Sexual assault

Sexual assault is a serious issue and it is important to know you are not alone. In 2016, 23,052 victims of sexual assault were recorded in Australia. That is equal to 1 victim of sexual assault per 1,000 persons. The 2016 figure represents a 24 per cent increase from 2011. Female victims of sexual assault aged 15–19 have the highest victimisation rate of any age group.

In Tasmania, police recorded 213 victims of sexual assault in 2016, an increase of 15 per cent from 2015. Girls and women accounted for 88 per cent of all sexual assault victims recorded in Tasmania. This is the largest proportion of female victims of sexual assault across Australia. Just under a quarter (24 per cent) of all sexual assault victims in Tasmania were aged between 15 and 19 years. The majority of victims (86 per cent) knew their offender.  

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What is sexual assault?

Sexual assault is any sexual behaviour without your consent.  It includes having unlawful sex with someone under 17, any indecent act with someone under 17, persuading someone under 17 you to have sex with another person and threatening or tricking anyone you know into unlawful sex, rape and incest. It includes behaviour that does not involve actual touching.

For example, if someone talks to someone under 17 you over Facebook with an intention to persuade you into performing sexual acts, or to see anything that is sexual material, this is illegal. Another situation is if the other person is your family member this will also be sexual assault.

Sexual assault is against the law and is a serious crime. If you or anyone you know has experienced sexual assault please contact the police immediately on 000 to report the crime.

What is consent?

It is against the law to do a sexual act to or with someone without their consent. If you do not give your consent, it is illegal. Consent means you freely agree to be involved with the sexual actEven if you do not say anything this does not mean you have freely agreed to the sexual activity. If you agree to do something because you have been forced, threatened or kept against your will this does not mean you have given your free consent and the sexual assault is against the law. There is no consent if you have a serious mental or intellectual disability that affects your ability to understand what is happening. Also, there is no consent if you were confused about what the act was or who the person was. If you were asleep or under the effects of alcohol or drugs this does not mean you have given your consent.

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 then you should 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.

Who can you talk to?

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. Alternatively, you can 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 experienced sexual assault, you can apply for Victims of Crime Assistance, provided you have reported the assault to police.

A Criminal Injuries Compensation Officer will examine your situation to determine whether you qualify, and how much assistance you are entitled to.

More information is available at the Justice Department’s Victims Support Services website here. You can download an application form from that site.

It is important to note that time limits apply for claiming financial assistance as a victim of crime. If you were over 18 at the time of the assault, an application for financial assistance should be lodged within three years from the date of the offence.

If you were under 18 when you were sexually assaulted, you have until you turn 21 to make a claim.

However, Criminal Injuries Compensations Commissioners have the discretion to extend the time limit in ‘special circumstances’ where an Extension of Time Application is lodged. More information about extensions and how to apply for them can be found here.

Civil Claims for Compensation

Time limits on civil compensation claims for sexual assault against children are being abolished in 2017 in Tasmania, Attorney General Vanessa Goodwin announced in 2016. The ACT, New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria have already abolished time limits for civil claims for sexual assault crimes against children.

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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