What You Need to Know About Wisconson Sexual Assault Laws

(TW: sexual assault, abuse, rape)

Sexual assault is just one of several sex crimes, and understanding laws pertaining to sexual assault can provide valuable insight into protecting yourself and others. Here is what you need to know about Wisconsin sexual assault laws.

What is Sexual Assault in Wisconsin?

Wisconsin Penal Law Article 940 defines the legal terms which constitute sexual assault. Wisconson defines sexual assault as any sexual contact involving the following:

  • Forcible Compulsion – “To compel” by use of either physical force or a threat can occur explicitly or implicitly, causing the victim to fear for their safety or the safety of another
  • Mentally Disabled – A mental disease or defect rendering an individual incapable of assessing the dynamic of the sexual conduct in which she or he is engaged
  • Mentally Incapacitated – A narcotic-induced or intoxicated state rendering the individual incapable of assessing the sexual conduct in which she or he is engaged

Related: Sexual Coercion vs Sexual Assault: What’s the Difference?

Lack of Consent in Wisconson

Consent is a critical aspect of sexual intercourse, and any sexual contact without consent is considered to be a sex crime in the United States. An individual may not give consent either willingly or by default, and lack of consent may result from:

  • Forcible compulsion,
  • Incapacity to consent, and/or
  • Any circumstances of sexual abuse or forcible touching.

In context to sexual activity, consent refers to expressing affirmation with regards to the specific sexual activity in question. Many individuals understand consent as a conditional affirmation under four paradigms. According to them, consent must be:


All consent must be clear, not just implied. Consent requires verbal and affirmative confirmation, and ambiguous body language or silence can never constitute consent.


Any individual engaging in sexual activities must be alert and sober in order to provide consent. If an individual is intoxicated or unconscious, they are incapable of giving consent, and thusly sexual advances may constitute sexual assault. Do not engage in sexual activity with someone who cannot coherently provide consent.

Freely Given

Consent must always be voluntary, which means to say that the individual is not being pressured into sexual activity. Forcing an individual into consent by using fear, guilt, and coercion force is not okay, and using any of these tactics to engage in sexual activity may constitute sexual assault.


Consent must be continuous throughout the sexual interaction and may be revoked at any time. In addition, just because an individual consented previously to an act or consented to another sexual act does not constitute consent to all sexual acts. The other person may withdraw their consent at any time during the sexual encounter. If your partner seems uncomfortable during the interaction or expresses that they do not want to continue, they no longer consent to the sexual activity.

Wisconson does not consider an individual capable of consent if they are:

  • Under 17 years old,
  • Mentally disabled,
  • Mentally incapacitated,
  • Physically helpless, and/or
  • Under state custody or care

Sexual Assault Classifications

First-Degree Sexual Assault

First degree sexual assault is defined as any sexual contact or intercourse with an individual without their consent that causes pregnancy or serious physical injury in which a dangerous weapon is involved and/or the assault was done by threat or acts of violence.

Second-Degree Sexual Assault

Sexual contact or sex under any of the following circumstances:

  • Use or threat of force or violence
  • Causing injury, disease, reproductive impairment, or mental anguish
  • Sexual contact or sex with a mentally-ill, intoxicated, or unconscious person
  • Being aided by one or more person(s)
  • An employee of an adult family home, community-based residential facility, an in-patient health care facility, or a state treatment facility who has sexual conduct with a patient or resident of the facility
  • An employee of a child welfare agency, foster home, or shelter or a direct care or treatment services hospital or home health agency who has sexual conduct with a client at the facility
  • A correctional officer;or prison volunteer who has sexual contact or sex with an inmate (unless the person was sexually assaulted by the inmate)
  • A probation or parole officer who has intercourse or sexual contact with the individual on parole or probation who’s supervised by him or her or a subordinate

Third-Degree Sexual Assault

Third degree sexual assault is defined as any intercourse or contact involving emission by either party without the other party’s consent for sexual humiliation or gratification.

Related: Sexual Assault Statute of Limitations By State (Civil & Criminal)

Fourth-Degree Sexual Assault

Fourth degree sexual assault is defined as any sexual contact involving touching, with or without clothing, for sexual humiliation or gratification.

Sexual misconduct may be classified as either a felony or a misdemeanor depending on the specifics of the case. The Wisconson penal code outlines the qualifications for each of the below felonies, and the consequences are as follows:

  • Class A Felony – Life imprisonment
  • Class B Felony – Imprisonment for up to 60 years
  • Class C Felony – Imprisonment for up to 40 years and a fine up to $100,000
  • Class F Felony – Imprisonment for up to 12.5 years and a fine up to $25,000
  • Class G Felony – Imprisonment up to 10 years and a fine up to $25,000
  • Class A Misdemeanor – Imprisonment up to 9 months and a fine up to $10,000


Here is a list of nationwide resources for sexual assault survivors:

  • 800-799-7233 National Domestic Violence Hotline
  • 1-866-331-9474 National Dating Abuse Hotline
  • 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453) National Child Abuse Hotline/Childhelp
  • 1-800-656-4673 (HOPE) National Sexual Assault Hotline
  • 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
  • In addition to the national resources for sexual assault, Wisconson provides resources for sexual assault survivors as well as assorted protection programs. If you are a sexual assault survivor, it is critical for you to reach out and get help as soon as possible.

Contact Us

If you or a loved one would like to learn more about Wisconson Sexual Assault Laws, get connected to an attorney with one of our Women’s Rights Attorneys in Wisconson today!