What Is Sexual Violence?

Sexual violence is behaviour of a sexual nature directed towards a person that makes them feel uncomfortable, distressed or threatened and to which they have not consented.

Sexual violence includes a wide range of unwanted, non-consensual, traumatic and harmful sexual behaviours, including:

  • sexual harassment
  • technology-facilitated abuse
  • unwanted kissing
  • sexual touching
  • coercion
  • sexual assault including rape
  • child sexual abuse

Sexual assault and rape

The term sexual assault is commonly used to describe a legally-defined criminal offence which involves physical assault of a sexual nature directed towards another person without their consent. This includes a range of behaviours legally defined as sexual crimes such as rape, sexual assault, being forced to watch or engage in pornography, forced prostitution, and being made to have sex with friends of the perpetrator.

Sexual acts that constitute a criminal offence in Tasmania are included in the Criminal Code Act 1924 (Tas) and the Police Offences Act 1935 (Tas).

Chapter XIV of the Criminal Code outlines sexual crimes, including sexual abuse of children and young people; sexual abuse of a person with mental impairment and indecent assault.

Section 185 outlines the charge of rape:
Any person who has sexual intercourse with another person without that person's consent is guilty of a crime.


Consent is an agreement between two or more people to engage in a sexual activity together.

Consent is:

  • Mutual
  • Freely given
  • Informed
  • Certain and Clear
  • Specific
  • Ongoing
  • Reversible

Under Section 2A of the Criminal Code Act 1924, consent means free agreement.

The section outlines that consent cannot be given if a person does not say or do anything to communicate consent or if they only agree or submit because of:

  • force, or a reasonable fear of force, to themselves or to another person
  • threats of any kind against themselves or against another person
  • unlawfully detainment of themselves or another person
  • being overborne by the nature or position of another person
  • the fraud of the accused
  • being reasonably mistaken about the nature or purpose of the act or the identity of the accused
  • being asleep, unconscious or so affected by alcohol or another drug as to be unable to form a rational opinion in respect of the matter for which consent is required
  • being unable to understand the nature of the act.


All states and territories have laws about sexual activity involving children and young people. Depending on laws and other considerations, such as the age of the parties, the nature of the relationship and any other power imbalances, the sexual activity may constitute sexual assault, regardless of whether the young person consented.

In Tasmania, under Section 124 of the Criminal Code Act 1924,  it is a crime to have sexual intercourse with a young person under the age of 17 years.

Consent of the young person is only a defence where:

  • the young person is 15 years of age or older and the accused person is not more than 5 years older
  • the young person is 12 years of age or older and the accused person is not more than 3 years older

Consent of a child under 12 years of age is never a defence.

Specialist Sexual Violence Support Services

If you have experienced or are experiencing sexual violence, specialist support services are available to provide support, help and information.

Statewide Sexual Assault Crisis Service (1800MYSUPPORT)

Crisis support service for recent sexual assaults.

Available 24 hours

Call 1800 697 877

Sexual Assault Support Service

Counselling and support service for people of all ages who have been affected by any form of sexual violence.

Monday to Friday, 9am - 5pm

1800MYSUPPORT available 24 hours

Call 03 6231 1811

1800 697 877
(24 hours)


Laurel House

Sexual assault service assisting victim-survivors, their families and support people.

Monday to Friday, 9am - 5pm

1800MYSUPPORT available 24 hours

Call 03 6334 2740

1800 697 877
(24 hours)


Laurel House

Sexual assault service assisting victim-survivors, their families and support people.

Monday to Friday, 9am - 5pm

1800MYSUPPORT available 24 hours

Call 03 6431 9711

1800 697 877
(24 hours)



National sexual assault, domestic, family violence counselling service. Counselling and support available by telephone or online chat.

Available 24 hours

Call 1800 737 732


Other Types of Sexual Violence

Sexual harassment is any unwanted or unwelcome sexual behaviour where a reasonable person would have anticipated the possibility that the person harassed would feel offended, humiliated or intimidated.

Sexual harassment is unlawful under the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Commonwealth) in different areas of public life, including employment, service delivery, accommodation and education. Some types of sexual harassment may also be criminal offences.

Seeking help

If you feel you have been sexually harassed, Equal Opportunity Tasmania can provide more information or assist you to make a complaint. Visit equalopportunity.tas.gov.au or call 1300 305 062.

Equal Opportunity Tasmania cannot provide legal information. Refer to the Services Directory for a list of legal services.

Technology-facilitated abuse encompasses a range of behaviours where technology is used to control, abuse, harass, punish, bully, stalk, impersonate, scare, threaten, coerce and/or exploit a victim-survivor.

Examples include installing spyware on devices; restricting access to finances; restricting methods of communication; sexting; monitoring; remotely accessing personal devices such as mobile phones or computers; sending threatening and abusive texts or emails; GPS tracking; and image-based abuse.

Seeking help

For more information on how to stay safe online visit www.esafety.gov.au or the eSafety women hub, empowering women to take control online.

Image-based abuse occurs when intimate, nude or sexual images are distributed, or threatened to be distributed or shared, without the consent of those pictured. This includes real, altered and drawn pictures and videos. Image-based abuse may also be referred to as ‘revenge porn’, ‘non-consensual sharing of intimate images’, or ‘intimate image abuse’.

Seeking help

Image-based abuse can be reported to the eSafety Commissioner, who can help get the material removed as quickly as possible and also take action against the person who posted, or threatened to post, an intimate image without consent. Visit www.esafety.gov.au/report/image-based-abuse to report abuse.

The term ‘harmful sexual behaviours’ covers a broad spectrum of behaviours. They can range from those that are developmentally inappropriate and harm only the child exhibiting the behaviours, such as compulsive masturbation or inappropriate nudity, to criminal behaviours such as sexual assault.

Problem sexual behaviour (PSB) is defined as behaviour in children and young people that is outside the behaviour considered ‘normal’ according to their age and level of development. PSB may be socially inappropriate and may cause harm to the young person displaying the behaviour or to others.

When harmful behaviour is directed at others it is called sexually abusive behaviour (SAB).

Children and young people engaging in PSB/SAB are not the same as adult perpetrators of sexual violence.

Seeking help

If a child or young person is displaying PSB or SAB:

  • Stay calm
  • Clearly and calmly ask the child or young person to stop the behaviour
    • For younger children, you can redirect the child to a different activity.
    • Talk with the child or young person in private about the behaviour and explain why it is not okay
    • Seek professional support

For more information, advice and support, contact the Sexual Assault Support Service on 03 6231 0044 or visit www.sass.org.au

Intersection of Family and Sexual Violence

Sexual violence perpetrated by a current or former partner also constitutes family violence.

Intimate partner sexual violence is often part of a larger pattern of coercive control in a relationship.