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 Western Australia it is a crime to: 

  • sexually penetrate another person without their consent. This means penetrating the vagina, anus or urethra of someone with any part of the body of another person or an object, and includes oral sex.  
  • force another person to engage in sexual behaviour.
  • touch another person sexually without their consent (indecent 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. 
  • sexually penetrate or force or influence someone you know doesn’t understand the nature of the sexual act to engage in that sexual act or behaviour.

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

  • sexually penetrating a person under the age of 16
  • encouraging or influencing sexual behaviour from a person under the age of 16
  • engaging in sexual acts with a person under the age of 16 or encouraging or influencing a person under the age of 16 to engage in a sexual act
  • recording a person under the age of 16 engaging in a sexual act
  • a person in a position of authority over someone under the age of 18 including carers or supervisors of that young person (e.g. teachers, parents, religious officials, social workers, employers) engaging in sexual behaviour with or towards the young person (including sexual intercourse).
  • showing any kind of pornographic or sexual material to a person under the age of 16 
  • using any kind of electronic communication (e.g. the internet or phone) to make a person under 16 engage in a sexual act or watch a sexual act 
  • involving a person 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).

What is consent?

 

Consent means agreeing to have sex freely and voluntarily. It is against the law to do a sexual act to, or with, someone without their consent.

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

A young person under the age of 13 can NEVER consent to sex or a sexual act.

In Western Australia, there is a legal defence which can be raised when someone is charged with a crime for having sex with someone under 16. This defence can apply if someone does a sexual act with a person aged 13-15 and they were not more than 3 years older than that person 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 Western Australia 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 the other person consented. For this reason, it’s always best to check. 

Even if someone says ‘yes’ to sexual activity, there are some situations in which they still cannot consent. For example, you cannot freely and voluntarily consent to sexual intercourse if there is force, threat, intimidation, deceit or fraud involved. 

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?’)
  • 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)

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) and try to get to a safe place. 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. You can find your local GP 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. 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 Resource Centre which provides a free 24-hour 7 days a week emergency service that offers assistance and support to any person aged 13 years and over who have experienced sexual assault either recently or in the past. You can phone them on (08) 6458 1828 or 1800 199 888. The Centre has some online resources on sexual assault which you can access here. They also have some information on what you can do if you have been sexually assaulted which you can access here.
  • Patricia Giles Centre for Non-Violence for women and children experiencing family violence or in need of counselling and support. You can call them on (08) 9300 0340.
  • 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: https://kidshelpline.com.au/get-help/email-counselling or use their online chat service for people aged 5-25 at: https://kidshelpline.com.au/get-help/webchat-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.

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). You can also contact the Sex Assault Squad on (08) 9428 1600 or email them on [email protected]. 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 sexual abuse happened a long time ago. 

However, if you are under 18, and you tell someone else what happened, they might have to make a report to police if they are a mandatory reporter (including doctors and teachers).

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 Western Australia, there may be a number of different ways you can get compensation or assistance, depending on what happened to you. These include:

  • support under the WA Government Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme for financial compensation up to $75,000 for injury or loss caused by the sexual abuse even if nobody is charged with the offence. 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 3 years of the abuse, although this time limit can be extended in some circumstances. You may also be required to be assessed by a health professional.
  • 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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