You probably already have a decent idea that the answer is “yes,” and you would be right. But there are a few legal definitions you should know to understand the ramifications both for the victim and the actor who violated the victim’s well-being. First, the legal definition of assault is putting a person in harm’s way or making them feel as if they’re in harm’s way. No touching is required. Battery is when unwanted touching occurs.
Although neither assault nor battery necessarily involve a physical act of violence, those who commit acts of violence are often charged with simple assault and battery. Combining the two charges usually means there was a violent act, but not always.
When a man gropes a woman (or vice versa) by touching the genitalia or breasts, he might be charged with assault and battery, or just battery — but more often, the charge is sexual assault or sexual battery. A lawyer might argue that the crime was not sexual in nature, but few judges or juries would accept such a defense is plausible. When a man touches a woman’s breasts in a society where breasts are strongly sexualized, sexual assault and/or sexual battery are the correct criminal offenses.
A representative of Koonz McKenney Johnson & Depaolis LLP acknowledged that sexual assault is often followed by litigation because once criminal wrongdoing is substantiated by the criminal court system, civil lawsuits become much easier to win — and clients who feel like their rights were violated are often looking to fight back.
The question of whether or not unwanted groping or grabbing is against the law (or sexual assault) has been asked and answered many times since before the 2016 presidential election, when then-candidate Donald Trump boasted that he routinely sexual assaulted women because “they let you do it.”
To be frank, the lack of a “no” does not equal consent. Not speaking up does not equal consent. No one has the right to lay a hand on you for any reason — sexually or otherwise — without your own express authorization.
Some states have crimes that are similar to sexual battery or sexual assault. Mostly, they have reduced fines or sentencing guidelines and are used as bargaining chips to compel the defendant of a crime into pleading guilty as part of a deal. One such crime is known as forcible touching.
The definition of “forcible touching” states that someone is guilty of the crime when “he or she intentionally, and for no legitimate purpose, forcibly touches the sexual or other intimate parts of another person for the purpose of degrading or abusing such person or for the purpose of gratifying the actor’s sexual desire.”
And the definition of “intimate parts” is very broad. These parts might include the neck, breasts, or genitals. Forcible touching occurs without consent.
The vast majority of sexual assaults are not reported to the police, nor are they prosecuted. Of the few that are, only a few in a thousand actually result in a perpetrator behind bars. What should you take away from this? A woman’s breasts are off-limits unless she says they’re not.