Sexual abuse

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

You have the right to be safe from sexual assault of any kind. If you have been sexually assaulted, you are not alone. In 2016, 23,052 people across Australia reported that they had been sexually assaulted. That is equal to one victim of sexual assault for every 1,000 people in Australia.  The number of reports of sexual assault has increased by 24 per cent since 2011.  Four out of five victims of sexual assault in 2016 were girls or women. Girls and women aged between 15 and 19 experience the highest rate of sexual assault. Among males, boys aged 10 to 14 have the highest rate of sexual assault.

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What is sexual assault?

Sexual assault is any sexual behaviour towards someone without their consent such as sexual intercourse, rape, incest and unwanted kissing or touching. It includes behaviour that does not involve actual touching. For example, forcing someone to watch pornography or masturbation is also sexual assault. Even if the other person is your family member, teacher, or someone else you know, this will also be sexual assault. If someone has touched you or acted in a sexual way towards you, without your consent, this is a serious crime and against the law. We strongly encourage you to speak to someone at the organisations listed below. 

What is consent?

Consent means agreeing to have sex freely and voluntarily and with a clear mind. You cannot consent to any sexual behaviour if you are under the age of 16. Likewise, there is no consent if you have a serious mental or intellectual disability that affects your ability to understand what is happening.

Consent is not free and voluntary if it is obtained by force, threat, intimidation, deceit or fraud. If you did not physically resist someone assaulting you it does not mean you have consented to them touching you.

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

What can you do if you have been sexually assaulted?

If you are in immediate danger, we recommended you call 000. 

If you have been sexually assaulted, you have the right to be protected and should report the case by calling police 131444 or the Sexual Assault Squad on (08) 9428 1600. You can visit their website here.

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

You should not feel ashamed because you have been sexually assaulted. Sexual abuse is an abuse of power and a betrayal of trust and the abuser is 100% responsible for their behaviour. You should talk to someone you trust like a parent, a family member, a trusted friend or a school counsellor. Or call the Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800 (this is a 24-hour service). They offer a very supportive service and they keep everything confidential. You can also email them at here or use their online chat service for people aged 5-25 here.

If you don’t feel comfortable telling someone you know there are a number of Sexual Assault Victims Services that can provide you with help. These include:

  • Sexual Assault Resource Centre: free 24-hour 7 days a week emergency service that offers assistance and support to any person aged 13 years and over who have experienced sexual assault either recently or in the past.
    • Phone: (08) 6458 1828 or 1800 199 888.
    • If you were sexually assaulted in the past, the Centre has a dedicated page of information for you here.
  • SACSS Goldfields provides counselling and support for people living in the Eastern Goldfields region who have experienced sexual assault. They have a 24-hour phone line at 1800 688 922 you can call for crisis support. Alternatively, you can contact them at:
  • National Sexual Assault Domestic Family Violence Counselling Service: 1800RESPECT provides free, private and anonymous counselling and support via telephone, in full confidence. 
    • Phone: 1800 737 732.
  • Marninwarntikura Family Violence Prevention Legal Service is a legal service in the Fitzroy Crossing area for Aboriginal people experiencing family violence, and child and adult sexual assault.
    • Phone: (08) 9191 5284.
  • Albany Family Violence Prevention Legal Service provides legal services for Aboriginal people in the Albany area experiencing sexual assault.
    • Phone: (08) 9842 7777
  • Family Violence Services: for people experiencing sexual assault within families, you can find a range of services in Perth and rural WA (Joondalup, Midland, Rockingham).
    • Phone: (08) 9425 2459 (Perth office)

You can also can contact us here for free and confidential legal advice.

Victim's compensation

If you are a victim of sexual assault, you can apply through the WA Government Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme for financial compensation for injury or loss caused by an offence or alleged offence, even if nobody is charged with the offence. You may apply for up to $75,000 in compensation.

To qualify, you must report to the crime to the police. You may also be required to be assessed by a health professional.

Forms for making an application can be downloaded here.

Time limits

To apply for financial compensation as an adult victim of sexual assault, you must make the application within three years of the assault. An assessor may at their discretion extend the time limit.

There are moves within the WA parliament to abolish the time limit for compensation claims arising from child sexual assault, as other states have already done. A 2015 bill seeking to remove the limitation period has not yet been passed by the parliament.

Reporting obligations

You should be aware that it is a legal requirement in Western Australia for doctors, nurses, midwives, teachers, police officers and boarding supervisors to report any child sexual assault they learn of to Child Protection authorities.

If you’re under 25 and you have a question about sexual assault that we haven’t answered here, please ask us a question here and we can give you some free information and advice.

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