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Understanding the charge of sexual assault

April has been designated Sexual Assault Awareness Month. This designation serves to promote public education on the subject of sexual assault. This information is critical for both victims and those who may find themselves charged with this crime. The criminal justice system functions on the principle of predictability. By understanding the charge and its consequences, individuals can choose to avoid behavior that meets this definition. By becoming educated about sexual assault, the wider public can better understand what this crime entails and how to avoid engaging in it.

Sexual assault educators, victim advocates and criminal justice advocates often wear teal ribbons to show support for Sexual Assault Awareness Month each April. Some are concerned primarily with preventing this act from occurring, while others are primarily concerned with the rights of victims, perpetrators and those accused of committing this act. Sexual assault affects every person that the act and accusations related to the act touches.

Sexual assault is broadly defined as occurring when one individual knowingly coerces or forces another person into an unwanted and generally involuntary sexual act by force or threat. The fact that the perpetrator knows that the act is unwanted is critically important, as is the presence of force or threat. Definitions of this crime vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. But in the end, these elements tend to determine when sexual assault has and has not occurred.

Education is the key to both prevention and understanding. This Sexual Assault Awareness Month, please take a few moments to educate yourself further about this serious crime.

Source: National Sexual Violence Resource Center, Sexual Assault Awareness Month

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