What is sexual assault?

Sexual assault is a crime. It is a broad term that describes all sexual offences against adults and children, and it includes rape. Any sexual activity that is unwanted, forced, coerced or pressured is sexual assault.

This is why it is so important to ask your partner for consent and respect whatever answer they give.

While both males and females experience sexual assault, it is estimated that more than 80% of victims are female, and more than 93% of offenders are male. (ABS, 2011)

Some forms of sexual assault include:

  • Rape: the forced penetration of the vagina or anus of any person with any part of the body of another person, or any object, against their will or consent.  It also includes forced or unwanted oral sex
  • Incest: the sexual assault by a family member
  • Indecent assault: unwanted touching of a person’s body by another person. For example it can include kissing or inappropriate touching of a person’s breasts, bottom or genitals
  • Child sexual abuse: refers to any sexual activity between a child (under 16) and an adult or older person (five or more years older). Children and young people are sexually assaulted when a person uses their age, size, authority or position of trust to force, coerce or trick the child into a sexual activity. This can include a range of behaviours such as forcing a child or young person to: look at pornographic magazines or DVDs; watch someone masturbate; be kissed, touched or fondled in a sexual way or to sexually penetrate them

A very common myth about sexual assault is that the offenders are mostly strangers.  This is untrue.  The reality is that the victims almost always know the offender, and often the offender is a family member, partner or close friend. Strangers accounted for only 15 percent of offenders of sexual assaults in 2011. Sexual assault and rape can happen in all types of relationships – dating, same sex, married, casual and family.

The crimes of sexual assault and rape are both violent and violating and often those who have experienced it will need support. Deciding when and how you access support is a personal decision only you can make. For information about support services check out our need help page.