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Assault can be loosely defined as a violent crime in which an individual or a group inflicts physical contact that causes bodily harm and/or injury to another individual. Assault can be defined differently from one state to another, and the classification can be based on the resulting injury, weapons used, or other circumstances of the crime.
What is Assault?
An assault may include one or more types of harm, such as pushing, shoving, slapping, punching, or kicking. It may also include the use of weapons like knives, sticks, bottles, or bats. Common injuries from an assault include bruises, black eyes, cuts, scratches, and broken bones. In some cases, depending on the laws in place, an attack can still be considered an assault even if it results in no physical injury to the victim.
- Assault as physical connection. Some states define assault as the intentional use of force or violence against another, such as punching a person or striking the victim with an object. (A few states even lump assault and battery into one crime, which is defined as a physical attack.) Under this approach, an “attempted assault” is an act that intends to physically harm the victim, but fails or falls short. For example, swinging at someone but missing would be an attempted assault.
- Assault as an attempt to physically touch. In other states, assault does not involve actual physical contact, and is defined as an attempt to commit a physical attack, or as threatening actions that cause a person to feel afraid of impending violence. In these states, when the attempt succeeds, the resulting crime is a battery. Under this approach, there is no such crime as an “attempted assault,” because the assault itself is an attempt. Verbal threats are usually not enough to constitute an assault for this second approach. Some action such as raising a fist or moving menacingly toward a victim usually is required. In these states, threatening to hurt someone while walking toward him with a clenched, raised fist would constitute assault.
- In states that define assault as placing a victim in fear of violence, the victim’s response must not only be genuine but reasonable under the circumstances. The test normally is whether the defendant’s actions would cause a reasonable person to be in fear of an immediate physical attack. In other words, the victim’s response must be one that you’d expect from any reasonable person in the victim’s position.
What can I do?
- Call 911 for Immediate Assistance– You know yourself and your situation better than anyone. Trust your instincts and call for help if you feel you are in danger or are in need of medical attention.
- Report to Police – You have the right to report the incident(s) to the police. Read more about your options for reporting and what to expect.
- Consider Counseling— Any assault victim, though, injured or not, may experience emotional reactions to the crime. Counseling can help you process the emotional impact of your assault. Find a local therapist at the Psychology Today search page.
- Remember to Care for Yourself – Try to be kind to yourself and allow yourself time and patience as you move forward; everyone responds differently to crime. Practice self-care and coping skills strategies.
NOLO has published a resource with a list of different definitions for ‘assault’ according to each state and the District of Columbia.
The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs has created a LGBT Specific Resource for victims of Assault.
Crime Victim Compensation is a program that provides limited funds to help with any expenses that have occurred after an assault. These programs generally require you to have a police report and/or a restraining/protective order. Find a program in each state and the District of Columbia.
Contact the VictimConnect Hotline by phone at 1-855-4-VICTIM or by chat for more information or assistance in locating services that can help you or a loved one after experiencing assault.