Understanding Indecent Assault Laws, Penalties, and Victim Rights in Texas

by | Dec 26, 2023 | Assault, Sexual Assault, Sexual Harassment, Uber Sexual Assault

The term “indecent assault” is a common term used to describe sexual misconduct that is not as serious (in terms of criminal charges) as sexual assault. In Texas, the term “sexual battery” does not directly exist in the legal code. Instead, nonconsensual sexual contact falls under the umbrella of “indecent assault,” which encompasses various degrees of unwanted touching and sexual contact.

While many people still use the term sexual batter, it is important to understand the legal distinction between terms in the event that charges are filed or a civil lawsuit is pursued by victims. Below, the sexual assault lawyers at Kherkher Garcia provide a breakdown of indecent assault laws in Texas, and provide helpful information for victims who need guidance and support.

Texas Indecent Assault Laws

Indecent assault refers to any unwanted or non-consensual sexual contact or behavior imposed upon an individual. In Texas, it falls under the broader category of sexual assault and is legally defined as intentional and non-consensual touching of another person’s intimate body parts, such as the breasts, genitals, or buttocks, without their consent. This includes instances where the victim is unable to give consent due to age, intoxication, mental incapacity, or coercion.

Laws and Penalties

Texas penal code delineates different degrees of sexual assault based on various factors, including the severity of the offense and the relationship between the victim and the perpetrator. Indecent assault charges are classified as either a misdemeanor or felony, with penalties ranging from fines to substantial prison sentences, depending on the circumstances of the case.

Types of Indecent Assault:

  • Indecent Assault: This is the most general category, involving any unwanted touching of another person’s intimate parts or their clothing covering those areas.
  • Indecent Assault with Threat of Violence: This involves using force, threats, or intimidation to engage in unwanted touching.
  • Indecent Assault on a Child: This applies to any unwanted sexual contact with a person under 17. The penalties vary depending on the child’s age and the nature of the contact.

Consent

Texas laws emphasize affirmative consent, meaning a clear and knowing “yes” to any sexual activity is required. Silence, intoxication, or passive non-resistance do not constitute consent. Consent can be withdrawn at any time, and initiating or continuing sexual contact after withdrawal is considered assault.

Penalties

Penalties for indecent assault vary depending on the specific offense, the victim’s age, and the presence of aggravating factors like violence or threats. In addition to jail time and fines, offenders may face mandatory sex offender registration and counseling requirements. A general overview of the penalties for indecent assault include:

  • Misdemeanor Assault: In cases where the offense is less severe or involves inappropriate touching without penetration, it may be categorized as a Class A misdemeanor. This can lead to fines of up to $4,000 and a jail term of up to one year.
  • Felony Assault: When the assault involves aggravated circumstances, such as the use of force, violence, a deadly weapon, or if the victim is a minor or unable to consent, the charge escalates to a felony. Penalties for felony sexual assault can result in hefty fines and imprisonment ranging from two years to life, depending on the severity of the offense.

Victims’ Rights after Indecent Assault

Texas upholds a comprehensive set of rights for victims of indecent assault to ensure their protection, support, and participation in the legal process. Victims have the right to:

  • Notification: Victims are entitled to timely and adequate information regarding court proceedings, case updates, and available services.
  • Protection: The state ensures the safety and privacy of victims by implementing measures such as restraining orders and confidentiality protections during legal proceedings.
  • Compensation: Victims may be eligible for financial assistance to cover expenses resulting from the assault, including medical bills and counseling.
  • Participation: Victims have the right to provide input during the legal process, including the opportunity to testify and impact statements during sentencing.
  • Restitution: Perpetrators may be ordered to provide restitution to cover the victim’s expenses resulting from the assault.

Legal Process and Reporting

Reporting indecent assault is a crucial step toward seeking justice. Victims in Texas can report incidents to law enforcement agencies. Prompt reporting is encouraged to preserve evidence, although the state understands the sensitivity of such cases and acknowledges delayed reporting due to trauma. Upon reporting, an investigation is initiated, and if there is sufficient evidence, charges are filed. Throughout the legal proceedings, victims are supported by victim advocates and have the right to legal representation.

