The number of women who have come forward with their stories about sexual harassment and sexual abuse this year with the #MeToo social media campaign has stirred deep-seated emotions in many. At the same time, it has also helped create a great deal of awareness on a cringe-worthy subject, many have hesitated to talk about for decades if not centuries.
Sexual harassment is a widespread issue in U.S. workplaces. While harassment, even when it is sexual, violates civil laws, both federal and state, it is often not considered a criminal act. What this means is that the perpetrator may be taken to civil court and sued for monetary damages instead of being found guilty in a criminal court and going to jail for it.
While sexual harassment in general is not a crime, there are certain acts of sexual harassment, which do rise to the level of crimes. For example, it is not a crime when an individual shows lewd photos on a computer or emails it to a co-worker. However, if that person sexually assaults a co-worker, not only is that sexual harassment, but it is also a sex crime for which that individual can be prosecuted in criminal court.
Here are a few examples of sexually harassing acts, which rise to the level of a crime:
Rape: In this case, the harasser may face rape charges, which are criminal charges. Rape occurs when an individual has sexual intercourse with another person without consent. Rape often involves physical force, threat and intimidation. Often, the victim reacts to a threat of bodily injury or harm. Sometimes, the victim may lack the capacity to give consent. This often occurs when the person is intoxicated.
Assault and battery: This refers to offensive physical contact that could be sexual. This could be something that occurs commonly in a workplace scenario such as groping or other forms of unwanted or inappropriate touching.
False imprisonment: When the harasser restricts the victim’s freedom to move by acts such as holding the victim against her will or locking the exit doors, that could amount to false imprisonment or unlawful restraint.
Bullying and stalking: There are also some criminal laws that ban bullying. Sometimes, sexual harassment may fall under the purview of anti-bullying laws. This is often true in cyber bullying cases. For example, if the harasser posts offensive comments about you on your social media page or in an email that is sent out to co-workers, that could amount to cyber bullying and thereby violate laws. Also, when a harasser trolls you online or engages in behavior that amounts to stalking, the harasser could be charged with a crime.
Pornography: This is among the most common forms of harassment we come across in the workplace. If the pornographic visuals involve children, the harasser may be guilty of violating criminal laws.
These nuances may be confusing in a time when there is a great amount of sensitivity to sexual harassment and sexual abuse. If you are facing sex crime charges, it is crucial that you protect your rights by contact an experienced sex crime defense lawyer.