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Sexual assault

What is sexual assault?

Sexual assault is any sexual or sexualised act that makes a person feel uncomfortable, intimidated or frightened. It is behaviour that a person has not consented to, invited or chosen. Sexual assault can be committed by both males and females, to a person of both the same or opposite sex. It can be committed by current or former partners, friends, family, acquaintances, colleagues or strangers. Sexual assault may also be referred to as sexual abuse or sexual violence.

Forms of sexual assault

Sexual assault may include:

  • sexual harassment
  • unwanted touching or kissing
  • coerced or forced sexual activities or sex-related activities, including activities that involve violence or pain
  • exposing of genitals such as ‘flashing’
  • stalking
  • being watched by someone without your permission when you are naked or engaged in sexual activities
  • posting of sexual images on the Internet without consent
  • being forced or coerced by someone to watch or participate in pornography
  • spiking drinks, or the use of drugs and alcohol, in order to reduce or impair a person’s capacity to make choices about sex or sexual activity
  • having sex with someone who is asleep, severely affected by alcohol /and or other drugs
  • lewd or suggestive jokes, stories or showing of sexualised pictures, as part of a pattern of coercive, intimidating or exploitive behaviour
  • rape (penetration of any orifice by any object).

If you have, or someone you know has, been sexually assaulted

Seek immediate medical attention, preferably within 72 hours of the assault occurring. Regardless of whether injuries were caused by the assault, medical support is important in preventing sexually transmitted infections, inquiring about post-exposure prophylaxis to prevent HIV, and avoiding unwanted pregnancy. An early medical examination can also collect evidence if the sexual assault is going to be reported to police, either immediately or later in the future. Further support resources are available for you or someone you know who has experienced sexual assault.

Sexual assault is a crime and support options are available through police and the legal system, but it is your decision if you wish to report an incident. 

The Guidelines for responding to disclosures of sexual assault (PDF 606KB) outline the key steps you should follow if you are supporting someone who has been sexually assaulted.

Information and resources are available on how to make a complaint and where to get help including what you can do to support someone who has been sexually assaulted.


Consent is freely and voluntarily given by a person with the cognitive capacity to do so. In Australia, a person is not regarded as having freely agreed to or consented to a sexual act just because they did not protest, physically resist or sustain injury. Consent cannot be given when unconscious or incapacitated (asleep, or under the influence of alcohol or other drugs), if a participant has an intellectual disability, or if either party used physical force, threats, intimidation or coercion to gain consent.

To find out more about consent and access comprehensive resources, visit

To read more about Respect. Now. Always visit the website or watch the video.

Respect. Now. Always. video translations: