Sexual assault

In 2015, the police reported 21,380 cases of sexual assault, of which 21% involved children aged 10 to 14 years. Female victims aged 15-19 have the highest sexual assault rate of any age group.

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What is sexual assault?

Sexual assault is against the law and is a serious crime. Offenders can get up to life in prison if found guilty. Sexual assault is when a person has sexual intercourse with another person without their consent. In Queensland, sexual assault can involve the following situations:

  • When a person penetrates someone’s vagina, anus or mouth with their penis without the other person’s consent; or
  • When a person penetrates someone’s vagina or anus with an object or any part of the person’s body without the other person’s consent

This means that sexual assault involves:

  • No consent: meaning the other person does not want to have sex; and
  • Penetration: meaning that a penis has been inserted into someone’s vagina, anus or mouth, or an object/any other body part has been inserted into someone’s vagina or anus.

It is also an offence if a person attempts to rape another person or if a person assaults another person with the intention to commit rape.

What is indecent assault?

Sexual assault involves any inappropriate sexual act that does not involve penetrating someone’s vagina, anus or mouth with a penis or object. Sexual assault involves:

  • A person indecently touches someone or threatens to touch another person without their consent; or
  • A person forces another person, without their consent, to commit an act of indecency or witness an act of indecency.

Sexual assault generally includes behaviour such as unwanted kissing or touching, such as groping. It also involves threatening to touch someone in an inappropriate way. Sexual assault also includes forcing someone to watch inappropriate acts or engage in inappropriate acts such as masturbating in front of someone without their consent.

There are no limitations on when you can report and have a sexual assaulted investigated if you were under the age of 18 years when the assault happened. The law was recently changed so that child victims of sexual assault can still bring a claim even if the abuse happened a long time ago.

What is consent?

Consent means to freely and voluntarily agree to have sex with someone. 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
  • If there’s threats or intimidation; or
  • If there’s a fear of physical violence; or
  • If the person is under the authority of the offender (such as a teacher or guardian); or
  • If the offenders make a false representation about what the act involves; or
  • If the offender pretends to be the other person’s partner (such as their boyfriend or girlfriend).

In Queensland, a person under the age of 16 cannot consent to sexual intercourse unless you consent AND they believed you were over the age of 16).

A person under the age of 12 can NEVER consent to sexual intercourse. A person suffering from a serious mental or intellectual disability is also not capable of consenting to sexual intercourse.

It is also important to note that just because someone has consented in the past, it does not mean that they have given consent forever. Consent needs to be given every time you have sex.

Is there a limit on bringing a civil claim for sexual assault?

There are no limitations on when you can report and have a sexual assaulted investigated if you were under the age of 18 years when the assault happened. The law was recently changed so that child victims of sexual assault can still bring a claim even if the abuse happened a long time ago.

What can you do if you have been sexually assaulted?

If you are in immediate danger, we recommended you call 000. You have a right to be protected and you should report it to the police.

We also strongly 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. Also, there are always people you can talk to who can help.  You should not feel ashamed because you have been sexually assaulted. You should talk to someone you trust like a parent, a family member, a trusted friend or a school counsellor.

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

  • State-wide Sexual Assault Helpline: Provides support for anyone aged 12/13 and over.
    • The Queensland State-wide Sexual Assault Helpline 7.30am to 11.30pm 7 days a week on 1800 010 120 (for women) or 1800 600 626 (for men)
  • You can also view any local services available to you here. You can also find your local GP here or you can call Queensland Health for confidential and qualified health advice on 13 HEALTH (13 43 25 84). You can also visit their website here.
  • 1800 Respect: For information, support and counselling you can talk to someone at this national sexual assault counselling service by calling 1800 737 732 at any time or using their online counselling here.

Victim's compensation

If you have suffered a rape or sexual assault you can apply to Victim Assist Queensland to get financial help. This service can give provide up to $750,000 in financial support (depending on the type of crime and the harm caused) as well as $500 to help with applying. In order to be eligible, you must:

  • Be the victim of a crime. This includes rape and sexual assault and,
  • Suffered physically or psychologically from the crime and,
  • Have reported it to the police. If you are a ‘special primary victim’ (under the age of 18, have an impairment or were injured by someone in a position of power or trust) you must have reported it to a doctor, counsellor, psychologist or the police and,
  • Made a claim within three years or, if you were under the age of 18 when the harm occurred, within 3 years of turning 18.

This is a complex area and it is recommended that you get assistance if you decide to lodge an application. You can call or contact Victim Assist Queensland for help. Their contact details are:

  • Phone: 1300 546 587
  • Address: Level 6 154 Melbourne Street, South Brisbane 4101

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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