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What is Second Degree Sexual Assault?

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  • Written By: M. Lupica
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 15 November 2016
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The factors that define the various degrees of sexual assault vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. There are some common factors, however, that align the rules between various jurisdictions. Second degree sexual assault, for instance, occurs in many locations in the event that certain facts are present. The factors that usually indicate second degree sexual assault are the knowledge that the sexual act was committed while the victim was mentally incapacitated or physically helpless, the accused uses force to coerce the victim to engage in sexual activity, or the accused submits the victim to unnecessary medical treatment for the purpose of sexual gratification.

Second degree sexual assault may occur in the event that the accused party commits a sexual act while his or her victim is unable to give consent to the act due to incapacitation. The nature of the incapacitation that gives rise to the charge may be either physical or mental. For example, the accused would be guilty of second degree sexual assault if he or she committed sexual acts while the victim was passed out, asleep, or physically pinned down. Additionally, someone who commits sexual acts with a mentally disabled person may fall into this category if that person is considered so mentally disabled that he or she is not capable of giving valid consent to sexual acts.

Another circumstance that may give rise to second degree sexual assault is if the person committing the sexual act uses force or coercion to gain consent from the victim. The amount of force required to effect a second degree sexual assault charge may vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. However, most jurisdictions will hold that a minimal amount of force needed to procure consent by making the victim feel threatened is sufficient.

A less common instance of second degree sexual assault occurs when someone uses the guise of medical treatment in order to gain the victim’s consent for acts that may result in sexual gratification of the accused. For instance, a doctor who subjects a patient to unnecessary examination that may or may not involve physical contact could give rise to a second degree sexual assault charge. The key element for establishing such a charge is that the accused fraudulently gained the victim’s consent with the intention of sexually gratifying himself or herself with the procedure.

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