Sexual Assault


The term “sexual assault” is often used to describe unwanted sexual contact or behavior when a victim did not consent or was unable to consent. Consent for sexual activity can be withdrawn at any time. Something that started as consensual can turn into a crime if the withdrawal of consent is not respected.

“Consent” is a choice where a person agrees, by free will, to engage in sexual acts.  Consent is not automatic if a person is, or has been, in a relationship with someone.  Submission is not the same as consent, if a person submits (gives in) to a sex act out of fear, it does not mean consent was given.  Consent cannot be given by someone who is asleep, intoxicated (drunk) or drugged, unconscious, forced, threatened, or by someone who is unable to communicate, is too young to consent, or who is cognitively impaired. 

The Colorado law defining consent is here.

Sexual crimes are crimes of power and control. They are never the victim’s fault. 

Colorado has laws against “Unlawful Sexual Behavior”, which include crimes of Sexual Assault and Unlawful Sexual Contact.  Colorado laws address:

  • Penetration of the victim’s body, commonly called rape
  • Attempted rape
  • Forcing someone to perform sexual acts
  • Fondling or unwanted sexual touching

Sexual crimes are usually carried out by someone the victim knows. For example, a partner or spouse, family member, friend, acquaintance, or coworker. Sometimes sexual crimes are carried out by strangers.

Sometimes people use the word “rape” to mean different things. In Colorado the legal term used to describe rape is Sexual Assault.

Sexual Assault can happen with no physical force. Offenders may use threats. For example, offenders may threaten to hurt victims or their families in order to get a victim to cooperate. While a victim may say “yes” in this scenario, this is not consent.  

If you or someone you know needs help on this topic, click here to find local and national agencies that may be able to help.

To see Colorado statutes on Sexual Assault and Unlawful Sexual Behavior, click here.