Justia Lawyer Rating 10 - Badge
Avvo Rating 9.9 - Nicole Blank Becker - Top Attorney
America's Top 100 Attorneys - Badge
The National Top 100 Trial Lawyers
National Association of Distinguished Counsel - Top One Percent - Badge
Nation's Premier Top Ten Ranking 2022 - NACDA - Badge

The Difference Between Sexual Abuse and Sexual Assault

Blank Law, PC Team

The Difference Between Sexual Abuse and Sexual Assault

Sexual abuse and sexual assault are different criminal charges in Michigan; however, the terms are often used interchangeably. Understanding the difference between sexual assault and sexual abuse is essential, especially if facing one of these charges.

If you have been arrested for sexual abuse, sexual assault, sexual violence, or any other sex crimes, it is important to contact a sex crimes defense lawyer. Victims have legal teams and organizations like the National Sexual Assault Hotline helping them through the process. Experienced legal representation for your criminal case can help you during this challenging time.

What is the Difference Between Sexual Abuse and Sexual Assault?

Let’s go into detail between the two sex crime charges:

Understanding Sexual Abuse in Michigan

Unfortunately, cases of sexual abuse are extremely common in Michigan. Sexual abuse is considered any unwanted sexual contact (see what is offensive touching). The term is commonly used for sex crimes against minors but is not exclusive to this.

The main unifying characteristic of sexual abuse cases is a lack of consent. This includes not knowing if consent was given or the inability to consent. Consent cannot be given in a few situations, which include:

In the state of Michigan, anyone under the age of 16 cannot give consent for any sexual acts.

Criminal laws in Michigan have established unique charges for all types of sexual abuse, including child sexually abusive activity, child molestation, and rape. Each category has unique characteristics and punishments.

In Michigan, drug-facilitated sexual abuse is a different type of sexual abuse. It can occur if the person being violated is under the influence of alcohol or drugs. As mentioned above, drugs and alcohol make it impossible for someone to give consent, which means any type of sexual act with that person is rape (see criminal sexual conduct 1st degree: person under 13 and criminal sexual conduct 3rd degree: person 13 thru 15). Victims are given the “date rape drug,” and assault also falls under the category (see date rape charges).

There are other types of sexual abuse, too. For example, it occurs in cases of unwanted sexual attention or sexual touching by someone with power or authority over their victim. Some examples of individuals who may commit this type of sexual abuse include:

Bosses often make unwanted sexual advances telling victims they may be fired or face other consequences if they tell. Along with sexual advances, gender harassment, and sexual harassment may occur.

If you were charged with sexual abuse, due to sexual harassment or sexual contact, and are in a position of power, it is important to have an attorney familiar with these types of sexual abuse, including childhood sexual abuse. It is also important to realize if the sexual encounter resulted in the victim contracting sexually transmitted diseases, additional charges may be filed. Victims often contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline for assistance, which is another factor that may come up in your case.

Understanding Michigan’s Statute of Limitations on Sexual Abuse Charges

In Michigan, there is a limitation on the amount of time victims have to file a sexual abuse lawsuit. However, the time limit depends on several factors. This includes the person’s age when they were sexually abused, the victim’s current age, and the circumstances around the sexual abuse.

Recently, Michigan law expanded the rape and sex assault lawsuit statute of limitations. Now, victims have three to 10 years for criminal sexual assault and 10 years to file a civil lawsuit for damages. Child sexual abuse victims have until they are 28 years old to file a claim. This means that victims of unwanted sexual attention have more time than ever to file a claim against you. Learn how to get an assault on a female charge dismissed here.

Regardless of how long it has been, if you are facing charges of sexual abuse, sexual coercion, or other cases of sexual violence, do not wait to get in touch with our Michigan criminal sexual conduct attorney for assistance. You must begin building sexual assault defense strategies for the sexual abuse charges you face since sexual abuse survivors and victims will work with an attorney to gather evidence against you.

Understanding Sexual Assault in Michigan

To fully understand the difference between sexual assault and sexual abuse, it is also necessary to learn more about what Michigan considers cases of sexual assault.

The charges and what sex act they apply to are found here:

First Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct

In Michigan, criminal sexual conduct 1st degree is a serious offense. It is commonly called rape or just sexual assault. It includes crimes like child molestation, child rape, and sexual assault of someone with a mental or physical disability.

You will face a charge of CSC 1st degree Michigan for sexual intercourse or what is sexual penetration with a victim who is:

  • Under 13 years old
  • Between 13 and 16 and a member of your household, related to you, a person you have authority over, or a teacher or administrator whom the victim is enrolled
  • The crime occurred while you were committing another felony
  • Use of force or coercion to commit the sexual act or have one or more people help with the knowledge the victim is physically or mentally incapacitated
  • Use of a weapon or something the victim believes is a weapon
  • Caused personal injury to the victim when using force to achieve sexual penetration
  • Caused personal injury to someone during the sex crime when you were aware of their mental or physical disability

If you are convicted of first-degree CSC, the consequences you face for this sexual assault crime include:

  • Prison time (up to life in prison)
  • Court costs and fines
  • Permanent record as a sex offender on the Michigan Sex Offender Registry
  • Michigan lifetime electronic monitoring
  • Loss of custody of your children
  • Denial of housing and jobs
  • Restrictions regarding where you can live
  • Denial or loss of professional license
  • Revocation or denial of green card, immigration visa, or deportation

As you can see, the CSC 1st-degree Michigan penalty for this type of sexual assault is severe. If you committed the offense when you were 17, and your victim was under 13, Michigan imposes a minimum mandatory sentence of 25 years in prison (see what is mandatory minimum sentencing). If you are over 18 and your sexual assault victim is under 13, the mandatory minimum sentence in Michigan is life without parole.

