The term ‘sexual assault’ is a general classification of crimes where victims are forced, coerced or tricked into committing sexual acts without their consent. Under the law, both women and men can be victims of sexual assault. Children can also be victims of sexual assault.
The term ‘rape’ is no longer used as the crime of ‘rape’ is limited to female victims only, as such, it is gender-biased. Rape is the forcible penetration of the vagina or anus of a woman with any part of the body or by inserting an object against the will or without consent of the woman. The crime ‘rape’ is subsumed under sexual assault and it has been renamed as ‘sexual intercourse without consent’. Indecent assault is a crime that occurs when any person touches or kisses the breasts, bosom or genitals of another person.
The crime of incest is also subsumed under ‘sexual assault’. Incest occurs when a person aged 16 years and above has sexual intercourse with a close family member who is 16 years or over. This crime has also been renamed as ‘child sexual abuse’. Child sexual abuse occurs when a person forces a male or female child under 16 years of age into having sexual intercourse thereby causing the child harm, fright and fear. Under the new definition, the child victim need not be a close relative of the child. Statistically, it has been proven that most child sexual abuse cases were committed by persons known to the child and trusted by the child. They could be siblings, parents, uncles, aunts, teachers, guardians, child minders or persons having regular dealings with children.
There is a problem when a child who is under the age of 16 forces another child who is also under 16 years of age into having sexual intercourse. Legal experts are at variance as to how the abuser will be treated when both the abuser and the abused are children. Under the law, there is a presumption that children cannot give consent to sexual activity. Also, sexual activity is harmful to the child not only in a physical sense as there may be injury to the genital area of the child, sexually transmissible diseases can infect the child, and there is the danger of an unwanted pregnancy of the child.
There is also documented psychological harm done to children who engage in sexual activity at such a young age. Children are incapable of fully understanding the consequences of sexual activity. More importantly, sexual abuse of children is prohibited because if there is no prohibition, children will be vulnerable to exploitation: children may be prostituted.
If you suspect that someone you know has been a victim of sexual assault or sexual abuse, you will need the advice of a criminal lawyer who can advice you as to the appropriate steps to take to protect the rights of the victim of sexual assault or sexual abuse.
What is sexual assault? (2013). New South Wales Victims Services Attorney General & Justice [online]. Available from: [Accessed 07 April 2013]
Disclaimer : This article is just a summary of the subject matter being discussed and should not be regarded as a comprehensive legal advice for you to defend yourself alone. If you are charged with criminal offences, it is recommended that you seek legal assistance from criminal lawyers.