Indecent assault is an assault of a sexual nature. It involves unwanted sexual contact such as touching someone's private areas without that person's consent. In some regions of the world, the term “sexual assault” is used to describe this act. Some regions also distinguish between assault and battery, in which case people may be charged with indecent assault and battery, meaning that they threatened (assaulted) the victim and engaged in unwanted contact (battery).
According to the law, in order to be considered indecent assault, any reasonable person must deem the contact to be indecent in nature. The law does not spell out the myriad forms which this crime can take, instead trusting the legal system to judge whether or not a given situation meets the standard. For example, a man who rubs against a woman in a train for the purpose of deriving sexual pleasure is committing indecent assault, but a man who accidentally brushes a woman in a crowded train is not.
The contact involved in an indecent assault must be deliberate in nature and without justification. This excuses situations in which unwanted touch is genuinely accidental, as in the train example above, and in situations in which there is a justifiable reason to touch someone in a way which might be deemed indecent in other circumstances. For example, a doctor performing an exam with the permission of a patient is not committing indecent assault as there is a justifiable reason for the contact and it is occurring with consent.
Any type of sexual contact which is unwanted is considered indecent assault. The perpetrator does not have to physically force the victim to submit to the contact; the threat of violence can be enough, as can simply touching someone without asking permission, in which case the victim does not even have an opportunity to refuse the contact. The same standards hold true for rape; rape victims do not have to show evidence of the use of physical force to prosecute their attackers.
Sexual assault is an ongoing problem in many regions of the world. In some regions, specific initiatives have been developed to address this problem, such as offering gender segregated train cars to limit groping, providing educational outreach in schools, and promoting safe transport for college students who might be traveling late at night or in dangerous neighborhoods. Some of these programs have been criticized for being reactive rather than proactive, with initiatives responding to an established threat rather than trying to prevent the emergence of threats.