Sexual abuse

Sexual abuse is NEVER okay. You have the right to feel safe and protected. If you or someone you know has been sexually abused, there are services that you can go to for help.

For free and confidential legal advice about this topic, please contact us here.

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What is sexual abuse?

 

Sexual abuse is where someone does something sexual that makes you feel uncomfortable, or touches your body in a sexual way without your consent. 

In Queensland it is a crime to: 

  • have sexual intercourse with another person without their consent (rape)
  • penetrate the vulva, vagina or anus of another person with any thing or body part that is not a penis without their consent (rape)
  • penetrate someone’s mouth with the penis, without their consent (rape)
  • attempt to commit rape
  • touch another person sexually without their consent (sexual assault). This could include unwanted kissing or touching, such as groping. It can also involve threatening to touch someone in a sexual way without their consent. 
  • force or cause someone to take part in or witness a sexual act (sexual assault)
  • use threats or intimidation or fraud to force someone to engage in a sexual act
  • cause someone to take drugs with the intent to engage in a sexual act with that person.

There are also other laws that specifically apply to sexual behaviour towards children and young people, including:

  • sexually touching a child under 16 or allowing a person under 16 to sexually touch another person
  • causing a child under 16 to engage in or watch a sexual act
  • having or attempting to have sexual intercourse with a child under 16
  • maintaining a sexual relationship with a child under 16
  • using the internet to force or coerce a child under 16 to engage in a sexual act 
  • involving a child under 16 in making child exploitation material (for example, taking photos of children engaging in a sexual act or encouraging children to engage in a sexual act for the purpose of taking photos of them)
  • grooming a child under 16, which can occur where an adult (including a parent, carer or guardian) does something in order to engage a child in a sexual act or expose them to sexual material. 

What is consent?

 

Consent means a person freely and voluntarily agrees to sexual activity. It is against the law to do a sexual act to, or with, someone without their consent.

The legal age of consent in Queensland is 16. This means that a person under 16 years of age cannot consent to sexual activity. A person suffering from a serious mental or intellectual disability can also sometimes be incapable of consenting to sexual intercourse.

A child under the age of 12 can NEVER consent to sexual intercourse. 

In Queensland, there is a legal defence which can be raised when someone is charged with a sexual crime against someone who is under 16. This defence can apply if a person does a sexual act with someone aged 12-15 and they reasonably thought that person was aged 16 or older. However, raising a defence to a criminal charge can be complicated! 

Unlike some other states, there is no exception or legal defence in the law in Queensland which applies when two young people who are both under 16 and are the same age, or close in age, have sex. What this means is that it is not legal for two 15 year olds (or a 15 year old and a 13 year old) to have sex, because no-one under the age of 16 can legally consent to sex!

Consent is more complicated than just believing that the other person consented. For this reason, it’s always best to check. 

Even if someone says “yes”, there are some situations in which they still cannot consent. You cannot freely and voluntarily consent to sexual intercourse if: 

  • there is force involved; or
  • there’s threats or intimidation; or
  • there’s a fear of physical violence; or
  • the person is under the authority of the offender (such as a teacher or guardian); or
  • the offender makes a false representation about what the sexual act involves; or
  • the offender pretends to be the other person’s partner (such as their boyfriend or girlfriend).

If you are thinking of doing something sexual with someone else, it is really important that you also make sure you know how old the other person is, and check that they agree to the sexual act. You must take reasonable steps to make sure the other person consents. This might include:

  • asking the person what they want to do (for example, ‘Can I kiss you?’ or ‘Do you want to have sex, or do you want to wait?’)
  • looking at the other person’s body language to see if they look uncomfortable
  • making sure you are both in a good headspace (for example, being careful if you have taken drugs or are intoxicated so that you have a clear mind about whether the other person has consented)

Consent can be withdrawn at any time before or during a sexual act. It is also important to know that just because someone has consented in the past, it does not mean that they have given consent to anything in the future. Consent needs to be given every time you have sex or do something sexual with another person. 

You can find out more on our page on consent.

What can you do if you have been sexually abused?

