The term sexual assault refers to sexual contact or behavior that occurs without explicit consent of the victim. Sexual violence is a broad, non-legal term that includes sexual assault, rape, and sexual abuse. Sexual assault is used to describe any sexual contact or behavior that occurs without explicit consent of the victim. Generally, sexual violence and sexual assault refer to acts that are criminal.
Sexual harassment includes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature in the workplace or learning environment. Harassment generally violates civil laws—you have a right to work without being harassed, and you have recourse if you are harassed—but in many cases is not a criminal act.
Sexual violence of every kind occurs when consent is absent. Consent is an agreement between participants to engage in sexual activity. There are many ways to give consent, both verbally and physically. Someone consents when they clearly show in actions or words that they agree to a sexual act, they haven’t been coerced or threatened in any way, they are old enough to legally agree, and they have the physical and mental ability to say yes or no. Assuring consent is essential so you and your partner can respect each other’s boundaries.
Even if someone says that they want to have sex, they still may not be able to consent. For instance, if someone is below the age of consent for a state; is incapacitated; or has certain physical or mental disabilities, then they are not able to consent.