“Rape” and “sexual assault” can be used interchangeably in criminal or civil court. The Georgia code has two rape statutes, including:

  • O.C.G.A. § 16-6-1 (Rape)
  • O.C.G.A. § 16-6-3 (Statutory rape)

Rape means forced sex.  In the legal definition contained in Georgia’s official code, “rape” occurs where a person “has carnal knowledge” of either (1) “a female forcibly and against her will” or (2) a female who is less than ten years of age.” Carnal knowledge is “penetration of the female sex organ by the male sex organ.”  “Force” can mean many things. It can be something physical like being tied down or held down. Force can also be something emotional, like fear. Just because you were not tied down, or physically overwhelmed does not mean you were not forced. Force can be “reasonable apprehension of harm” – basically this means that if you show you were too scared to say no, you were “forced.” Georgia’s legal definition of “statutory rape” is “sexual intercourse with any person under the age of 16 years and not his or her spouse.” The penalty for this depends on how old the perpetrator (attacker) is. If they are 18 or younger, and no more than four years older than their victim, then the crime is a misdemeanor instead of a felony (punishable by no more than one year in jail). If they are 21 or older, then they may be imprisoned for between 10 and 20 years. Statutory rape can result in either criminal charges or civil claims or both. There are other criminal charges relating to sexual misconduct that do not involve “force” or “carnal knowledge.”  Those are:

  • O.C.G.A. § 16-6-4 (Child molestation)
  • O.C.G.A. § 16-6-5.1 (Sexual assault)
  • O.C.G.A. § 16-6-22.1 (Sexual battery)
  • O.C.G.A. § 16-6-22.2 (Aggravated sexual battery)

Each of these crimes, if proven, carry a minimum or maximum prison sentence.

In criminal court, “Sexual Assault” is where someone with authority or control has sex with someone they are in charge of. For example, a teacher commits sexual assault when they engage in sexual contact with someone enrolled in their school, a hospital employee commits sexual assault when they engage in sexual contact with a patient of that hospital, a psychologist commits sexual assault when they engage in sexual contact with a patient. In civil court, “Sexual Assault” is a broader term used in civil cases for all nonconsensual sexual touching. So “rape” is a sexual assault, but not all sexual assaults meet the legal definition of “rape.” Sexual assault claims in civil court are often referred to as “assault” and “battery” claims. “Assault” is the intentional causing of fear or apprehension of unauthorized physical contact. “Battery” goes beyond fear of contact – it is when the unauthorized physical contact actually occurs. This contact doesn’t have to be harmful. Contact may be insulting, unwanted, or humiliating instead. When deciding whether contact was unauthorized, courts use what the law calls a “reasonable person” standard. If a “reasonable person” would be harmed, insulted, humiliated, or not want that physical contact, it meets the legal standard.