The Varying Meanings of Sexual Misconduct

Because of the onslaught trend and frenzy of allegations related to “sexual misconduct,” it is very easy to misconstrue and confuse the meanings of individual instances of allegations. “Sexual Misconduct” is more of an umbrella term relating to variety of types of allegations. “Sexual Misconduct” for example does not always mean an accuser is a victim of an actual physical sexual assault by the accused. This post is to provide the public with a clear definitional understanding of different instances of allegations that flow from the umbrella term of “sexual misconduct.”

CIVIL

Definitions of Civil Actions Related to “Sexual Misconduct” in Illinois and On the Federal Level

ILLINOIS

Illinois Human Rights Act

According to the Illinois Human Rights Act, sexual harassment is defined as:
Any unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors or any conduct of a sexual nature when:

1. Submission to such conduct is made, either explicitly or implicitly, a term or condition of an individual’s employment;
2. Submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting such individual; or 3. Such conduct has the purpose or effect of substantially interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment

The Illinois Human Rights Act also identifies other conduct which may constitute sexual harassment that includes:

• Verbal: Sexual innuendos, suggestive comments, insults, humor, and jokes about sex, anatomy or gender-specific traits, sexual propositions, threats, repeated requests for dates, or statements about other employees, even outside of their presence, of a sexual nature.
• Non-Verbal: Suggestive or insulting sounds (whistling), leering, obscene gestures, sexually suggestive bodily gestures, “catcalls”, “smacking” or “kissing” noises.
• Visual: Posters, signs, pin-ups or slogans of a sexual nature, viewing pornographic material or websites.
• Physical: Touching, unwelcome hugging or kissing, pinching, brushing the body, any coerced sexual act, or actual assault.
• Textual/Electronic: “Sexting” (electronically sending messages with sexual content, including pictures and video), the use of sexually explicit language, harassment, cyber stalking and threats via all forms of electronic communication (e-mail, text/picture/video messages, intranet/on-line postings, blogs, instant messages and social network websites like Facebook and Twitter).

FEDERAL

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

The EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) defines sexual harassment as a form of sex discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII applies to employers with 15 or more employees, including state and local governments. It also applies to employment agencies and to labor organizations, as well as to the federal government.

Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual’s employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.

Sexual harassment can occur in a variety of circumstances, including but not limited to the following:

• The victim as well as the harasser may be a woman or a man. The victim does not have to be of the opposite sex.
• The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, an agent of the employer, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or a non-employee.
• The victim does not have to be the person harassed but could be anyone affected by the offensive conduct.
• Unlawful sexual harassment may occur without economic injury to or discharge of the victim.
• The harasser’s conduct must be unwelcome.

Under Title VII there are two recognized types of sexual harassment:

1) Quid Pro Quo
Quid pro quo sexual harassment occurs when tangible employment benefits are conditioned on one’s compliance with a harasser’s sexual demands. Brill v. Lante Corp., 119 F.3d 1266, 1274 (7th Cir. 1997); Bryson v. Chicago State University, 96 F.3d 912, 915 (7th Cir. 1996)
Section 1604.11 of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidelines explicitly describes such conduct:
Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when (1) submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or impliedly a term or condition of an individual’s employment, [or] submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting such individual. 29 C.F.R. §1604.11(a).

2) Hostile Work Environment
A plaintiff who alleges a hostile work environment in violation of Title VII must demonstrate that (a) the unwelcome conduct was of a sexual nature, (b) the conduct was directed at the plaintiff because of his or her sex, (c) the conduct was severe or pervasive enough to create a hostile work environment, and (d) there is a basis for employer liability. Roby v. CWI, Inc., 579 F.3d 779, 784 (7th Cir. 2009).

(legaltechdesigns.com)

 

CRIMINAL

Definitions of Crimes related to “Sexual Misconduct” in Illinois:

(720 ILCS 5/11-1.40) Predatory criminal sexual assault of a child.
(a) A person commits predatory criminal sexual assault of a child if that person is 17 years of age or older, and commits an act of contact, however slight, between the sex organ or anus of one person and the part of the body of another for the purpose of sexual gratification or arousal of the victim or the accused, or an act of sexual penetration, and the victim is under 13 years of age.

(720 ILCS 5/11-1.20) Criminal sexual assault.
(a) A person commits criminal sexual assault if that person commits an act of sexual penetration and:

(1) uses force or threat of force;
(2) knows that the victim is unable to understand the nature of the act or is unable to give knowing consent;
(3) is a family member of the victim, and the victim is under 18 years of age; or
(4) is 17 years of age or over and holds a position of trust, authority, or supervision in relation to the victim, and the victim is at least 13 years of age but under 18 years of age.

(720 ILCS 5/11-1.30) Aggravated Criminal Sexual Assault.

(a) A person commits aggravated criminal sexual assault if that person commits criminal sexual assault and any of the following aggravating circumstances exist during the commission of the offense or, for purposes of paragraph (7), occur as part of the same course of conduct as the commission of the offense:

(1) the person displays, threatens to use, or uses a dangerous weapon, other than a firearm, or any other object fashioned or used in a manner that leads the victim, under the circumstances, reasonably to believe that the object is a dangerous weapon;
(2) the person causes bodily harm to the victim, except as provided in paragraph (10);
(3) the person acts in a manner that threatens or endangers the life of the victim or any other person;
(4) the person commits the criminal sexual assault during the course of committing or attempting to commit any other felony;
(5) the victim is 60 years of age or older;
(6) the victim is a person with a physical disability;
(7) the person delivers (by injection, inhalation, ingestion, transfer of possession, or any other means) any controlled substance to the victim without the victim’s consent or by threat or deception for other than medical purposes;
(8) the person is armed with a firearm;
(9) the person personally discharges a firearm during the commission of the offense; or
(10) the person personally discharges a firearm during the commission of the offense, and that discharge proximately causes great bodily harm, permanent disability, permanent disfigurement, or death to another person.

