What is Sexual Assault?

Sexual assault is any unwanted sexual act. This includes a range of unwanted or forced sexual behaviours including rape.

Sexual Assault is a crime.

It is an act of violence. It is not about love or affection. Sexual assault and/or rape include when someone:

  • forces you to participate in, or watch pornography.
  • forces, manipulates or coerces you into having sexual intercourse.
  • shows you any unwanted sexual attention that makes you feel uncomfortable or scared.

Sexual Harassment is any form of unwanted, unwelcome or uninvited sexual behaviour, which is or might be offensive, humiliating, intimidating or embarrassing. Sexual harassment takes many forms, including wolf whistles, leering, sexual innuendo, comments or other unwanted sexual attention.

Rape/Sexual Assault is defined as penetration of the vagina or anus with the penis, other body part or foreign object without consent. It also includes forced oral sex.

Date/Acquaintance Rape. Date Rape is when a person you are dating sexually assaults you. You may be in an ongoing relationship, or it may be someone you have dated only once or twice.
Acquaintance Rape is when a friend or someone you have met, but don't know very well, sexually assaults you.

Child Sexual Assault is any act of a sexual nature towards a child by someone older than the child or in a position of power.

Incest is sexual assault by a family member. This may be a parent, sibling, grandparent, step-parent, uncle or any other family member.


The age of consent for most sexual activity in Queensland is 16 years of age. Sexual Assault occurs when someone commits a sexual act with or towards another person without their consent.

Consenting to any sexual act depends on a person's ability to understand what the sexual act is, the implications of the sexual behaviour, and on their ability to make an informed choice, without force, manipulation or coercion, about whether or not they want the sexual act to occur.

A person's ability to consent regardless of the relationship, is dependent on a number of factors including their level of cognitive ability and whether they are under the influence of alcohol, illegal drugs or prescribed medication.

Sometimes people agree to a sexual act because they are frightened - this is not consent.

Children do not have the ability to consent to any sexual act, as they do not understand the implications of a sexual relationship.

Sexual assault of children is damaging; the effects of being sexually assaulted can last a lifetime.

There are many myths surrounding sexual assault. These myths serve to deny the reality of sexual assault, diminish the effects of sexual assault, blame the victims, and protect the offender by implying that they are not responsible for their abusive actions or behaviours.

The Reality of Sexual Assault

Perpetrators are usually male and most often someone that the victim knew and thought they could trust.

Victims are mostly women and children.

86% of victims are female, and 41% of these were aged between 0 and 14 years old.

Approximately 50% of sexual assaults occur in the victim's or perpetrator's home.

There may have been one or many assaults, there may have been one perpetrator or multiple perpetrators.

The assaults may have taken place over a long period of time.

When incest occurs within a family, often there is more than one child who is a victim of sexual assault.

Perpetrators of sexual assault use power, force and manipulation to attempt to control the body, senses and emotions of their victims.

38% of girls and 9% of boys will experience sexual assault by the time they are 18.*

Sexual assault is an underreported crime.

Many victims are likely to remain silent.

Approximately one in ten rapes are reported to the police.

20% of victims report to police.
98% of allegations of child sexual assault are found to be true.**

Children are often fearful of disclosing what is happening to them.

Sexual assault can happen to anyone regardless of their age, ethnicity, religion, sexual preference or socio-economic background.

When confronted about the sexual assault/s the majority of perpetrators deny and fail to take responsibility for their behaviour.

Sexual assault is harmful and can impact upon the victim's physical, psychological, social, spiritual and intellectual wellbeing.


* Finkelhor, D. (1979). Sexually Victimised Children. Free Press: New York
** Child Sexual Assault (1985). NSW Child Protection Council.