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What Is an Indecent Assault?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 22 April 2014
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Indecent assault is an assault of a sexual nature. It involves unwanted sexual contact such as touching someone's private areas without that person's consent. In some regions of the world, the term “sexual assault” is used to describe this act. Some regions also distinguish between assault and battery, in which case people may be charged with indecent assault and battery, meaning that they threatened (assaulted) the victim and engaged in unwanted contact (battery).

According to the law, in order to be considered indecent assault, any reasonable person must deem the contact to be indecent in nature. The law does not spell out the myriad forms which this crime can take, instead trusting the legal system to judge whether or not a given situation meets the standard. For example, a man who rubs against a woman in a train for the purpose of deriving sexual pleasure is committing indecent assault, but a man who accidentally brushes a woman in a crowded train is not.

The contact involved in an indecent assault must be deliberate in nature and without justification. This excuses situations in which unwanted touch is genuinely accidental, as in the train example above, and in situations in which there is a justifiable reason to touch someone in a way which might be deemed indecent in other circumstances. For example, a doctor performing an exam with the permission of a patient is not committing indecent assault as there is a justifiable reason for the contact and it is occurring with consent.

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Any type of sexual contact which is unwanted is considered indecent assault. The perpetrator does not have to physically force the victim to submit to the contact; the threat of violence can be enough, as can simply touching someone without asking permission, in which case the victim does not even have an opportunity to refuse the contact. The same standards hold true for rape; rape victims do not have to show evidence of the use of physical force to prosecute their attackers.

Sexual assault is an ongoing problem in many regions of the world. In some regions, specific initiatives have been developed to address this problem, such as offering gender segregated train cars to limit groping, providing educational outreach in schools, and promoting safe transport for college students who might be traveling late at night or in dangerous neighborhoods. Some of these programs have been criticized for being reactive rather than proactive, with initiatives responding to an established threat rather than trying to prevent the emergence of threats.

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Discuss this Article

seag47
Post 4

I would hate to live in a country where overpopulation is a problem, because indecent assault is so common and so easy to get away with over there. When you have big crowds and no elbow room everywhere you go, it must be hard to prove that someone assaulted you, rather than was forced against you because there was no room.

I hate big crowds for this reason. I went to a big music festival once, and people were crammed in like sardines. I know that the guy behind me kept touching my rear on purpose, but he claimed he couldn't help it because there was no room for his hands anywhere else.

shell4life
Post 3

@kylee07drg – In a case like yours, I think you should have gone to the police station and filed a report. They could have set you up with a sketch artist, and this could have resulted in the capture of the guy.

That is what my sister did after she was groped in a public park one night. She was able to provide a detailed description to a sketch artist, and the cops put posters of his face up all over town.

The guy was dumb enough to strike again a short while later, and he did so right next to one of the posters! A man nearby saw him running away and tackled him, because he recognized his face.

kylee07drg
Post 2

@StarJo – That may be so, but I believe that in a large majority of cases, the man doing the assaulting is actually guilty. I have been a victim of indecent assault myself, and I lobby more for the victims than the people who may or may not be guilty of it.

I was riding home on a bus late one night, and there was only one other passenger. He grabbed me inappropriately, and when I screamed, the bus driver stopped and ran back to help me. The guy escaped out the back door, and neither of us had any way of finding him, so he got away with it.

That is a big problem with indecent assault. Though it is good that it happens quickly and is often over with abruptly, this makes it hard to identify the attacker.

StarJo
Post 1

With indecent assault, it is often the alleged victim's word against the alleged attacker's. If there were no witnesses, there really is no way to prove what happened.

I understand that indecent assault is a huge problem in some areas of the world, but I do believe that there are instances in which it has been exaggerated. There are women out there looking for attention and money from lawsuits, and they sometimes cry “assault” when none has actually occurred.

They can ruin a poor man's life by doing this. His reputation would become tarnished, and people would look at him as a criminal, even if he was totally innocent.

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