What is Sexual Assault?
Picture of a mural taken near the Denver
Center for the Performing Arts.
Sexual assault is a pernicious crime against an individual that encompasses a wide range of coerced sexual acts (where the perpetrator does not have consent) that includes non-consensual touching and non-consensual intercourse. The effects of a sexual assault include both immediate and long-term psychological, social, physical, and emotional impacts. Sexual assault impacts all people regardless of their gender, gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation. It is important to remember that the victim of a sexual assault is never to blame. The only person responsible for sexual assault is the perpetrator of the crime.
Sexual assault is injurious not just to the individual, but to families and communities as well. Sexual assault defames community trust and is a violation of an individual's intrinsic dignity.
Investigations of sexual assault are difficult for a wide variety of reasons. First, more often than not, the sexual assault victim is the sole witness to the crime. In addition, victims are often hesitant to reach out to law enforcement as victims' are concerned officer's won't believe them. Compounding these concerns, victims may also fear retaliation from the perpetrator of the crime, especially if the offender is a family member or acquaintance, which is often the case as most sexual assaults are committed by individuals who know the victim.
Investigations into sexual assault are further complicated by the use of drugs and alcohol in some instances of sexual assault. Alcohol, antihistamines, barbiturates, and others render a victim unable to give consent to any form of sexual intimacy. The side effects that incapacitate an individual also make it difficult to recall and remember signs of the assault.
Legal Definitions of Sexual Assault
Two primary categories of sexual assault laws exist in Colorado: Unlawful Sexual Contact outlined in C.R.S. 18-3-404 and Sexual Assault outlined in C.R.S. § 18-3-402.
Sexual contact is the knowing touching of the victim's intimate parts by the person or the person’s intimate parts by the perpetrator, or the knowing touching of the clothing covering the immediate area of the victims' intimate parts if that contact is for the purpose of sexual arousal, gratification or abuse.
This crime is committed if a person knowingly subjects the victim to any sexual contact if:
a) The person knows the victim does not consent, or
b) The person knows the victim is incapable of appraising what the person is doing, or
c) The victim is physically helpless and the person knows that and that the victim has not consented, or
d) The person has substantially impaired the victim's power to control the person's behavior by using alcohol or drugs, or
e) The victim is in custody, or in a hospital, the person has supervisory or disciplinary authority and uses his position of authority to
coerce the victim to submit, or
f) The person engages in treatment or examination of the victim for other than bona-fide medical purposes.
Sexual assault is defined in Colorado as any act committed by a perpetrator that knowingly inflicts sexual intrusion or sexual penetration on a victim. This crime is committed if:
a) The person causes the victim to submit by means of sufficient consequence reasonably calculated to cause submission against the
victim's will, or
b) The person knows that the victim is incapable of appraising what the perpetrator is doing, or
c) The person knows that the victim erroneously believes the person is the victim's spouse, or
d) At the time of the commission of the act the victim is less than 15 and the person is at least 4 years older than the victim and is not
the spouse of the victim, or
e) At the time of the commission of the act the victim is at least 15 but less than 17 and the person is at least 10 years older than the
f) The person has authority over the victim and uses the position of authority to coerce the victim, or
g) The person, while purporting to offer some medical service, engages in some sort of treatment or examination for some other reason
than a bona-fide medical purpose.
Twenty-four percent of Colorado women and six percent of Colorado men have experienced a completed or attempted sexual assault in their lifetime. Over 11,000 women and men each year experience a sexual assault in Colorado.
The Colorado Bureau of Investigation reported that in 2005, 1,971 forcible rapes were reported to law enforcement agencies in Colorado. Of the 1,971 reports, 91.2% were reported as completed forcible rapes. These numbers do not account for the number of rapes that go unreported.