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Sexual violence

  • Sexual violence is being forced, pressured or tricked into doing sexual things when you don’t want to
  • No one has the right to make you do sexual things that you don't want to do, even if you are married to them or in a relationship with them
  • Sexual violence can be a form of domestic and family violence
  • If you or someone you know has experienced sexual violence, you can call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732, text 0458 737 732 or visit our website for online chat and video call services:
    • Available 24/7: Call, text or online chat
    • Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm AEST (except national public holidays): Video call (no appointment needed) 

What does sexual violence mean?

Sexual violence includes 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 our website we use the general meaning of these words.

Sexual violence can involve strangers or people you know, including:

  • boyfriends, girlfriends, partners, husbands or wives
  • ex-boyfriends, ex-girlfriends, ex-partners, ex-husbands or ex-wives
  • carers or paid support workers
  • parents, guardians or other family members
  • casual sex partners
  • friends
  • other people you live with or see often, whether inside or outside the home
  • people you work with
  • someone you know but aren’t close to, like a neighbour, boss, or friend of a friend.

It is never okay for anyone to force you to do something that you are not comfortable with. Everyone has the right to say what happens to their body.

Types of sexual violence

These are some types of sexual violence. There are many others. If you don’t feel right about something that has happened to you, it is okay to ask for help.

Sexual violence can include people:

  • looking at or touching your private parts or genitals (the parts of your body covered by your underwear, including your breasts, bottom, vagina and penis)
  • putting their genitals, fingers or anything else inside you when you don’t want them to
  • touching any part of your body in a sexual way when you don't want them to
  • showing you their genitals or 'flashing'
  • watching you when you are naked or doing sexual things
  • taking off a condom before or during sex without your permission
  • posting sexual pictures of you on the internet when you don’t want them to
  • making you watch or be in pornography (videos or photos of sex or sexual things)
  • stopping you from making your own choices about whether or not to have a baby 
  • 'grooming' of a child, when a person who wants to sexually hurt a child gets the child to trust them
  • any sexual act with a child, is against the law and must be reported
  • doing sexual things to you when you are affected by drugs or alcohol, and are confused about what is happening or what you are consenting to.

Sexual violence can also include people sexually harassing you, making you scared or uncomfortable you by using sexual behaviour that you don’t want. It can include:

  • staring at you in ways that make you uncomfortable
  • saying sexual things or telling rude jokes
  • showing you pictures of naked people, or people doing sexual things
  • emailing, texting or sending you sexual messages or pictures
  • bothering you on social media with sexual messages, posts or pictures
  • following you and saying or doing sexual things
  • touching you in ways you don’t want to be touched.

It is never okay for anyone to force you to do something that you are not comfortable with. Everyone has the right to say what happens to their body.

What is sexual coercion?

Sexual coercion is when someone pressures or tricks you into doing sexual things when you don't want to.

Their behaviour that may not always be illegal, but is usually abusive in some way. Sexual coercion can include someone:

  • saying they’ll leave you or have sex with someone else if you don't have sex with them
  • trying to get you to drink more than you want to so you'll agree to sex
  • making you feel guilty for not having sex when they want
  • telling you it’s your duty to have sex with them
  • saying that you owe them
  • making you feel scared to refuse because of what they might do, including them
    • using physical violence
    • saying bad things about you to others,
    • sharing private or damaging information about you on the internet, or
    • taking away support, money, children or pets
  • saying they will
    • get you out of debt if you have sex with them
    • provide you with drugs if you have sex with them
    • let you stay at their house if you have sex with them
    • or help you with a problem if you have sex with them
  • holding you down, yelling at you or trying to scare you into having sex.

Sexual coercion can be used by all sorts of people, including people you are in a relationship with. It can be part a pattern of behaviour we call coercive control.

We have listed the warning signs of an unhealthy relationship on our website.

Reporting sexual violence to the police

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 person who did this to you to be caught and stopped from doing it again.

You might be worried about getting upset when you report sexual violence. The most important thing is that you make the best decision for you.

If you do decide to make a report to the police, there is support to reduce your 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 who can talk with you about your experience by searching our Service Directory.

If you decide not to report to the police you can still provide anonymous information to help.

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 make communities safer.

The most important thing is that you make the best decision for you.

What are your rights and options after a recent sexual assault?

Your rights and options after a recent sexual assault

This video will help you understand your rights, and what you can do if you have been sexually assaulted, harassed or raped.