lines.


Sexual assault takes many forms including attacks such as rape or attempted rape, as well as any unwanted sexual contact or threats. Usually a sexual assault occurs when someone touches any part of another person's body in a sexual way, even through clothes, without that person's consent. Some types of sexual acts which fall under the category of sexual assault include forced sexual intercourse (rape), sodomy (oral or anal sexual acts), child molestation, incest, fondling and attempted rape. Sexual assault in any form is often a devastating crime. Assailants can be strangers, acquaintances, friends, or family members. Assailants commit sexual assault by way of violence, threats, coercion, manipulation, pressure or tricks.


There are specific laws that are designed to protect minors from sexual assault or exploitation.  Sexual abuse is any contact or interaction (physical, visual, verbal or psychological) between a child/adolescent and an adult when the child/adolescent is being used for the sexual stimulation of the perpetrator or any other person. Some examples of sexual assault include:


·         Someone putting their finger, tongue, mouth, penis or an object in or on your vagina, penis or anus when you don't want them to;

·         Someone touching, fondling, kissing or making any unwanted contact with your body;

·         Someone forcing you to perform oral sex or forcing you to receive oral sex;

·         Someone forcing you to masturbate, forcing you to masturbate them, or fondling and touching you;

·         Someone forcing you to look at sexually explicit material or forcing you to pose for sexually explicit pictures

·         A doctor, nurse, or other health care professional giving you an unnecessary internal examination or touching your sexual organs in an unprofessional, unwarranted and inappropriate manner.


A key component of sexual assault is the issue of consent. The law generally assumes that a person does not consent to sexual conduct if he or she is forced, threatened or is unconscious, drugged, a minor, developmentally disabled, chronically mentally ill, or believe they are undergoing a medical procedure. There is also the issue of “age of consent.” This is considered to be the age at which a person is legally allowed to consent to sexual activity. Before this age, it is believed that people do not have the physical, emotional, or intellectual development required to be able to agree to engage in sexual activity in a healthy way. Age of consent varies from state to state, but generally runs from 14 to 18. Even if the minor agrees to the sexual interaction because of age it is irrelevant and the perpetrator could be prosecuted. It is also considered sexual assault when the abuser is in a position of power or control over the victimized child/adolescent. The victim could be of legal age but because the perpetrator had undue influence over the victim it is considered a crime. A teacher having a relationship with a student is a good example.


If you would like to learn more about the subject of sexual abuse check out the Rape Abuse & Incest National Network’s (RAINN) website



Signed: TeenHealthFX