Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Sexual Abuse Definition:

The tort or crime of an assault of a sexual nature.

Related Terms: Abuse, Sexual Assault, Sexual Harassment

Often used interchangeably with sexual assault. As with the latter, sexual abuse is both a tort and a crime.

In Lyth v Dagg, a tort case, Justice Trainor wrote:

"This is an action in tort for injuries Lyth says resulted from his sexual abuse by Dagg. In essence, it is a claim that Lyth was sexually assaulted. An assault is the intentional application of force to the person of another without their consent.

"Each of the psychiatrists was asked to define sexual abuse and they spoke of force being applied during sexual relations between unequal partners and where the one to whom the force was applied was unwilling.

"Sexual abuse is merely one particular way in which one person can assault another. It demands careful examination of the relationship between the parties to appreciate whether both had capacity to consent, understanding the nature and consequences of the conduct, and also whether one of the parties had such a greater amount of power or control over the other as to be in a position to force compliance. This is an examination to determine whether, in all the circumstances, force was applied by one person to another and whether any consent apparently given was genuine."

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