Sexual crimes are among the most common in America. Harassment may be the most pervasive sexually related issue: but is harassment considered a crime? You can learn more about sex crimes and your legal options from a sexual harassment lawyer in Jackson County, Missouri.
Is Sexual Harassment a Crime?
It may be a surprise to learn that, in many cases, sexual harassment by itself is not considered a crime. Harassment can take many forms, but this act must cross certain lines to be considered illegal. For example, sexual harassment becomes a crime in circumstances such as harassment in the workplace or when sexual harassment escalates to physical assault.
Verbal and Written
Verbal and written sexual harassment occurs when inappropriate comments are made about a person’s appearance, clothing, or body. These comments can be written down, such as in a note, or spoken directly to the victim. Sometimes verbal and written harassment can include crude jokes and rumors. Catcalling can also count as verbal sexual harassment.
It’s important to understand that verbal harassment is different from a compliment. To qualify as sexual harassment, comments about the victim must be sexual in nature, either explicitly or implicitly. Verbal and written may not always be a criminal offense; however, victims of such harassment do have the option of filing a civil lawsuit.
Non-verbal harassment occurs when there is body language or non-verbal movements that indicate unwanted sexual interest. For example, facial expressions, inappropriate eye contact, and rude gestures all count as non-verbal sexual harassment. Usually, non-verbal sexual harassment is not considered a crime unless it occurs in the workplace.
That said, stalking often falls under the umbrella of non-verbal harassment as well. In Missouri, stalking is a crime that can be considered a misdemeanor or a felony and is punishable by financial penalties and other consequences.
Visual harassment is when the victim of sexual harassment is inundated with photos, visual media, and emails that suggest sexual acts, favors, or interests. An example of visual sexual harassment may be the victim receiving explicit sexual images on their phone. Visual harassment can also occur online and can be considered a cybercrime in some circumstances, which is a punishable criminal offense.
Physical sexual harassment occurs when there is inappropriate touching, unwanted groping, hugging, kissing, tugging on clothes, and other unwanted sexual contact. Physical sexual harassment often crosses the line into sexual assault. Physical sexual harassment is usually a criminal offense.
Many times, victims of sexual harassment will experience multiple forms of harassment at the same time. Based on the circumstances of the harassment, the combination of many types of sexual harassment can create an unsafe or toxic environment, and can even be psychologically damaging to the victim. Many victims of sexual harassment suffer unwanted sexual advances for a long time before they can receive help.
Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
One of the few circumstances where sexual harassment becomes a crime is in the workplace. Sexual harassment in the workplace is a type of discrimination that is in violation of Missouri employment law. If you’re experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace, you should know that this is illegal and that you are entitled to anti-discrimination rights as a victim, including suing your employer or the person harassing you.
Sexual harassment in the workplace can have a detrimental effect on the victim’s ability to complete work, earn a fair wage, or work in a safe environment. Many victims of sexual harassment in the workplace face discrimination in the form of an inability to obtain promotions. Sexual harassment in the workplace can also include rumors about the victim performing sexual acts to earn promotions or other job benefits.
What Employers Can Do About Workplace Harassment in Jackson County, Missouri
In general, it’s not a crime to make inappropriate jokes in the workplace. However, when an individual is being singled out and harassed sexually, your employer is obligated to step in. Many workplaces have provisions in employee contracts that will allow for the termination of an employee who is guilty of sexual harassment.
It’s your right as an employee to report sexual harassment. Reporting harassment may open an internal workplace investigation due to a hostile work environment. If you are not satisfied with the results of an internal investigation, it’s your right as an employee to file a civil suit for sexual harassment in the workplace, which can result in financial compensation.
When Does Sexual Harassment Become a Crime?
Although harassment by itself is not usually considered a criminal act (unless it occurs in the workplace as a form of discrimination), it’s important to identify the point at which harassment can become a misdemeanor or a felony.
Outside the workplace, there are few circumstances in which sexual harassment can become a crime. In many of these cases, harassment becomes a crime when the behavior becomes physically or mentally intrusive beyond the victim’s ability to cope. Some specific instances where harassment becomes a crime outside of the workplace include:
Sexual assault and battery are often the escalations of sexual harassment. Many victims of assault have been harassed for several days or weeks before the sexual assault is committed. Sexual assault and battery are considered a crime in all circumstances. The sexual assault of a minor is particularly heinous.
Sexual assault is punishable by fines, prison time, and other long-lasting penalties. People who are guilty of sexual assault of any degree are automatically placed on a sex offender list, which will remain on their record and impact their livelihood for the rest of their lives.
Stalking is essentially the prolonged harassment of an individual. Stalking can occur for several months and can include unwanted sexual advances, property trespassing, and more. Many stalking victims also suffer sexual assault from their harasser.
Although stalking is not always sexual, it’s often considered an escalation of harassment. Stalking can be considered a misdemeanor or a felony based on the age of the victim and is always considered a crime in Missouri as a form of harassment. The statute in Missouri indicates that stalking is an act that is intended to cause and does cause emotional distress.
Cyberharassment can also include cyberstalking, which is when a victim is stalked online through social media, email, or other technology. The most common form of cyberharassment can come in the form of explicit sexual language, such as from dating websites. Cyberharassment can also occur when sexual images of the victim are posted online, which is considered a crime and a form of sexual assault.
How Can Sexual Harassment Lawyers Help Victims?
Sexual harassment lawyers in Jackson County, Missouri have several methods to help you seek justice for sexual harassment and other sex crimes. For example, if you are experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace, a lawyer can help you petition for investigations or seek compensation through a civil lawsuit. A lawyer can also protect you from retaliation or termination after reporting sexual harassment.
For sex crimes, a lawyer may also be able to help you seek justice in criminal court. This is important for victims of sexual assault and harassment who are pressing charges against their assailants. Seeking legal help as soon as possible will enable you to get the justice you deserve.
Usually, sexual harassment is not considered a crime unless it escalates into physical assault or escalates to a point where the victim feels unsafe. Whether you are experiencing sexual harassment as an employee or as a civilian, you are entitled to legal help to seek compensation for any damages. To learn more about your rights as a victim of sexual harassment, contact a sexual harassment lawyer at Holman Schiavone, LLC today.