Criminal Defense

What Is The Difference Between Sexual Assault and Sexual Abuse?

June 19, 2022 by Madison Ferguson in Criminal Defense  Rights  
Thumbnail for: What Is The Difference Between Sexual Assault and Sexual Abuse?

Abuse or Assault?

In most sex crimes cases, you have probably heard the terms sexual abuse or sexual assault used. These terms are often used interchangeably when describing sex crimes. However, these two are considered different offenses under California law, and understanding the difference between these crimes can be instrumental in a trial.

What Is Sexual Abuse?

In several states across the country, sexual abuse is used to define sex crime carried out against minors. Very rarely is this term used to define sex crimes committed against adults. Most sex crimes against children are defined as sexual abuse since, in most cases, they usually continue for a long period. As such, leading to an extended period of abuse for the minor.

Remember, a minor cannot legally give consent to a sexual act. The legal age in California is 18. Thus, committing a sexual act with anyone under 18 is a crime, even if they consented to the sexual act. It could be regarded as sexual abuse.

Some of the most common sexual abuse crimes in California include:

Child sexual abuse is a heinous crime that can have long-lasting impacts on minors physically and emotionally. In most cases involving child sexual abuse, the victim usually knows their abuser, and they have likely been grooming and scaring them for a while so they do not talk. Thus, it is essential to watch out for any signs of child sexual abuse and ensure the proper measures are taken to get them justice. Some red flags could include, withdrawal from normal activities and social life, sexually transmitted diseases, sudden and unexplained personality changes, unexpected knowledge of sexual information that should be inappropriate for a minor of their given age, bruises in their genital areas, or an unwillingness to be left alone with a certain individual.

What Is Sexual Assault?

Sexual assault is used to describe sex crimes that involve adults. It is frequently used to refer to singular acts involving unwanted or nonconsensual sexual acts or contact with a person over the age of 18. The perpetrator may use various means, be it force, violence, or fraud, to commit the sex crime and negate the victim’s consent.

In California, sexual assault is an umbrella term for a variety of sex crimes, such as:


Rape involves non-consensual sexual intercourse with a person who is not your spouse through force, threats, or fraud. Sexual intercourse, in this case, means any direct penetration, no matter how slight. You should also know that an individual that is too intoxicated, has a mental disorder, is unconscious or asleep cannot legally give consent. Thus, having sex with an individual in such a state could still be considered rape. If the nonconsensual sexual intercourse was committed with the perpetrator’s spouse, it is known as spousal rape.

Sexual battery

Sexual battery defines any unwanted touching of an intimate part of another person’s body. This can include their genitals or breast (if they are a woman).

Forcing a victim to perform sexual acts

Forcing sexual acts such as forcing the victim to perform oral sexual acts on the perpetrator or even forcing them to perform sexual acts on themselves.

Forcible acts of sexual penetration with an object

Forcible penetration with an object involves the penetration of the vagina or anus with an object that is not a sexual organ without their consent.

Forced oral sex

This sexual assault offense involves the unwanted oral stimulation of sex organs or anus.

Are You A Victim Of Sexual Assault or Abuse?

The first thing you should do is get medical care. Going to a hospital as soon as possible will ensure that DNA evidence against the perpetrator is collected. You should also report the sexual abuse or assault as quickly as possible.

We understand that coming forward about abuse is not easy, but you need to remember that whatever happened to you is not your fault, and you deserve justice. Contacting a sex crime attorney like us can help ensure you gather the evidence you need to bring your abuser to justice.

Need an Attorney? CALL NOW: 310-274-6529

Seppi Esfandi is an Expert Attorney who has over 21 years of practice defending a variety of cases.

Contact Us:         
Esfandi Law Group QR Code
Esfandi Law Group
Lara S.
December 3, 2019
Seppi had my case reduced to just an infraction, and thanks to him I was able to keep my job. Jorge was extremely helpful too, the reason I went with this law firm. Overall pleased.

How to Win Your Case

We cannot stress enough that you read, understand and follow these 10 basic rules if you are criminally charged or under investigation:

  1. Don’t ever talk to the police
  2. Do not discuss your case with anyone
  3. Everything you tell your lawyer is confidential
  4. Tell police you need to contact your attorney
  5. Never consent to any search by the police
  6. If the police knock on your door, don't answer!
  7. Realize the consequences of a criminal conviction
  8. Your lawyer (not you) will contact any witnesses
  9. Information on your cell phone is evidence
  10. Early Intervention is the key

Get a Free Consultation

    Free Consultation Form