Sexual assault and 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 contact 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or through online chat.
What is sexual violence?
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:
- 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
- Other people you live with or see often, whether inside or outside the home
- Someone you know but aren’t close to, like a neighbour, boss, or friend of a friend.
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.
What forms can sexual violence take?
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:
- 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'
- Sexually harassing you—this means to bother you with 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
- 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. Grooming means when a person who wants to sexually hurt a child gets the child to trust them.
- Any sexual act with a child. Doing anything sexual with a child is against the law.
- Doing sexual things to you when you can't make the kinds of choices you would normally make. For example, when alcohol or drugs have left you confused about what is happening or what you are agreeing to. See our section on consent.
If you don’t feel right about something that has happened to you, it is OK to ask for help.
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:
- 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. This might be a fear of physical violence, but can also include fears of them 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, provide you with drugs, let you stay at their house, 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 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.
Reporting 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 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 an app 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.
Your rights and options after a recent sexual assault
What are your rights and options after a recent sexual assault? Sexual assault includes things like sexual harassment, unwanted touching or kissing, coercive or forced sexual activities, including having sex with someone while they are asleep or severely affected by drugs or alcohol, and rape.