Sexual assault on an adult

Verified 10 August 2023 - Legal and Administrative Information Directorate (Prime Minister)

Safe sexual assault is a non-penetration sexual assault committed on a person without their consent. This is a offense punished by law. Any victim of sexual assault in France can alert the emergency services and file a complaint with the police or gendarmerie.


This page presents the situation of sexual assault on an adult.

If the sexual assault is committed on a victim under the age of 18, the applicable rules are different.

Sexual assault is a sexual assault committed against a person with violence, coercion, threat or surprise, that is, without their consent.

Sexual assault is physical contact of a sexual nature between the victim and the perpetrator.

The constraint may be physical or moral.

It doesn't have to be violence to qualify it as sexual assault. It suffices that the victim did not consent, or that it was not in a position to give a clear answer.


Imposing a sexual act on a person is a sexual assault even if people are in couples. He may therefore be sexually assaulted between spouses, cohabiting partners or Civil partnerships: titleContent.

Sexual assault occurs in the following situations:

  • Touching someone who has been severely beaten by their abuser (violent sexual assault)
  • Touching a person who is being forcibly held in a closed space but not beaten (sexual assault with physical coercion)
  • Touching of a worker by his hierarchical superior, particularly as a result of sexual harassment (sexual assault with moral restraint)
  • Touching someone by an armed assailant (sexual assault with threat)
  • Touching someone who is sleeping, under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or who is vulnerable due to their health (sexual assault with surprise)


as soon as there has been penetration, we are not talking about sexual assault, but about rape.

If a person has attempted to assault a victim but has failed to do so because of something beyond the victim's control (for example, the victim has defended themselves or a third party has intervened), this is referred to as attempted sexual assault.

Attempted sexual assault is punishable by the same penalties as sexual assault.

Alert the police and gendarmerie by phone

In case of emergency, and only in this situation, it is possible to alert the police or gendarmerie by telephone call, or by SMS, if you are unable to speak.

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By telephone

In case of emergency, when a quick intervention is necessary, you can call the emergency police. Dial 17.

You can also contact the 112.

Who shall I contact
Who shall I contact

You can't call

114 is the emergency call relay service if you are unable to speak on the phone (deaf, hard of hearing ...) or if it could put you in danger.

Who shall I contact

Alert the police and gendarmerie via instant messaging

An instant messenger (chat) allows you to chat with a police officer or a member of the gendarmerie. Chat history can be deleted from your computer, mobile phone or tablet at any time.

Report rape or sexual assault

Alert Transit Security Officers

If you are victim or witness of an assault on public transport, you can contact an agent 24 hours a day, by phone at 3117 or send a text message to 31177.

You can also download the 3117 app.

Thus, the victim is located more quickly and the triggering of the intervention of the agents is facilitated.

Form of complaint 

If you want the perpetrator of your sexual assault to be prosecuted, you can lodge a complaint.

On the spot

You can go to a police station or a gendarme brigade of your choice.

Who shall I contact

You may not be refused the receipt of the complaint.

The police or gendarmerie refer the complaint to the public prosecutor.

By mail

You can file a complaint with the public prosecutor.

To do this, you must send an email to the court of law of the place of the offense or of the domicile of the offender.

Who shall I contact

Your mail should include the following:

  • Your marital status and full contact information (address and telephone number)
  • Detailed account of the facts, date and place of the offense
  • Name of the alleged perpetrator if known (otherwise, the complaint will be filed against X)
  • Names and addresses of any witnesses to the offense
  • Description and provisional or definitive estimate of the damage
  • Your proof documents: medical certificates, work stoppages, miscellaneous invoices, findings...
  • Your eventual willingness to become a civil party

You can use the following mail template:

File a complaint with the public prosecutor

You can send your complaint by registered letter with acknowledgement of receipt, by simple letter or by letter followed.

You can also file your complaint directly at the courthouse.

In any case, a receipt is given to you as soon as the Public Prosecutor's Office has registered your complaint.

The presence of a lawyer is not mandatory for the lodging of a complaint and throughout the procedure until the trial before the correctional court.

Deadline for filing a complaint 

You have 6 years from the date of the facts to lodge a complaint.

