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What’s the Difference Between Sexual Assault and Harassment?

Published: May 18, 2018 in Criminal Defense, Sex Crimes

The difference between sexual assault and harassment may not always be clear. Both actions are types of sexual misconduct, and both are illegal. The primary difference between the two is that sexual harassment is a civil matter, with claims generally arising out of employment-related disputes. Sexual assault, on the other hand, is a criminal offense. If charged, you should immediately seek the assistance of a Houston sexual assault lawyer.

If you’re facing charges of sexual assault, contact The Law Offices of Ned Barnett today at (713) 222-6767 to schedule a free and confidential case consultation.

Sexual Harassment Does Not Always Involve Criminal Conduct

The main issue in sexual harassment cases is whether the accused violated the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits gender discrimination in workplaces with 15 or more employees. Chapter 21 of the Texas Labor Code also prohibits discrimination in all places of employment in Texas. Employers who violate this law may be subject to civil liability that generally takes the form of monetary damages to the victim.

Employees may file sexual harassment claims through the Texas Workforce Commission – Civil Rights Division (TWC-CRD) or the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), but many of these cases get settled privately outside of court. According to Texas and federal employment law, sexual harassment consists of unwanted sexual advances, request for sexual favors, or any other sexually-charged actions that has either of the following characteristics:

  • A person in a position of authority over the victim makes acceptance of the sexual conduct a condition of hiring, maintaining employment, or receiving a job-related benefit.
  • The sexual misconduct is so “severe or pervasive” that it creates a hostile work environment.

The perpetrator of workplace sexual harassment may either be the victim’s colleagues or supervisors.

If you are accused of sexually harassing someone at work, you will not be personally liable to the victim. Your place of employment may pay the victim’s damages, and then fire or demote you as a result. Managers are at a higher risk of being sued personally for sexual harassment. But if you commit sexual assault or any other criminal acts while engaging in sexual harassment, you likely be charged with a crime.

Texas Law Prohibits a Wide Range of Criminal Sexual Conduct

The Texas Penal Code targets many types of conduct that a victim might allege in a sexual harassment case. It is not uncommon for any of the following offenses to occur at the victim’s place of work:

Disorderly Conduct
Section 42.01 of the Texas Penal Code makes it illegal to intentionally use abusive, indecent, profane, or vulgar language that would incite an immediate breach of peace. It also prohibits exposing your anus or genitals in a public place in a reckless manner. This a class C misdemeanor punishable by a $500 fine.

Indecent Exposure
According to Texas Penal Code Section 21.08, it’s illegal to expose your genitals or buttocks, with the intent of satisfying a sexual desire, to another person without their consent. Indecent exposure is a class B misdemeanor involving up to six months of jail and fines reaching $2,000.

Criminal Harassment
Texas Penal Code section 42.07 prohibits repeatedly contacting someone or making explicit sexual advances with the intent to “harass, annoy, alarm, abuse, torment or embarrass.” Criminal harassment is also a class B misdemeanor.

Public Lewdness
It’s illegal to engage in sexual conduct in a public place according to Texas Penal Code Section 21.07. Public lewdness is a class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and $4,000 in fines.

Sexual Assault
Sexual assault is a serious criminal charge, and it involves a wide range of non-consensual sexual penetration and contact. Explained in detail in Sections 22.011 and 22.021 of the Texas Penal Code, this offense is – at minimum – a second-degree felony. This crime is punishable by up to 20 years in prison and fines reaching $10,000.

Can You be Charged Both Civilly and Criminally?

Sometimes your Houston sexual assault lawyer may need to defend you against both criminal and civil sexual misconduct accusations. If you are accused of committing sexual harassment at your place of employment and the allegations involve criminal conduct, a prosecutor may charge you. These charges would be separate from any civil sexual harassment claims filed by the alleged victim.

Call a Houston Sexual Assault Lawyer for Help Today

In addition to fines and jail time, a conviction for a sex offense may result in the requirement to register as a sex offender, sometimes for life. In any case, your sex crime conviction would be visible on your criminal record, which can seriously hamper your reputation and earning potential. For these reasons, you should work with the aggressive and experienced legal team at The Law Offices of Ned Barnett if you are charged with a sex crime.

For a free, initial evaluation of your case, contact us today at (713) 222-6767.