The difference between sexual harassment and sexual assault, expained!

A lot of the time we use the two terms interchangeably, but while the definition of the two overlaps, there is a subtle (yet very important) difference!

What is harrassment?

Harrassment is unwanted behaviour which you find offensive or which makes you feel intimidated or humiliated. It can happen on its own or alongside other forms of discrimination. Some examples? Offensive emails, comments on social media, physical gestures, spoken or written words…

And sexual harrassment?

It is a type of harrassment involving the use of explicit or implicit sexual overtones. Sexual harrassment includes a range of actions from verbal transgressions to sexual abuse or assault. Harrassment can occur in many different social settings such as workplace, home, school, churches… Harassers or victims may be of any sex or gender.

What about sexual assault?

Sexual assault is an act of forcing another person into sexual activity against his or her will. It can take many forms, including rape or attempted rape, as well as any unwanted sexual contact. The crime includes: forced sexual intercourse (rape), sodomy (oral or anal sexual acts), child molestation, incest, fondling, and attempted rape.

What is the difference then?

Sexual harrassment is a broad term, including many types of unwelcome verbal and physical sexual attention.

Sexual assault refers to sexual contact or behaviour, often physical, that occurrs without the consent of the victim.

Definitions of both terms not only change depending on the country, but also overlap. What could be considered sexual harrassment, does not have to be labeled as assault; what is considered assault, could also be considered harassment!

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