Sad woman sitting in the dark resting her hands and chin on her knee

The laws surrounding sexual assault vary from state to state, including the definition of rape and the legal age of consent.  Texas Penal Code Ch 22.011 defines sexual assault in broad enough terms to include intercourse and penetration without consent, rape, and coercive sexual acts. While most people think of sexual assault as a forced or violent event committed by a total stranger, nearly 80 percent of these incidents are perpetrated by someone the victim knows or may even be dating.

This begs the question of when sex becomes sexual assault in Texas. If the unwanted sexual act was committed by a casual date, a supervisor, a co-worker, or someone else you know and trust, it’s best to speak with an experienced Dallas sexual abuse victim lawyer about how to proceed. 

Texas legal definitions of sexual assault

In its most general terms, sex becomes sexual assault when it is non-consensual and forced upon another individual or involves someone under the age of 17. If someone is incapable of providing consent because of age or cognitive impairment, sexual contact is viewed as assault– even in scenarios where the victim does not resist or is a willing participant. In this vein, a person with mental disabilities may be unable to appraise the situation or intentions of another person. Therefore, they do not have the capacity to legally consent to sexual activity in the eyes of the law.

The “capacity to consent” features prominently in sexual assault civil cases. Under Texas law, sexual assault is defined as acting without the consent of the other person– if the perpetrator knows their victim is physically unable to resist. This applies in situations where the victim is intoxicated, unconscious, and unaware of the crimes being done to them, or was purposefully impaired with a date rape drug for this explicit purpose.

There are numerous instances where a personal injury lawyer can argue that their client did not consent to sexual contact, therefore giving rise to a civil claim for sexual assault.

The following are a few such examples:

  • The offender knew the victim was unconscious
  • The offender used violence or physical force
  • The offender threatened the use of physical violence
  • The offender intentionally impaired the victim’s ability to understand and or take control
  • The victim had diminished mental capacity and was legally unable to give consent
  • The offender is a public servant who abused their position to compel the victim to submit
  • The offender is a healthcare provider who abused their position to coerce the victim to submit
  • The offender is a clergyman who abused their position to get the victim to submit

Texas penal statutes define sexual assault as:

Intentionally or knowingly causing any of the following:

  • Penetration of the anus or sexual organ of another by any means without that person’s consent;
  • Penetration of the mouth of another person by the sexual organ of the actor without that person’s consent; or
  • The sexual organ of another person, without that person’s consent, to contact or penetrate the mouth, anus, or sexual organ of another person, including the actor.

Legal recourse for sexual assault victims

Regardless of who the offender was, the trauma of sexual assault can leave victims with lasting emotional wounds. Depression, anxiety, and PTSD are not uncommon in survivors. The decision to report the incident to the police is a personal one. However, it is not required for a victim and their Dallas sexual assault victim lawyers to pursue recovery through a civil lawsuit.

The important thing for survivors to remember is that they have many resources for support available and should never hesitate to seek counsel when needed. A civil lawsuit represents one avenue for sexual assault victims to seek justice against their offenders.  It is not precluded by criminal charges and can seek to recover a wide range of compensatory damages that resulted from the assault.

The deadline for filing a sexual assault civil claim in Texas has been extended, allowing victims until their 48th birthday to take legal action.

Contact us for a free consultation

Crowe Arnold & Majors, LLP, offers client-focused advocacy for victims of sexual assault. Explore your options with a Dallas personal injury attorney today – call for a confidential and complimentary legal consultation.