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 Victoria it is a crime to:

  • sexually penetrate another person (which includes any penetration of the anus or female genitalia as well as oral sex) without their consent (rape);
  • sexually touch another person without their consent (sexual assault). This could include unwanted kissing or touching, such as groping. 
  • make someone sexually touch themselves or another person without their consent (sexual assault by compelling sexual touching)
  • threaten to rape or sexually assault someone.

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

  • sexually touching a child under the age of 16, or causing the child to sexually touch themselves or another person
  • sexual penetration of a child under the age of 16 or causing a child under the age of 16 to sexually penetrate themselves or someone else
  • someone over 18 years of age encouraging a child under the age of 16 to engage in, or be involved in, sexual activity
  • intentionally engaging in sexual activity in the presence of a child under 16
  • a person in a position of authority over someone who is 16 or 17 years old including carers or supervisors of that young person (e.g. teachers, parents, religious officials, social workers, employers) doing a sexual activity with or in front of that young person.
  • someone over 18 years of age communicating with a child under 16 or another young person who is under their care, supervision or authority in order to influence that young person to engage in or be involved in a sexual activity (grooming);
  • involving a person under 18 in making child abuse material (for example, taking photos of children engaging in a sexual act or encouraging that young person to engage in a sexual act for the purpose of taking photos of them)

What is consent?

 

Consent means a person freely agrees to the sexual activity. It is against the law to do a sexual act to, or with, someone without their consent. Someone does not consent if they do not say or do anything to communicate consent.

The legal age of consent in Victoria is 16. This means that a person under 16 years of age cannot consent to sexual activity. 

In Victoria, consent to a sexual activity with a person who is between the ages of 12 – 15  can be a defence to sexual crimes if both people are 12 or over, and the difference in age is less than 2 years.

A person who is under the age of 12 can never consent to sexual activity.

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 cannot consent. The law says a person does not consent if they:

  • don’t have the capacity to consent, including because of age or cognitive incapacity
  • are unconscious or asleep
  • consent because they’re scared of the other person or because the other person has threatened them or another person 
  • consent because they’re unlawfully detained
  • consent because they have made a mistake about the identity of the other person, or the nature of the act

If you are thinking of doing something sexual with someone else, it is really important that you make sure you know how old the other person is, and check that they agree to the sexual act. You should 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?’), and
  • looking at their body language to see if they look uncomfortable.

Consent can be withdrawn at any time. It is also important to know 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 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. 

If you have been sexually abused, we strongly recommend that 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. 

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:

  • Sexual Assault Crisis Line provides crisis care services include crisis intervention, counselling and advocacy to anyone living in Victoria who has experienced any form of sexual assault at any point in their lives. You can call the line on 1800 806 292.       
  • Victorian Centre Against Sexual Assault provides specialist support, advice and counselling service for victims of sexual assault. Information on how to contact your local centre can be found here. A free confidential 24 hour emergency or crisis care service is also available on 1800 806 292 for victims or survivors who have recently been sexually assaulted. 
  • 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/
  • 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.

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.

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 17, and you tell someone else what happened, they might have to make a report to the police if they are a mandatory reporter (this can include teachers and doctors).

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.

You can also contact your local Sexual Offences and Child Abuse Investigation Team (SOCIT). This is a specialist team of detectives who are trained to investigate sexual assault and child abuse. You can find information about how to contact your local SOCIT team here. 

Compensation and assistance for victims

 

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

  • financial compensation from the Victorian government’s Victims of Crime Financial Assistance Scheme. Compensation may cover medical or counselling treatment expenses, loss of earnings, and damage to personal items during the offence. To be eligible for compensation, you must generally have reported the crime to the police and make the application within two years of the assault (time limits do not apply if you were under 18 when you were sexually assaulted).
  • suing the offender (or an organisation or person that failed to protect you from sexual abuse) in Court
  • support under the National Redress Scheme for people who have experienced institutional child sexual abuse (for example, in a Church, at school, or in a sporting club), which can include counselling, a payment and an apology

If you think you might want to apply for compensation of support for sexual abuse, 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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