 

If you are ever in immediate danger, please call the police straight away on 000 (triple zero). If you have been sexually abused, you have the right to be protected and you can report the abuse by calling your local police station. 

Sexual abuse is never okay. 

If you or someone you know has been sexually abused, there are services you can go to for help. We have provided this information below. 

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

You can find your local GP here or you can call Queensland Health for confidential and qualified health advice and information on 13 HEALTH (13 43 25 84). You can also visit their website here.

If you have been sexually abused, it is never your fault. If you feel comfortable, we encourage you to talk to someone you trust like a parent, family member, a close friend or a school counsellor about what happened. If you don’t want to tell anyone you know, you might feel more comfortable talking to a counsellor over the phone. You could call:

  • DVConnect Sexual Assault Helpline provides support for anyone who has, or thinks they may have been sexually assaulted or abused. You can contact the Sexual Assault Helpline 7.30am to 11.30pm 7 days a week on 1800 010 120.
  • DVConnect Womensline on 1800 811 811 (available 24/7). This service helps Queenslanders identifying as female who want to escape domestic violence or need other counselling, support and information.
  • DVConnect Mensline on 1800 600 636. This service offers free, confidential telephone counselling, referral, information and support service for Queenslanders identifying as male who may be experiencing or using domestic and family violence.
  • 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732. They are open 24 hours to support people impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence and abuse. You don’t need to give your name if you don’t want to, or you can give a different name.
  • The Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800 (this is a 24 hour service). They offer a very supportive service and you can talk to them without giving your name. You can also email them at: www.kidshelp.com.au/teens/get-help/email-counselling/ or use their online chat service for people aged 5-25 at: www.kidshelp.com.au/teens/get-help/web-counselling/.

You can also look for other local services that may be available to you here

If someone has said you sexually abused them or the police want to talk to you about something you did, you should seek legal advice right away. You can contact us here.

Reporting to police

 

If you have been sexually abused, you can make a report to the police. You can do this by going to your local police station, or ringing the police assistance line on 131 444 (open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week). If the abuse just happened, or if it is an emergency, please call the police on 000.

You can take a support person with you when you speak to police, such as a friend or family member. Sexual assault counsellors can also support you through the police process.

If you are the victim of sexual abuse, you do not have to make a report to police. It is your choice about whether, and if so when, you make a report to the police. There are no limits on when you can report sexual abuse to the police, even if the sexual abuse happened a long time ago.

However, if you are under 18, and you tell someone like a teacher or doctor what happened, they might have to make a report to the police as they are mandatory reporters.

If you are thinking about reporting to the police, but you aren’t sure if you are ready, it can be a good idea to write down everything you remember about what happened, so that you have those details if you do decide to report. Remember to keep these details in a safe place.

Compensation and assistance for victims

 

If you are the victim of sexual abuse in Queensland, there may be a number of different ways you can get compensation or assistance, depending on what happened to you. These include:

Victim Assist Queensland can provide up to $75,000 in financial support (depending on the type of crime and the harm caused) to victims of sexual abuse in Queensland as well as up to $500 for any legal costs the victim paid when applying. In order to be eligible for financial support as a victim of sexual abuse under this scheme, you must:

  • be the victim of a violent sexual act, such as rape or sexual assault that has happened in Queensland;
  • because of the violent act, have suffered an injury to your physical or mental health (including becoming pregnant or contracting a disease) or have suffered other impacts like a sense of violation, a reduced sense of worth, lost or reduced physical capacity, increased fear or feelings of insecurity, adverse effects in the way other people react to you or an adverse impact on your sexual relations or feelings;
  • have reported the sexual assault or rape to a doctor, counsellor, psychologist or the police; and
  • make an application for financial support within three years of the assault happening or, if you were under the age of 18 when the assault occurred, within 3 years of turning 18.

If you think you might want to apply for compensation, it is a good idea to talk to a lawyer to find out what your options are. You can contact us for free and confidential advice here.

Find out more

 

You can also find out more about sexual abuse by looking at these websites:

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

 

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