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Ask a Sexual Harassment Lawyer: What Is the Legal Difference Between Sexual Harassment and Abuse?

Sexual harassment is classified as discrimination in both federal and Missouri law. There are specific circumstances in which sexual harassment turns into sexual abuse, which is a felony and carries severe penalties. In both cases, you are entitled to compensation. If you are a sexual abuse or harassment victim, you need to contact a sexual harassment lawyer to study your case and help you understand your options. 

Understanding Sexual Harassment: Why You Need a Sexual Harassment Lawyer

State and federal laws, such as the Civil Rights Act and the Equal Pay Act, protect you from sexual harassment. According to these laws, sexual harassment is a form of discrimination based on sex. The most important thing to understand regarding sexual harassment is that what matters is the effect on the victim and not the perpetrator’s intentions. Some of the most common forms of sexual harassment include:

  • Lewd jokes and sexually charged comments
  • Sharing unwanted sexually explicit images
  • Asking for sexual favors in return for professional opportunities

What to Do if You Are a Victim?

The first step is to file an internal complaint with your direct supervisor and human resources department. The most crucial issue at stake is your safety, so they should begin by taking the necessary steps to help you avoid the harasser and start an internal investigation.

Filing a Claim With the MCHR

Missouri law states that you must file a complaint with the Missouri Commission of Human Rights before you can file a lawsuit. The Missouri Department of Labor recommends taking an online assessment to determine if the MCHR has jurisdiction. Once you file the complaint, the commission will start an investigation.

They’ll recommend policy changes, administrative sanctions, and even termination, depending on their findings. If you are not satisfied with the results of this investigation, you can also file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission at a federal level.

Filing a Lawsuit

If you want to take your case to court, you’ll need a “notice of right to sue” from the MCHR. You can request this notice once the investigation is over or if 180 days or more have passed without a resolution. If you decide to file a lawsuit, you need help from Kansas City sexual harassment lawyers to determine a strategy and help you compile valid evidence.

Understanding Sexual Assault

Sexual assault is a crime under all circumstances. The law defines sexual assault as any criminal act that is sexual in nature. According to the Missouri Penal Code, sexual assault includes:

  • Intercourse or penetration without consent
  • Sexual contact with a minor
  • Sexual acts with someone unable to give consent (subordinate relationship between parties is considered under this clause)

If you are a victim of sexual assault, you need to remove yourself from the situation immediately and contact a lawyer. If you are a victim of sexual assault in the workplace, you’ll need to start two separate processes.

Criminal Case

In a criminal case, a prosecutor must present evidence supporting the sexual assault claim. As a plaintiff, you only need to provide enough evidence to prove that it’s more likely than not that a criminal act was committed against you. In a criminal case, you will not get any compensation, but the perpetrator will face punitive actions according to the law. Having a conviction from a criminal court helps establish a precedent for a lawsuit.


Under Missouri law, you have the right to be compensated as a victim of sexual assault. The first step is to establish liability. You have the right to pursue a lawsuit against the perpetrator, and,  If the assault happened in the workplace and your employer was aware of the situation, you can also sue them. It’s important to talk to your lawyer and draft a good strategy, as a sexual assault lawsuit can be long and complicated.

Finding an Attorney

Dealing with sexual harassment or sexual assault is overwhelming. You need a lawyer to help you deal with the practical aspects and build a strong case. Because of the delicate nature of the information you’ll share with your lawyer, it’s essential to find someone empathic who listens to everything you need to say and is highly respectful of your choices moving forward.

Look for an experienced and knowledgeable attorney who can provide references for past cases and has a good track record of success. Personal recommendations are beneficial at this stage, but you can also search online or get help from victims’ support groups.

You should never stay in a situation that makes you feel uncomfortable or unsafe. If you fear that your employer can retaliate against you, it’s imperative to find legal counsel fast (retaliation is also illegal and considered a form of workplace discrimination). A lawyer will help you move forward and get fair compensation.

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