Challenges for Indecent Assault Victims

Sexual assault victims encounter multifaceted challenges that can deeply impact their physical, emotional, and psychological wellbeing. These challenges often extend beyond the immediate aftermath of the assault and can persist for an extended period. Some of the prominent challenges faced by indecent assault victims include:

Emotional Trauma

Assault can result in profound emotional trauma, including feelings of shame, guilt, fear, anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Coping with these emotions can be overwhelming and can significantly impact a survivor’s mental health.

Physical Consequences

Victims may suffer physical injuries as a result of the assault, ranging from bruises and lacerations to more severe injuries. Additionally, there is a risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or pregnancy, leading to further health concerns.

Fear and Safety Concerns

Victims often experience a heightened sense of fear and concerns for their safety, especially if they know the perpetrator or fear retaliation. This fear can persist long after the assault, affecting their sense of security and daily life.

Stigmatization and Blame

Survivors of assault may face societal stigma, misconceptions, and victim-blaming attitudes, which can intensify feelings of shame and prevent them from seeking help or reporting the assault.

Challenges in Reporting

Reporting indecent assault can be an extremely difficult decision for victims due to fear of disbelief, judgment, or re-traumatization during the legal process. Factors such as fear of retaliation, cultural or societal norms, and distrust of the criminal justice system may hinder reporting.

Impact on Relationships and Daily Life

Any form of sexual assault can strain relationships with family, friends, and intimate partners. Survivors may experience difficulties in trusting others, maintaining intimacy, and engaging in daily activities as they did before the assault.

Long-term Effects

The effects of assault can be long-lasting, impacting various aspects of a survivor’s life. It might affect their ability to work, study, and engage in social activities, leading to disruptions in their overall wellbeing and quality of life.

Recovery and Healing

The road to recovery and healing is often challenging and nonlinear. Survivors may require ongoing support, therapy, and resources to cope with the aftermath of the assault and rebuild their lives.

Understanding these challenges is crucial in providing comprehensive support and resources to survivors of sexual assault.

Indecent Assault Resources

Organizations and local advocacy groups play a vital role in offering support, education, and resources to survivors of sexual assault. They aid in navigating the legal system, provide counseling, and offer a support network crucial for the healing process. Some resources that many victims find helpful include:

  • RAINN: The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network provides information on Texas’ sexual assault laws and resources for survivors.
  • Texas Coalition Against Sexual Assault: Offers support and resources for survivors of sexual assault in Texas.
  • Texas Penal Code: Chapter 21 and 22 of the Texas Penal Code detail offenses against sexual liberty.
  • Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANEs):SANEs are specially trained nurses who provide medical care and forensic exams to survivors of sexual assault. You can find a list of SANE programs in Texas through the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault.
  • National Sexual Assault Hotline: The National Sexual Assault Hotline (1-800-656-HOPE) can connect you with a trained counselor who can provide emotional support and referrals to local mental health services.
  • The Trevor Project: The Trevor Project provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBTQ+ youth, including those who have experienced sexual assault. You can call their hotline at 1-866-488-7386 or visit their website.

These are just some of the resources available to victims of sexual assault. There may be additional resources available depending on the county, city, and community organizations.

Get Legal Help and Support after Indecent Assault

Navigating the legal system can be daunting for victims of indecent assault. If criminal charges or civil lawsuits are filed, victims must then face the complexities of the legal system. This process might be lengthy and complex, requiring victims to recount their traumatic experience multiple times. This can be emotionally taxing. It is important that victims of any form of sexual assault know that they are not alone in this process.

At Kherkher Garcia, our sexual assault lawyers are highly skilled and compassionate advocates for victims. We believe that victims deserve a voice and an opportunity to see justice served. We provide comprehensive legal guidance and support for victims of sexual assault, including indecent assault. You are not alone. Our team genuinely cares about our clients, their rights, and their wellbeing.

Get legal help and support from the lawyers at Kherkher Garcia by contacting us for a free confidential consultation. You can call us at 713-333-1030, or complete our confidential contact form.

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Bret Stanley

Bret Stanley

Firm Partner and Trial Lawyer

This article was written and reviewed by Injury Trial Lawyer and Firm Partner Bret Stanley. Bret is a practicing injury lawyer with more than 12 years experience. He has won Millions in Settlements and Verdicts for his clients. Bret’s practice areas have focused on helping clients with rideshare sexual assault, product liability, pharmaceutical device and drug claims, mass tort litigation, catastrophic personal injury litigation, complex insurance litigation, and Jones Act / Maritime Injury litigation.

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