Legal Definition of Sexual Assault


There are three main considerations in judging whether or not a sexual act is consensual or is a crime.

Are the participants old enough to consent?

  • In the state of California, Unlawful Sexual Intercourse, commonly known at Statutory Rape, states the minimum age someone must be to have sex is 18. People below this age are considered children and cannot legally agree to have sex. In other words, even if the child or teenager says yes, the law says no. Generally, “I thought she was 18″ is not considered a legal excuse, it’s up to you to make sure your partner is old enough to legally take part.

Do both people have the capacity to consent?

  • California law outlines who has the mental and legal capacity to consent including people with a mental disorder or developmental or physical disability, as well as some elderly people, and people who have been drugged or are unconscious during the sex act.

Did both participants agree to take part?

  • Did someone use physical force to make you have sexual contact with him/her? Has someone threatened you to make you have intercourse with them? If so, it is rape. It doesn’t matter if you think your partner means yes, or if you’ve already started having sex. “No” also means “Stop.” If you proceed despite your partner’s expressed instruction to stop, you have not only violated basic codes of morality and decency, you may have also committed a crime under the laws of your state (check your state’s laws for specifics).