(720 ILCS 5/11-1.60) Aggravated criminal sexual abuse.

(a) A person commits aggravated criminal sexual abuse if that person commits criminal sexual abuse and any of the following aggravating circumstances exist (i) during the commission of the offense or (ii) for purposes of paragraph (7), as part of the same course of conduct as the commission of the offense:

(1) the person displays, threatens to use, or uses a dangerous weapon or any other object fashioned or used in a manner that leads the victim, under the circumstances, reasonably to believe that the object is a dangerous weapon;
(2) the person causes bodily harm to the victim;
(3) the victim is 60 years of age or older;
(4) the victim is a person with a physical disability;
(5) the person acts in a manner that threatens or endangers the life of the victim or any other person;
(6) the person commits the criminal sexual abuse during the course of committing or attempting to commit any other felony; or
(7) the person delivers (by injection, inhalation, ingestion, transfer of possession, or any other means) any controlled substance to the victim for other than medical purposes without the victim’s consent or by threat or deception.
(b) A person commits aggravated criminal sexual abuse if that person commits an act of sexual conduct with a victim who is under 18 years of age and the person is a family member.
(c) A person commits aggravated criminal sexual abuse if:
(1) that person is 17 years of age or over and: (i) commits an act of sexual conduct with a victim who is under 13 years of age; or (ii) commits an act of sexual conduct with a victim who is at least 13 years of age but under 17 years of age and the person uses force or threat of force to commit the act; or
(2) that person is under 17 years of age and: (i) commits an act of sexual conduct with a victim who is under 9 years of age; or (ii) commits an act of sexual conduct with a victim who is at least 9 years of age but under 17 years of age and the person uses force or threat of force to commit the act.
(d) A person commits aggravated criminal sexual abuse if that person commits an act of sexual penetration or sexual conduct with a victim who is at least 13 years of age but under 17 years of age and the person is at least 5 years older than the victim.
(e) A person commits aggravated criminal sexual abuse if that person commits an act of sexual conduct with a victim who is a person with a severe or profound intellectual disability.
(f) A person commits aggravated criminal sexual abuse if that person commits an act of sexual conduct with a victim who is at least 13 years of age but under 18 years of age and the person is 17 years of age or over and holds a position of trust, authority, or supervision in relation to the victim.

(720 ILCS 5/11-1.50) Criminal sexual abuse.

(a) A person commits criminal sexual abuse if that person:
(1) commits an act of sexual conduct by the use of force or threat of force; or
(2) commits an act of sexual conduct and knows that the victim is unable to understand the nature of the act or is unable to give knowing consent.
(b) A person commits criminal sexual abuse if that person is under 17 years of age and commits an act of sexual penetration or sexual conduct with a victim who is at least 9 years of age but under 17 years of age.
(b) A person commits criminal sexual abuse if that person commits an act of sexual penetration or sexual conduct with a victim who is at least 13 years of age but under 17 years of age and the person is less than 5 years older than the victim.

(720 ILCS 5/11-6) Indecent solicitation of a child.

(a) A person of the age of 17 years and upwards commits indecent solicitation of a child if the person, with the intent that the offense of aggravated criminal sexual assault, criminal sexual assault, predatory criminal sexual assault of a child, or aggravated criminal sexual abuse be committed, knowingly solicits a child or one whom he or she believes to be a child to perform an act of sexual penetration or sexual conduct as defined in Section 11-0.1 of this Code.
(a-5) A person of the age of 17 years and upwards commits indecent solicitation of a child if the person knowingly discusses an act of sexual conduct or sexual penetration with a child or with one whom he or she believes to be a child by means of the Internet with the intent that the offense of aggravated criminal sexual assault, predatory criminal sexual assault of a child, or aggravated criminal sexual abuse be committed.

(720 ILCS 5/11-25) Grooming.

(a) A person commits grooming when he or she knowingly uses a computer on-line service, Internet service, local bulletin board service, or any other device capable of electronic data storage or transmission to seduce, solicit, lure, or entice, or attempt to seduce, solicit, lure, or entice, a child, a child’s guardian, or another person believed by the person to be a child or a child’s guardian, to commit any sex offense as defined in Section 2 of the Sex Offender Registration Act, to distribute photographs depicting the sex organs of the child, or to otherwise engage in any unlawful sexual conduct with a child or with another person believed by the person to be a child.

(720 ILCS 5/11-9.1) Sexual exploitation of a child.

(a) A person commits sexual exploitation of a child if in the presence or virtual presence, or both, of a child and with knowledge that a child or one whom he or she believes to be a child would view his or her acts, that person:
(1) engages in a sexual act; or
(2) exposes his or her sex organs, anus or breast for the purpose of sexual arousal or gratification of such person or the child or one whom he or she believes to be a child.
(a-5) A person commits sexual exploitation of a child who knowingly entices, coerces, or persuades a child to remove the child’s clothing for the purpose of sexual arousal or gratification of the person or the child, or both.

As the onslaught of allegations continue to permeate the media, it is important that public is aware of the varying definitions and aspects of the term “sexual misconduct” as it is easy to misconstrue what this term truly means. If you or someone you know has been charged or accused of sexual misconduct, it is imperative that contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to help you navigate through these complex issues. Contact Wigell Criminal Defense to speak to an experienced attorney to discuss your matter.

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