Know What Are the Differences Between Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment

March 11, 2022    Personal Injury Lawyers Perth
Know What Are the Differences Between Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment

Often sexual harassment and sexual assault are used interchangeably, while they are different from each other, although they may overlap sometimes. It is crucial to understand the differences and even the similarities between the two so that a victim knows how to proceed with their case.

If you have a victim of sexual harassment at your workplace in Perth, you should approach sexual abuse lawyers Perth who can fight for your cause.

Now let’s discuss sexual assault and sexual harassment separately and know the differences between them in Australia.

Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is deemed a form of sex discrimination in Australia. However, it is only unlawful and not criminal under the Australian civil (anti-discrimination) law. In Australia, the affected party may pursue an act that is “unlawful”, while a “criminal” act comes under the prosecution of the police.

Sexual harassment is deemed unlawful when it occurs in a specified public life area like a school, university, or workplace. In Australia, sexual harassment comprises:

  • An unwelcome sexual advance;
  • An uninvited request for sexual favours;
  • Involving in other uninvited conducts of sexual nature that’s humiliating, offensive, or intimidating.

Instances of sexual harassment include leering or staring, suggestive comments, uninvited touching, insults, taunts, jokes, showing pornographic content, sending sexually explicit text messages or emails, and repeated romantic or sexual requests.
It also comprises behaviours that may be deemed criminal offences like stalking, indecent exposure, or sexual assault.

Laws Regarding Sexual Harassment

  • Under Australian civil law, a victim of sexual harassment is called the “complainant”, and the accused is referred to as the “respondent”. Sometimes organisations may be rendered liable for “vicarious” sexual harassment on account of failing to take reasonable actions to avert the behaviour.
  • It depends on the complainant to register a complaint in an independent statutory agency like the Australian Human Rights Commission or any equivalent state or territory agency or anti-discrimination board or commission.
  • The independent agency is to investigate whether the behaviour comes under the scope of the law and whether or not it occurred in a specified public area like educational and workplace environments.
  • Remedies can comprise reinstatement, compensation, apology, or even a change in practice or policy. If conciliation doesn’t work, the case may advance to a tribunal or civil court for deciding the outcome. The sexual harasser cannot be deemed guilty of a criminal offence in the civil court and/or sentenced to an imprisonment term, rather may be forced for paying damages to the victim.

If you are a sufferer of workplace harassment, you can consult injury lawyers in Perth who deal with sexual harassment cases to understand the nature of your case and accordingly proceed with a case.

Sexual Assault

Sexual assault refers to any forced or unwanted sexual activity without an individual’s consent. A sexual assault occurs when an individual:

  • Touches another individual inappropriately without their consent, such as groping;
  • Forces another individual against their will to engage in a gross and indecent act – a sexual act not involving any penetration such as an individual forcing another individual to touch their genitals;
  • Forces another individual to see a gross and indecent act, such as the individual masturbating in front of the other individual.

What is confusing in Australian criminal law is the inconsistency in the use of definitions and terms in the different state and territory legislation. In the majority of the jurisdictions, a “sexual assault” is an indecent assault that doesn’t involve penetration, so it is treated differently to “rape”.

The Different Definitions

  • In New South Wales, however, “sexual assault” refers to a sexual act involving penetration. On the contrary, in South Australia, Queensland, Tasmania, and Victoria, “rape” is the term used in their criminal legislation. The Northern Territory and Australia Capital Territory uses “sexual intercourse without consent”, while Western Australia refers to “sexual penetration without consent.”
  • The ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) definition of sexual assault doesn’t include violent incidents that occur prior to the age of 15, which it refers to as “sexual abuse”, and excludes “unwanted touching” to define it as “sexual harassment.”
  • The penalties for penetrative sexual assault or rape vary across the jurisdictions, however, they can range from between 10 years to life imprisonment.

The Difference
Sexual harassment is a broader term as compared to sexual assault, which may be illegal in the context of employment while not mandatorily deemed an illegal act under the criminal law. Remedies can be sought under civil laws.
However, sexual assault is a criminal offence committed against a person regardless of employment, although it may happen in a workplace.

Sexual harassment and sexual assault cases can be dealt with by different jurisdictions differently, so it is recommended to consult expert lawyers who are well-versed with the federal and state laws. You can consult with one of the best Personal Injury Lawyers Perth, WA, who have experienced sexual abuse lawyers to correctly prepare your case.

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