Is Verbal Abuse Considered a Form of Assault?
The answer will depend on the context and circumstances involved in the situation. The main consideration boils down to a threat of harm and whether a reasonable person would consider it a threat of harm or not based on all the factors present.
Verbal assault usually involves threatening physical violence on someone, although sometimes yelling or aggressively using words to offend or attack someone can constitute verbal assault. The threats must be something the assailant is capable of carrying out, and which cause fear of imminent danger to the victim.
Please see the following WA statutes:
Sec. 1 RCW 9A.36.080 and 2009 c 180 s 1 are each amended to read as
(1) A person is guilty of malicious harassment if he or she
maliciously and intentionally commits one of the following acts because
of his or her perception of the victim's race, color, religion,
ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, or mental,
physical, or sensory handicap:
(a) Causes physical injury to the victim or another person;
(b) Causes physical damage to or destruction of the property of the
victim or another person; or
(c) Threatens a specific person or group of persons and places that
person, or members of the specific group of persons, in reasonable fear of
harm to person or property. The fear must be a fear that a reasonable
person would have under all the circumstances. For purposes of this
section, a "reasonable person" is a reasonable person who is a member of
the victim's race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, or
sexual orientation, or who has the same mental, physical, or sensory
handicap as the victim. Words alone do not constitute malicious
harassment unless the context or circumstances surrounding the words
indicate the words are a threat. Threatening words do not constitute
malicious harassment if it is apparent to the victim that the person does
not have the ability to carry out the threat.
(2) In any prosecution for malicious harassment, unless evidence
exists which explains to the trier of fact's satisfaction that the person
did not intend to threaten the victim or victims, the trier of fact may
infer that the person intended to threaten a specific victim or group of
victims because of the person's perception of the victim's or victims'
race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual
orientation, or mental, physical, or sensory handicap if the person
commits one of the following acts:
(a) Burns a cross on property of a victim who is or whom the actor
perceives to be of African American heritage; or
(b) Defaces property of a victim who is or whom the actor perceives
to be of Jewish heritage by defacing the property with a swastika.
This subsection only applies to the creation of a reasonable
inference for evidentiary purposes. This subsection does not restrict the
state's ability to prosecute a person under subsection (1) of this
section when the facts of a particular case do not fall within (a) or (b)
of this subsection.
(3) It is not a defense that the accused was mistaken that the victim
was a member of a certain race, color, religion, ancestry, national
origin, gender, or sexual orientation, or had a mental, physical, or
(4) Evidence of expressions or associations of the accused may not be
introduced as substantive evidence at trial unless the evidence
specifically relates to the crime charged. Nothing in this chapter shall
affect the rules of evidence governing impeachment of a witness.
(5) Every person who commits another crime during the commission of a
crime under this section may be punished and prosecuted for the other
(6) For the purposes of this section:
(a) "Sexual orientation" for the purposes of this section has the
same meaning as in RCW 49.60.040.
(b) "Threat" means to communicate, directly or indirectly, the intent
(i) Cause bodily injury immediately or in the future to the person
threatened or to any other person; or
(ii) Cause physical damage immediately or in the future to the property
of a person threatened or that of any other person.
(7) Malicious harassment is a class C felony.
(8) The penalties provided in this section for malicious harassment
do not preclude the victims from seeking any other remedies otherwise
available under law.
(9) Nothing in this section confers or expands any civil rights or
protections to any group or class identified under this section, beyond
those rights or protections that exist under the federal or state
Constitution or the civil laws of the state of Washington.
RCW 9A.36.070 (1) A person is guilty of coercion if by use of a threat he
(1) A person is guilty of coercion if by use of a threat he compels or
induces a person to engage in conduct which the latter has a legal right to
abstain from, or to abstain from conduct which he has a legal right to
(2) "Threat" as used in this section means:
(a) To communicate, directly or indirectly, the intent immediately to use
force against any person who is present at the time; or
(b) Threats as defined in [*] RCW 9A.04.110(25) (a), (b), or (c).
(3) Coercion is a gross misdemeanor.