What is sexual assault?
Sexual assault is a broad term that covers a number of non-consensual sexually related crimes. If someone has sexually assaulted you, you may not know what to do, but there is help available on many levels.
For the purposes of this post, sexual assault includes non-consensual sexual intercourse, aggravated sexual assault, indecent assault, acts of indecency and incest. This post doesn’t address sexual assault against children under 16 years of age.
Sexual intercourse includes penetration into the vagina or anus of any person with any part of the body of another person or object. It also includes cunnilingus and penetration of the penis into another person’s mouth.
Aggravated sexual assault is non-consensual sexual intercourse in threatening, violent or other aggravating circumstances. This includes but is not limited to, sexual assault after forcibly entering someone’s home or sexual assault in a group.
Indecent assault is non-consensual sexual contact or the threat of sexual contact. For example, touching a person’s breasts or genitals.
Acts of indecency are forcibly doing acts of a sexual nature to someone or forcing them to perform sexual acts on a person. For example, masturbating in front of someone.
Incest is sexual intercourse between close family members who are both 16 years of age or over.
How do I know if I gave consent?
Australian law holds that you are unable to give consent to sexual activities if you are:
- Younger than 16 years of age
- Asleep or unconscious
- Intoxicated or under the influence of drugs
- Unable to understand what you are consenting to
- Intimidated, coerced, tricked or threatened
- Held against your will
- Submitting because the perpetrator is in a position of trust and authority
Scenario myth busting
“What if I liked the person?”
Liking a person or being interested in them sexually does not entitle them to commit a sexual act without your consent.
“I said yes and then changed my mind”
You are free to give consent and then change your mind part way through a sexual act. As soon as you remove your consent, the sexual act must cease.
“I was wearing a short skirt and a crop top”
What you were or weren’t wearing at the time of a sexual assault has no bearing on the crime. It is not a defence for a perpetrator to say that someone was “asking for it” by wearing revealing clothing.
“I had consensual sexual relations with the person beforehand or at a later date”
If you didn’t consent to a sexual act, that constitutes sexual assault. A prior or later consensual sexual act does not remove or ‘undo’ the crime that has been committed.
“What if I’m in a relationship or married to someone?”
Your relationship status also has no bearing on the crime. Consent is required for all sexual activity. A non-consensual act between people in a relationship or marriage still constitutes sexual assault.
“I’m a man, will I be taken seriously?”
Whilst sexual assault is more commonly perpetrated against women and children, it can happen to anyone. If you are a man (or you identify as another gender) who has experienced sexual assault, you have the same rights as any other victim.
“I feel so ashamed”
Unfortunately, many victims feel a sense of shame after sexual assault. Victims of sexual assault are never responsible for the act/s of the perpetrator. There is no need to feel ashamed. The perpetrator has committed the crime.
Reporting the crime
If you have experienced sexual assault, it is advisable to report it to the police as soon as you can. By reporting the crime within 72 hours of it occurring, the police have the best chance of recovering forensic evidence to use to convict the perpetrator. You may also choose to have the forensic evidence collected and then consider later whether to press charges.
However, you may report sexual assault anytime after it happened (even many years after), but it can be more difficult for the police to gather sufficient evidence to prove the perpetrator committed the sexual assault.
- NSW: NSW Department of Justice Victims Services and Support.
- VIC: Sexual Assault Crisis Line.
- QLD: Sexual Assault Helpline.
- WA: Sexual Assault Resource Centre (SARC).
- SA: Yarrow Place.
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