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Each state has its own definition of what sexual assault is, but they all follow the same idea.

In general, sexual assault can refer to a variety of sex crimes, like one person touching another in a sexual manner or on certain body parts, or asking to be touched on their own body parts, or trying to have sex with them.

These are actions that can lawfully take place between consenting adults, but become unlawful when one person does not consent to the act because they were unconscious or asleep, being forced, coerced, or threatened, and especially if the person being assaulted is a child.

Sexual assault is a serious crime and a person accused of sexual assault may be incarcerated if found guilty of the offense.

Sexual Assault in Tennessee

In Tennessee, sexual assault refers to a range of sex offenses, including:

  • Rape
  • Sexual battery
  • Statutory Rape


Rape is one specific kind of sexual assault. It means that one person has had sex (including oral sex) with another, or has inserted any other object into that person’s private parts without consent and under the following conditions.

  • By force or coercion;
  • When the person knew or had reason to know that the other person did not consent;
  • When the person had reason to know that the other person was mentally defective incapacitated, or physically helpless; or
  • When the act was perpetrated under conditions of fraud.

Sexual Battery

Sexual battery refers to having sexual contact or touching a person in a sexual way without consent and under the same conditions that are specified in the definition of rape. For example, fondling a person’s breath without their consent, or doing so when they are asleep or incapacitated.

Statutory Rape

Persons under the age of 18 cannot legally consent to sexual conduct. Statutory rape, then, refers to engaging in sex with a person under the age of 18 at the time, and when the offender was at least four years older than the victim.

So, for example, a person who is 19 years of age and had sex with a person who is 17, will not have committed a crime. However, if that person had sex with someone who is only 15 years old, they may be guilty of statutory rape.

Sexual Harassment Laws

Sexual harassment generally refers to sexual behavior in the workplace. The laws governing sexual harassment are aimed at preventing unwanted behavior of a sexual nature that affects a person’s work performance or creates a hostile work environment.

For example, if a boss pressures a worker to do something sexual with them, in order for the worker to keep his or her job or get a promotion, this would be considered sexual harassment and is illegal.

In Tennessee, sexual harassment in the workplace does not give rise to criminal penalties, unless it amounts to rape or sexual battery. However, a civil action can be taken against those who employ the offender if proper steps are not taken to address the behavior and stop it.

Get Help for Sexual Assault In Tennessee

If you have been the victim of a sexual assault, remember that it’s not your fault, no matter who you were with, how you were dressed, or what you were doing at the time. You have nothing to feel guilty about.

Report the behavior to someone who is in a position to help you and can get you the support you need. This can be the police, a parent, a trusted adult, a supervisor or, in the case of sexual harassment in the workplace, an experienced employment law attorney. Reporting the incident is the only way to protect yourself and to hold the offender accountable for their actions.

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