Sexual abuse

Sexual abuse is NEVER okay. You have the right to feel safe and protected. If you or someone you know has been sexually abused, there are services that you can go to for help.

For free and confidential legal advice about this topic, please contact us here.

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What is sexual abuse?

Sexual abuse is where someone does something sexual that makes you feel uncomfortable, or touches your body in a sexual way without your consent.

In Tasmania it is a crime to:

  • have sexual intercourse with another person without that person’s consent (rape) – sexual intercourse means any penetration of a person’s vagina, genitalia, anus or mouth by a penis, or any penetration of a person’s vagina, genitalia, anus or mouth by another body part or object
  • sexually touch another person without their consent (indecent assault)
  • use threats or intimidation to force another person to have sexual intercourse.

There are also additional laws that apply for sexual behaviour towards children and young people who are under the age of 17, including:

  • having sexual intercourse with a child or young person under the age of 17
  • doing a sexual act with or towards a child or young person under the age of 17
  • grooming a child or young person under the age of 17 – this can include showing them sexual pictures or films or telling them sexual stories to make it easier to do a sexual act with them.

Consent is no defence to these crimes unless the similar age defence applies. This is where two young people have sex or do a sexual act together and they both consent, and:

  • both people are aged over 15 years old, and the age gap between them is not more than 5 years
  • both people are aged over 12 years old, and the age gap between them is not more than 3 years.

What is consent? 

It is against the law to do a sexual act to, or with, someone without their consent.

Consent means a person freely agrees to the sexual activity. Someone does not consent if they do not say or do anything to communicate consent.

If you are thinking of doing something sexual with someone else, it is really important that you make sure you know how old they are, and check that they agree. You must take reasonable steps to make sure the other person consents. This might include:

  • asking the person what they want to do (for example, ‘Can I kiss you’ or ‘Do you want to have sex, or do you want to wait?’), and
  • looking at their body language to see if they look uncomfortable.

Even if someone says “yes”, there are some situations in which they cannot consent. A person does not consent to a sexual activity if:

  • they have been forced, threatened or kept against their will;
  • they have a serious mental or intellectual disability that affects their ability to understand what is happening;
  • they are overborne because of the nature or position of another person;
  • they were asleep or under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time;
  • they are confused about what the act was or who the person was. 

A person cannot consent to sexual activity if they are under 17. However, there is a close in age defence that can apply where both people consent (see above).

Consent can be withdrawn at any time and it is also important to know that just because someone has consented in the past, it does not mean that they have given consent forever. Consent needs to be given every time you have sex or do something sexual with another person.

For more information about consent, please see our page on Sex.

What can you do if you have been sexually abused?

If you are ever in immediate danger, please call the police straight away on 000 (triple zero). If you have been sexually abused, you have the right to be protected and you can report the abuse by calling your local police station. 

If you have been sexually abused, we strongly recommend that you get medical care. A doctor can test and treat you for any sexually transmitted infections, carry out a forensic examination (if you were abused very recently and you wish to report the crime to the police) and provide information on sexual abuse and follow-up services. 

If you have been sexually abused, it is never your fault. If you feel comfortable, we encourage you to talk to someone you trust like a parent, family member, a close friend or a school counsellor about what happened. If you don’t want to tell anyone you know, you might feel more comfortable talking to a counsellor over the phone. You could call:

  • the Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800 (this is a 24 hour service). They offer a very supportive service and you can talk to them without giving your name. You can also email them at: or use their online chat service for people aged 5-25 at:
  • 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732. They are open 24 hours to support people impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence and abuse. You don’t need to give your name if you don’t want to, or you can give a different name.

There are other support services that can help you. We have listed some of these at the bottom of this page.

Reporting to police

If you have been sexually abused, you can make a report to police. You can do this by going to your local police station, or ringing the police assistance line on 131 444 (open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week). If the abuse just happened, or if it is an emergency, please call the police on 000.

You can take a support person with you when you speak to police, such as a friend or family member. Sexual assault counsellors can also support you through the police process.

If you are the victim of sexual abuse, you do not have to make a report to police. It is your choice about whether, and if so when, you make a report to police. There are no limits on when you can report sexual abuse to the police, even if the sexual abuse happened a long time ago.

However, if you are under 18, and you tell someone else what happened, they might have to make a report to police if they are a mandatory reporter (this can include teachers and doctors).

If you are thinking about reporting to police, but you aren’t sure if you are ready, it can be a good idea to write down everything you remember about what happened, so that you have those details if you do decide to report. Remember to keep these details in a safe place.

Compensation and assistance for victims

If you are the victim of sexual abuse, there may be a number of different ways you can get compensation or assistance, depending on what happened to you. These include:

There are some time limits that can apply to compensation. For example, applications for victims of crime assistance must be made within 3 years after the act occurred, or 3 years after the victim turns 18.

If you think you might want to apply for compensation of support for sexual abuse, it is a good idea to talk to a lawyer to find out what your options are. You can contact us for free and confidential advice here.

Other support services

If you have been sexually abused, it can be really helpful to talk to a trained counsellor about what has happened. You can contact one of these services for free counselling and support:

  • Sexual Assault Support Service provides 24-hour counselling for people in Tasmania. Based in North Hobart, the Service offers support over the phone 24 hours a day, by calling 1800 MYSUPPORT (1800 697 877). You can also submit an online request for support by filling in their form here.
  • Laurel House provides phone and face-to-face counselling and support for people who have experienced sexual assault. You can also email them at [email protected]
    • Laurel House Launceston: You can contact them on (03) 6334 2740 (business hours) or 1800 697 877 (after hours). 
    • Laurel House North West: You can contact them on (03) 6431 9711 (business hours) or 1800 697 877 (after hours). 

Find out more

You can also find out more about sexual abuse by looking at these websites:

If you are under 25 and you have any questions about sexual abuse, or if you want some advice on your options, you can contact us for free and confidential help.  

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