Sex Crimes

What’s the Difference Between Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment?

What’s the difference between sexual assault and sexual harassment? Sexual assault and sexual harassment that, despite having some overlap, have some important distinctions. More than ever, companies are taking sexual misconduct in the workplace seriously — as they should. But many employees are not aware of what exactly constitutes sexual harassment, or just how steep the penalties can be. 

What defines sexual harassment in Texas?

Under Subchapter C-1 in Chapter 21 of the Texas Labor Code sexual harassament is defined as:

  • An unwelcome sexual advance
  • A request for a sexual favor
  • Any other verbal or physical conduct of sexual nature if:
    • Submission to the advance, request, or conduct is made a term or condition of the individual’s employment, either explicitly or implicitly
    • Submission to or rejection of the advance, request, or conduct by an individual is used as the basis for a decision affecting the individual’s employment
    • The advance, request, or conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance
    • The advance, request, or conduct has the purpose or effect of creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment

Sexual harassment falls under the umbrella of employment discrimination in Texas, any sort of which is prohibited by state and federal law. 

What is the difference between abuse and harassment? Sexual abuse is a subset of abuse found in Texas Family Code § 261.001 that includes sexual assault. Sexual abuse occurs when an individual knowlingly commits unwanted sexual acts against a vulnerable population, such as children, the elderly, or the disabled. Sexual abuse can be thought of as sexual assault with that stipulation. 

Being falsely accused of inappropriate touching can ruin your reputation and your life. Do not let false allegations turn into a conviction. Call the attorneys at Sellers Law Firm to defend your freedom.

What defines sexual assault in Texas?

Under Texas Penal Code § 22.011 sexual assault occurs when an individual knowingly and intentionally initiates non-consensual sexual contact including rape, groping, sexual violence, sexual acts through the abuse of government authority, and statutory rape.

Sexual assault charges are second-degree felonies punishable by a $10,000 fine and 2–20 years in prison. Aggravated sexual assault, under Texas Penal Code § 22.021, is a first-degree felony that carries a penalty of 5 years to life in prison.

Being convicted for statutory rape in Texas will result in a felony of varying severity, depending on case specifics. Statutory rape occurs when an individual 18 or older has sexual relations with an individual under 17 years old — and is charged as sexual assault. There is no difference, legally speaking, between having non-consensual sex with an adult, and engaging in sexual activity with a child. The premise is that anyone under the age of consent in Texas, which is 17 years old, is unable to knowingly consent to sexual activity. 

There is one important exeption to the rule, called the Romeo and Juliet law, which provides that anyone between the ages of 14-17 can consent to sexual activity with those within three years of their age. The purpose of this law is to shield teenagers who are having consensual sex from prosecution. The Romeo and Juliet law is inapplicable if one person in the relationship is younger than 14.

Sexual assault and sexual harassment differences

An important distinction between sexual assault and sexual harassment is that sexual harassment takes place in the workplace, and is connected to employment dynamics — wheras sexual assault can be commited anywhere, and against anyone. Sexual harrasment, which is defined in the Texas Labor Code, is not automatically a criminal offense; sexual assault, defined in the Texas Penal Code, is a criminal offense. 

Sexual harrasment victims often bring cases upon both the companies for whom they work and the individuals who allegedly committed the offense. Furthermore, sexual harrasement claims can quickly become sexual assault charges in a court of law, and it is possible for a person to commit both. If you or a loved one has been accused of sexual harassment or assault, call the Fort Worth sexual assault attorneys at Sellers Law Firm, who are ready to give compassionate defense under the toughest of circumstances. 

Falsely accused of harassment or assault? Don’t let it ruin your reputation. Don’t let it ruin your life. 

Knowing the difference between sexual assault and sexual harassment can be the difference between a normal, healthy work life, and a lifetime on the Texas Sex Offender Registry. Sexual misconduct of any kind is inexcusable, and making sure that your coworkers feel safe and respected can be key to their continued happiness and your own. 

However, misunderstandings happen, as do false allegations. If you need a sexual assault or sexual harassment lawyer in Texas, call Sellers Law Firm at 817-928-4222 or contact us online for a free consultation today.

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