Assault is a serious accusation. It's a crime in which one person threatens harm to another in a convincing manner. Assault itself is not the act of violence; that's called battery. Battery is unlawful conduct of a physical nature. It can be unwelcome sexual contact or acts of violence.
Not all threats are considered to be assaults, so if you've been accused of assault, you can use that to your advantage. Threats intending to cause apprehension or threats that do cause apprehension are assault. That means that the person you're threatening needs to truly fear for his or her safety.
Here's an example. If someone looks at you and says she is going to kill you, that in itself isn't assault. If she holds up a lighter and lighter fluid, that would cause you to pause and potentially worry about your safety. You might think the individual actually intends to injure you, which constitutes an assault.
Another example that is more likely would be receiving a threat that someone is going to beat you up for talking to his or her boyfriend or girlfriend. The threat itself doesn't mean much unless that individual shows up at your workplace unsolicited with a group of friends or takes the threat further by flashing a knife at you in a threatening manner.
To be convicted of assault, there has to be an intentional use of threatening behavior. If you're unaware that you're being threatening or did not intent to hurt another person, then it would be difficult for a jury or judge to convict you in court. An attorney can provide more information.
Source: FindLaw, "Elements of Assault," accessed Aug. 16, 2017