After that time, your sexual assault complaint will no longer be admissible. This is called the limitation period.

Several structures can provide you with support as a victim of a sexual offense.

The site Victims' Journey guides you through each step.

Who shall I contact
Who shall I contact

Initiation of an investigation

If the public prosecutor was informed of the sexual assault, he could decide to open an investigation and prosecute the perpetrator.

The public prosecutor can make this decision even if you have not filed a complaint.

Collection of evidence

Different kinds of evidence

Apart from DNA traces and possible injuries, all other evidence you yourself have collected can be examined by the court.

It can be testimonials, sms captures, emails, recordings of conversations even without the author's knowledge, clothes.

Medical evidence

It is important to preserve all clues (fingerprints, DNA traces...) that could be used to identify the perpetrator and obtain his conviction in court.

Clothing worn at the time of the assault should be kept and washing should be avoided.

At the request of the police or gendarmes, you can be examined by a doctor. Doctors examine any injuries and look for DNA. They can also look for any trace of drugs that may have been delivered to you by the perpetrator of the sexual assault (GHB type or rapist's drug). The doctor must issue you a medical certificate that indicates whether you have any injuries or not.

Aids screening and, if necessary, pregnancy testing may be done.

Right to counsel

If you are a victim of sexual assault, you have the right to be assisted by a lawyer at all stages of the legal process.

Your lawyer can be present at all confrontations between you and the person suspected of committing the sexual assault, and at all your hearings by the police or by the judge.

Who shall I contact

Please note

you can get financial help to pay your legal fees, thanks to legal aid, if you meet the resource requirements.

You can get advice on the preparation of your case and on legal aid from the house of justice and the law.

If the investigating judge considers that there is sufficient evidence to consider a sexual assault, the case will be referred to the correctional court.

Public Hearing

In principle, trials before the correctional court are public, meaning that anyone can attend the hearings.

But even if the trial is public, it is forbidden to disseminate your image and information about your identity. without your written consent.

Failure to comply with this rule shall be punishable by a fine of €15,000.

In camera possible at the request of the victim

If you want the trial is not public, so it is possible to request that there be in the room only those directly involved in the case (victims, accused, witnesses...).

It's called in camera.

The court can accept your request and order it to go in camera, but it is not obliged to do so.

Basic sentence

The perpetrator of a sexual assault faces a penalty of up to 5 years imprisonment and €75,000 fine.

This penalty may be increased when the sexual assault was committed with aggravating circumstances.

Penalties in aggravating circumstances

In the event of aggravating circumstances, the penalty may be increased to 7 years of imprisonment and €100,000 fine.

This is the case, for example, in the following situations:

  • Assault resulting in injury or injury or total incapacity for work for more than 8 days
  • Assault committed by a person who abuses the authority conferred on him by his duties (police officer, judge, etc.)
  • Assault by several persons acting as perpetrator or accomplice
  • Assault with the use or threat of use of a weapon
  • Assault on a person engaged in prostitution, including occasionally, in the exercise of that activity
  • Assault in the presence of minor children
  • Assault by a ascendant or a person having authority over the victim (employer, teacher, etc.)
  • Assault by a person who has been put in contact with the victim via the internet
  • Assault by the victim's spouse, partner, or Civil partnership partner
  • Assault by a person who was under the influence of alcohol or narcotics
  • Assault by a person who drugged the victim
  • Assault on the basis of the sexual orientation or gender identity (real or perceived) of the victim
  • Assault on a particularly vulnerable person whose situation is apparent or known to the perpetrator (age, illness, disability, physical or mental impairment, pregnancy status and social or economic precariousness)

Additional penalties

The judge may decide to sentence the perpetrator to one or more of the following additional penalties:

  • Injunction of care in the context of socio-judicial follow-up
  • Prohibition of stay in certain places (e.g. the home of the victim) for up to 10 years
  • Prohibition of working with minors either permanently or for a maximum of 10 years

Criminal record

The conviction for sexual assault is recorded in the convicted person's criminal record, unless the court decides otherwise.

In all cases, the name of the person convicted of sexual assault will be recorded in the sex offenders index.

There are three ways to claim compensation for a sexual assault: