Sexual violence can include anything sexual that makes you feel scared or uncomfortable. Some other words used to describe forms of sexual violence are sexual assault, sexual abuse and rape. These words have a general meaning and a legal meaning. On this website we use the general meaning of these words.
Sexual violence can involve strangers or people you know, including:
It is never OK for any of these people to force you to do something that you are not comfortable with. Every person has the right to say what happens to their body.
This list includes some types of sexual violence, but there are many others. If you don’t feel right about something that has happened to you, it is OK to ask for help.
Sexual violence can include people:
Sexual coercion is when someone pressures or tricks you into doing sexual things when you don't want to. It involves behaviour that may not always be criminal, but is usually abusive in some way. Sexual coercion can include someone:
Sexual coercion can happen with all kinds of people, including people you are in a relationship with. For more information on the signs of an unhealthy relationship, see our Healthy relationships page.
If you have experienced sexual violence you may find it hard to decide whether or not to report it to the police. You may want the perpetrator caught and stopped from doing it again, and also be worried about how upsetting the reporting process will be. The most important thing is that you make the best decision for you.
If you do decide to make a formal report, know that procedures have been put in place to support you and reduce distress. Talking to a trusted friend or family member or a sexual assault service may help you make your decision. You can find a sexual assault service in your area by searching our Service directory.
If you decide not to report to the police you can still provide information to help. The South Eastern Centre Against Sexual Assault has a website called S.A.R.A where you can report a sexual assault anonymously. The information you provide will be passed on to police all over Australia with any information that identifies you removed. This will help the police to identify trends and make communities safer.
If you consent to sex it means you want to have sex at that time with that person. When sexual activity happens without consent it becomes sexual violence.
There is no consent if you are being forced. However, consent means more than just saying yes or not being forced and needs to be informed. 'Informed consent' means there is nothing stopping you from giving consent or understanding what you are consenting to.
There are some situations where it is never OK for someone to do sexual things with you, even if you consent. This is particularly the case if the other person holds a position of authority and trust over you. Authority means they have the power to tell you what to do. Trust means that you feel you are safe with them and that they will protect you. For example, relationships between:
Consent needs to happen every time. Just because you agreed to have sex once doesn't mean you agreed to have it at any other time.
Everyone needs your consent. Just because you are in a relationship with someone or married to them, doesn't mean they can have sex with you whenever they want. They still need your consent.
Consent has to happen at every step. Just because you agreed to do one sexual thing with someone, doesn't mean they can do other sexual things to you. You still need to agree.
Showing interest isn't consent. Giving someone attention, agreeing to go on a date or flirting with them isn't consent. You have the right to say no at any time.
When someone experiences sexual violence, the people they choose to talk to about it play an important role. Having a supportive family member, friend or co-worker can make a big difference. It can be hard to know how to respond and you may be worried about doing the wrong thing. There are some simple things you can do and the following information will help you respond.
If you are unsure about the best way to support someone, you can contact 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or through our online chat. You can also visit our Service directory to find local sexual assault support services.
When someone tells you they have experienced sexual violence you should believe them. It’s normal to want to ask lots of questions, but this can make the other person feel uncomfortable. It may also make them feel that they are not believed. Before asking, listen.
Some people want to talk about what happened to them straight away and some people do not. Listen without interrupting or talking too much, and don’t judge when they are ready to talk.
A person who has experienced sexual violence is never to blame for what happened. It doesn’t matter what a person was wearing or if they were drunk or on drugs, sexual violence is never OK. Someone's age, cultural background or relationship to the person or people who hurt them are never excuses for sexual violence.
After experiencing sexual violence some people do not want to be touched. As a support person, you may want to offer comfort by putting your arm around them or giving them a hug. It is important to ask first. Physical touching without seeking the person’s permission may bring back bad memories from the assault.
It's important that someone who has been sexually assaulted has as much control as possible over what they do next. You can help by finding out about support services and how to use them. After an assault it can be difficult to think about these things straight away. Your support with finding and contacting services can be a good place to start if this is something they want to do.
You can contact 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or through online chat for referral to appropriate services. You can also visit our Service directory to find specialist support services in your area.
It’s normal to feel upset when a person close to you goes through something violent and traumatic. Don't ignore how you are feeling — ask for help when you need it. As a support person, you can contact 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 on through online chat. To find a specialist sexual assault service in your area you can search our Service directory.
It can be a hard choice to report to the police. People can have lots of reasons why they want to report but can also be very worried about it. A person who has experienced sexual assault may decide not to report to police, or not to have a medical or examination. This is their choice and must be respected.
If the person you are supporting does want to make a report, it can be helpful to have the support of someone who knows how the system works. This gives the person who has experienced the assault more control and choice.
Legal language can be confusing, always ask questions if there is something you don’t understand. A sexual assault service can help with information on reporting the assault and the law in your state or territory. You can find a sexual assault service in your area by searching our Service directory.
There are some circumstances in which the law says a person must report sexual abuse that they become aware of. This is called mandatory reporting and it is important to be aware of your responsibilities in this area.
In every state and territory certain people are required by law to report sexual abuse against people up to the age of 18. In Victoria and the Northern Territory this is required of any adult. For more information on mandatory reporting requirements for child abuse and neglect (including sexual abuse) see the Australian Institute of Family Studies Mandatory Reporting Resource Sheet.
Some states also have mandatory reporting laws for sexual abuse that takes place in residential services, such as psychiatric, aged care, and other government-run facilities. This applies even if the person who has experienced the abuse is an adult. In some cases, having a reasonable suspicion that sexual abuse has or may take place is enough to require you to report it.
To clearly understand your responsibilities when it comes to mandatory reporting it is best to get personal advice. Search our Service directory for a legal service in your state or territory that can provide free advice on your mandatory reporting requirements.