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Different Forms of Sexual Violence

Woman sitting down on floor against the couch with hands on her face

TW; sexual assault

According to the organization RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network), the term “sexual violence” is used to refer to crimes like rape, sexual abuse, and sexual assault. Each state's definition and penalties for these crimes are all different. The Robert Peirce & Associates, P.C. team is here to share the definitions and sentences associated with these crimes in Pennsylvania to give readers a better understanding of the severity of these forms of sexual violence.

Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is never okay, but it happens at home, in schools, and the workplace. Sadly, this form of harassment tends to go under the radar, as people deem it as flirting or friendly behavior. Although some conversations may seem friendly, a person should pay attention to the certain words a person may be using as they can be inappropriate or hurtful.

Some of the most common forms of sexual harassment fall into three categories: verbal, non-verbal, and physical contact. Here are their examples of sexual harassment:

  1. Verbal sexual harassment - Verbal sexual harassment consists of requesting sexual favors, telling unwarranted sexual jokes, and using terms of endearment.
  2. Non-verbal sexual harassment - This form of harassment includes exposing oneself, stalking, and making unwarranted sexual gestures.
  3. Physical sexual contact - This includes any form of unwanted rooming, touching, hugging, or kissing.

Harassment is considered a criminal offense in Pennsylvania under statutory code 18 Pa. C.S. § 2709. In some situations, harassment can be considered a misdemeanor but often graded as a “summary offense”, meaning it’s a slap on the wrist equivalent to a parking ticket.

Sexual Assault

Sexual assault in Pennsylvania is defined as “sexual intercourse or deviate sexual intercourse without the complainant’s consent.” according to 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 3124.1. This crime can result in a second-degree felony, a fine of up to $25,000, and a maximum of 10 years in prison. Some forms of sexual assault include rape, forcible sodomy, aggravated indecent assault and more, and more. Here is more information on the charges associated with rape, indecent assault, and aggravated indecent assault:


According to the state of Pennsylvania, rape is defined as sexual intercourse:

  • By forcible compulsion or threat.
  • With a person who is not conscious or unable to consent.
  • With a person who has a mental disability and cannot give consent.
  • With a person under 13 years old.

The punishments for rape can vary based on the severity of the crime. Typical rape crimes result in a first-degree felony with a maximum of 20 years in prison. However, the rape of a child under 13 can lead to a maximum of 40 years in prison, and if the rape caused bodily injury, the maximum sentence is life in prison and a fine of no more than $25,000. If the victim was between the ages of 13-15, a person could face a mandatory minimum sentence of around ten years in prison.

Indecent Assault

In Pennsylvania, indecent assault happens when a person is found guilty of having indecent contact with someone else or causing another person to come in contact with the guilty person’s bodily fluids like semen, urine, or feces. The purpose of the contact was to pleasure themselves sexually and,

  • Did so without consent.
  • Did so using force.
  • Did so using threats of force.
  • Did so while the victim was unconscious, impaired, or mentally ill.
  • The victim was 12 or younger.
  • The victim was 16, and the guilty party was four or more years older than the victim at the time of the assault, and they were not married to the victim.

Under certain circumstances, this charge can be considered a felony but is often classified as a misdemeanor. A person found guilty of indecent assault can face up to $15,000 worth of fines and up to seven years behind bars.

Aggravated Indecent Assault

Aggravated indecent assault charges are similar to rape as it is the forcible penetration of another’s genitals or anus without any hygienic, medical, or law enforcement reason to do so. A person can be found guilty if under the same circumstances as indecent assault.

These charges can result in a second-degree felony in the state of Pennsylvania. These types of charges can result in a fine of up to $25,000 and up to 10 years in jail. If the victim was under 13 at the time of the crime, this offense may be upgraded to a first-degree felony.

Sexual Abuse

The state of Pennsylvania does not have a set definition for sexual abuse; however, it can be defined as abusive sexual behavior by one person upon another. Unfortunately, this type of abuse is targeted toward some of the most innocent groups: children.

Child Sexual Abuse

The sexual abuse of a child can result in a 2nd or 3rd-degree felony, depending on the offense. First-time offenders will usually walk away with a 3rd-degree felony, while second-time offenders are subject to 2-degree felonies. Any photographing, filming of sexual acts, and videotaping can result in a 2nd-degree felony. You can find more information on state law here.

We’re Here For You

If you or someone you know has been the victim of sexual abuse, it is important to seek legal help. The state of Pennsylvania has strict laws in place to protect victims of sexual abuse, and our team of experienced attorneys can help you navigate the legal process. We understand how difficult it can be to come forward about something so personal, but we are here to help you through every step of the process.

Contact us today for a free consultation through our website or by phone at (844) 383-0565.

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