For prison sentences that are less than a life sentence, you will face continuous electronic monitoring for the remainder of your life.

Second Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct

This type of sexual assault involves an unwanted sexual act or contact with someone mentally or physically disabled, a minor, or that includes coercion.

You may face criminal sexual conduct 2nd-degree charges if you have sexual contact with:

  • Someone under 13
  • Someone between 13 and 16 who lives in your house, is related to, or whom you have authority over
  • A foster child or resident in a group home, foster home, or facility where you volunteer, work as a contractor, or are an employee
  • Someone while committing another felony
  • A person while having a weapon or if they think you do
  • Someone with a physical or mental disability who is a relative or who you have authority over
  • Someone under the DOC while you are an employee, volunteer, or contractor
  • County probationer or prisoner while you are a volunteer, contractor, or employee of the county

The CSC 2nd-degree Michigan penalty for these cases of sexual assault varies. For cases where you were 17 or older, and the victim was under 13, there is a possible prison sentence of up to 15 years. You may also face electronic monitoring for the remainder of your life.

Third Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct

This is another sexual assault charge that involves sexual behaviors or contact in a sexual manner with any minor who is older than 13 or individuals with mental or physical disabilities. This charge is commonly called statutory rape (see what is statutory rape). The following sexual behavior will result in a criminal sexual conduct 3rd-degree charge:

  • If you sexually penetrate someone between 13 and 16 years of age
  • If you sexually penetrate someone through coercion or force
  • If you sexually penetrate someone with a known mental or physical disability
  • If you sexually penetrate someone related to you
  • If you sexually penetrate someone between 16 and 18 while you work as a teacher, administrator, volunteer, or contractor of the victim’s school and use the position to establish a relationship with the student or for sexual assault
  • If you sexually penetrate special education students between the ages of 16 and 26 while in a position of authority
  • If you sexually penetrated someone 16 years old or older in a foster home or foster care while you were a licensed operator of the home, volunteer, contractor, or employee

Potential penalties for these sexual assault crimes include a jail sentence of up to 15 years. In these cases, the judge can consider other factors to determine the CSC 3rd-degree Michigan penalty, such as if sexual violence was involved and who was sexually assaulted, when determining a “reasonable” sentence.

Fourth Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct

This falls under misdemeanor sex crimes. It is sexual assault that involves unwanted sexual touching. In many cases, the sexually assaulted party is a minor or person with mental or physical disabilities. The victim may also be a close relative or someone with whom the perpetrator has an established relationship, such as a student or patient.

You can face a criminal sexual conduct 4th-degree charge if the following circumstances are present:

  • Sexual conduct with a victim between 13 and 16, while the perpetrator is a minimum of five years older
  • The use of coercion or force to orchestrate the sexual assault
  • Sexual conduct with a person who is known to be mentally or physically disabled
  • Sexual conduct with someone related to the third-degree
  • Sexual conduct with a patient or client if you provide mental health services and under two years have passed since their treatment
  • Sexual conduct with students 16 to 18 by teachers, administrators, or someone else in the school who uses their position to establish a relationship
  • Sexual contact with a 16 to 26-year-old special needs student by a teacher, school district employee, school administrator, or contractor
  • Sexual contact with a 16 to 26-year-old special needs student by a government service provider or volunteer
  • Sexual contact with someone who is at least 16 and living in a group home or foster family home by a volunteer, service provider, or employee of the home or facility

If you are convicted of this sexual assault charge, the potential CSC 4th-degree Michigan penalty you will face includes:

  • Prison sentence of up to two years
  • Up to $500 in fines
  • Permanent sex offender status on your criminal record
  • Restrictions regarding where you can live
  • Sex offender registration
  • Potential denial of professional license

Understanding the Difference Between Sexual Assault and Sexual Abuse and How We Can Help

When it comes to sexual assault cases, many factors must be considered. The sexual abuse, sexual assault, or sexual violence charge you face will likely have unique factors to consider.

It is worth noting that many sexual abuse survivors use resources like the National Sexual Assault Hotline to get help with their situation. Due to the aggressive way that Michigan prosecutes those facing sexual assault or sexual abuse crimes, it is imperative to contact our law firm, Blank Law, PC as soon as you can.

Nicole Calling Card

If you need help with your sexual abuse or sexual assault charges, contact Attorney Nicole Blank Becker by calling (248) 515-6583.

Visit Us

We are located on the Northeast corner of Big Beaver & Livernois in the Venture Plaza Office Building.

Troy, MI Office
3150 Livernois Rd
# 126

Troy, MI 48083

Phone: 248-515-6583

Client Reviews

I was very scared and unsure how to go about the whole court thing, but Nicole was easy to talk to and explained every step...


The information Nicole knew, that no other attorney seemed to know, was incredible. Nicole’s experience from her years as the...


With Nicole, I found the outstanding legal representation that I had been trying to find for years. She not only built a...

Daniel V.

Get in Touch

Fill out the contact form or call us at 248-515-6583 to schedule your free consultation.

  • Phone Icon Free Consultation
  • 24 hours a day Available 24/7
  • Gavel Icon Fighting for You

Leave Us a Message