Sexual assault

In 2016, the police reported  23,052 cases of sexual assault across Australia. The highest rates of sexual assault are against teenage girls aged 15-19 years. The figure marks a 24 per cent increase in the number of recorded sexual assault victims since 2011. Women and girls made up 82% of sexual assault victims in 2015.

In the ACT, 256 victims of sexual assault were recorded in 2016.  

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What is sexual assault?

Sexual assault is sexual intercourse that happens without your consent. On this page, sexual intercourse means when a penis or other body part, such as fingers, or an object is fully or partially inside another person’s vagina, anus or mouth AND ALSO includes when another person’s tongue is fully or partially inside another person’s vagina or anus.

Sexual assault can occur in different situations. For example, it can occur when you are in a relationship and when you are having sex and ask to stop but the other person doesn’t. If the other person is your family member, teacher or someone else you know, this will also be sexual assault.

Sexual assault is against the law and is a serious crime.

If someone has touched you or acted in a sexual way without your consent (without intercourse), this is also a serious crime and against the law. We strongly encourage you to speak to someone at the organisations listed below. 

What is consent?

Consent means free agreement (meaning that you haven’t been forced to agree and that you continue to agree). You cannot consent to any sexual behaviour if you are under the age of 16.

If you are over the age of 16 but under the age of 18, you cannot consent to any sexual activity with any person who is in charge of your care and safety. This includes guardians, teachers, youth workers, employers, instructors or health professionals like your doctor.

A person also does not consent if:

  • they are not capable of understanding the act;
  • they are unconscious or asleep
  • they are so affected by drug and alcohol that they are not capable of consenting;
  • they are mistaken about the sexual nature of the act or think it is for medicinal or hygienic purposes;
  • they consent because they are afraid of harm either to them or someone else; or
  • they consent because they are being held against their will.

For more information about consent, please see our page on sex.

What can you do if you have been sexually assaulted?

If you are in immediate danger, we recommended you call 000.

If you have been sexually assaulted, you have the right to be protected and you should report it to the police.

We also recommend that if you have been sexually assaulted you get medical care.  A doctor can test and treat you for any sexually transmitted infections, carry out a forensic examination (if you were assaulted very recently and you wish to report the crime to the police) and provide information on sexual assault and follow-up services.

You should not feel ashamed because you have been sexually assaulted. Sexual abuse is an abuse of power and a betrayal of trust and the abuser is 100% responsible for their behaviour. You should talk to someone you trust like a parent, a family member, a trusted friend or a school counsellor. Or call the Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800 (this is a 24 hour service). They offer a very supportive service and they keep everything confidential. You can also email them at here or use their online chat service for people aged 5-25 here.

If you don’t feel comfortable telling someone you know there are a number of Sexual Assault Victims Services that can provide you with help. These include:

Victim's compensation

If you have been sexually assaulted, you are entitled to financial compensation offered by the ACT government’s Victims of Crime Financial Assistance Schemes (ACT).

As a direct victim, you may be eligible for up to $50,000 in this kind of assistance. However you must report the crime to police and apply for compensation within three years of the assault, or by the time you turn 21 if you were under 18 when you were assaulted.

The payments cover immediate emergency needs to help you recover, counselling expenses, and in some cases recognition payments for trauma you’ve suffered.

If you were sexually assaulted before July 1, 2016, you can apply for a Special Assistance payment, instead of a ‘recognition payment’, of up to $50,000 for pain and suffering caused by the assault. To be considered for this kind of payment, the Financial Assistance Scheme team requires a report from a psychologist or psychiatrist outlining the impact the crime has had on you.

All applications for victims of crime financial assistance should be made to Victim Support ACT.   

You may contact the Financial Assistance Scheme team with any queries via phone or email:

Personal Injury Damages – No Time Limit for Suing over Childhood Sexual Assault

As of 2016, there are no longer any time limits on when a person who was sexually assaulted as a child can seek personal injury compensation through the civil courts.

If you’re under 25 and you have a question about sexual assault that we haven’t answered here, please ask us a question here and we can give you some free information and advice.

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The law is different in each state and territory. Please select your state or territory to view legal information that applies to you.