Although often hidden, not reported, ignored and untreated, sexual abuses, violence and crimes are serious, damaging and possibly increasing social problems in Australia, and worldwide.
Men, women and children are directly targeted and violated. The impact can last a lifetime.
Sexual abuse, assault and sexual violence are linked to social and historical attitudes, conditions and behaviours in relation to victims and the abuse of power. The victim is often blamed. In some cultures, a rape victim may be stoned to death. In our ‘civilised’ society, a sexual assault victim (including a child) going through the court must expect to be blamed, accused of causing it, agreeing to it, be humiliated, have their words twisted, their character abused, have their sexual and medical history exposed, while an accused has the right to silence, doesn’t have to say a word, and their choice to say nothing cannot be held against him or her.
Sexual assault is any form of unwanted sexual behaviour (verbal, visual, or physical) that is forced upon a person. If the victim is a child, stages of grooming, coercion, bribing, conning, entrapping the child extend the idea of ‘forced’. Sexual abuse and assault is committed in many different situations such as in the home, by a relative, by someone you know, a neighbour, a teacher or other professional, by church employees lay and clerical, etc – by a stranger or several strangers, in an isolated place, in war. Child abuse and sexual grooming will be expanded in the section ‘ Child Sexual abuse’.
Forms of sexual abuse and assault include: (list not exhaustive)
- Inappropriate or unwelcome touching of a ‘private area’
- Sexual harassment
- Rape (i.e. non-consensual/forced sexual intercourse)
- Attempted rape
- Child molestation (See Child Abuse)
- Incest (sexual contact between family members)
- Forcing someone to touch another in a sexual way or place
- Voyeurism (viewing private sexual acts or people undressing)
- Exhibitionism (exposing naked parts of the body to other people)
- Sexting (using modern technology ie computers, mobile phones to expose or distribute sexually-based material)
- Producing or viewing child pornography
The age of the victim, the difference in age between a victim and an offender use of weapons or acts ‘in company’ can identify or increase the criminality of a crime.
What is Sexual Consent?
Sexual consent is when one adult person agrees to or gives permission to another person to engage in sexual activity (anything from touching and kissing to penetration). A child cannot give consent.
The only unambiguous way to communicate whether or not you give your sexual consent is to tell the other person. Everyone has the right to say ‘no’. It is important to remember that consent to some sexual activities such as kissing or touching, does not automatically imply that you have consented to sexual intercourse or that you have led the other person on. Everyone has the right to change their mind at any time regardless of previous intimacy with the person. Courts are places where the line between consent and non-consent is decided.
A person who is deemed to have been drunk or drugged at the time cannot now legally said to have consented. It is a recent improvement in handling sexual assault matters.
Sexual Assault Cases
The majority of sexual assaults and rapes remain officially unreported due to the victims’ feelings of fear, shame, misplaced self-blame, guilt because they could not avoid the assault, and lack of trust in the criminal justice system which fails to even see them as an interested party. Victims of crime may seeks help privately, from friends and family. We encourage them to reach out for support and hope they don’t try to suffer and heal, alone, because that is really hard. VOCAL and other support agencies cannot make the crime have not happened, but we can guide those who suffer, we can support, and help you process (if you want to talk it out) so that you can eventually place the responsibility entirely where is should be, with the person who chose to offend, hurt and degrade.
Sexual assault cases that are reported to authorities and survivors who seek justice may have a challenging pathway ahead. In order to hold the perpetrator or perpetrators accountable, to the best of their capacity given the restraints that they will have placed on them, survivors will have their best chance of a successful prosecution if they learn about the system, understand how it works generally, if they ask what are the particular legal challenges that may be raised in the accused’s defence in their matter, if they find out who is on their side, and they get honest empowering support through the entire process. A sex assault survivor wants justice, but understanding how the system works can place accountability for the outcome where it rightly belongs, with the prosecution.
Please download the fact sheets below for more information