Frequently asked questions
These are answers to common questions that people have asked SECASA.
You may feel like a bad person because the abuse happened, or because you couldn’t stop it at the time. Your feelings may be all because you couldn’t stop it at the time. Your feelings may be all mixed up and you might even blame yourself. Sexual abuse is NEVER your fault! You are not a bad person. The person who is doing it to you (the offender) is always to blame. You can talk to a counsellor who will help you with all your thoughts and feelings.
Useful phone numbers
- Sexual Assault Crisis Line: 1800 806 292
When a sexual assault
case is heard in court,
evidence about the past sexual experience of either the victim or
is not allowed to be given unless it relates directly
to the case that is being heard. This includes what other people
say or think about the person.
The court must take into account:
- Whether the importance of the evidence to the case is greater than any distress or embarrassment the person might feel about it being said.
- The importance of respecting the person’s privacy and dignity.
- The right of the accused to be able to defend themselves against the charge.
The jury is also told that they must not think the victim consented just because in the past they might have agreed to have sex with the accused or with another person.
Yes. Just because a person has previously agreed to have sex with someone, does not mean they can have sex with them whenever they want.
Also the law says that if a person is married, it does not mean they have consented to any sexual act at any time with their husband/wife/partner.
Sometimes people may use drugs and/or alcohol because they think
it helps them to ‘cope’ with problems. It’s a short term solution
with long term effects and health risks
Sexual assault does not cause drug and/or alcohol abuse, but some victims use drugs and/or alcohol to try and block out the pain and trauma of the abuse. It works while they’re wasted (drunk or affected by drugs) but the issues remain undealt with and some people quickly become addicted.
It’s fantastic that your girlfriend/boyfriend trusts you enough to share this information.
For some people who have experienced sexual assault
, it can be really hard to feel safe in a romantic or sexual
You may find your partner is reminded of the abuse by certain kinds of physical closeness, including kissing, hugging and sexual touching.
It’s good to check out with your girlfriend/boyfriend what kinds of touching they feel comfortable with.
Sometimes people who have been sexually assaulted or abused experience ongoing issues related to what they’ve been through. It can help you to support your girlfriend/boyfriend if you know what these issues could be.
Telling someone is really important so you can make the sexual abuse stop and get some help and support. Talking about sexual assault
can be really hard, so plan some ways to take care of yourself before and after you tell. This could be talking with a friend, going for a bike ride or a run, listening to music, reading or eating cake.
Find a time to talk to your mum when she’s alone and doesn’t need to rush off anywhere. She will probably seem really upset or in shock after you tell her. This is normal because she cares about you, and it’s hard for her to know you’ve been hurt. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t tell her, or that you are to blame for her being upset. The person who is abusing you is responsible.
After you’ve told her, you and your mum can talk about what is needed to keep you safe from the abuse. Sexual abuse is a crime and you can report it.
If your mum has trouble believing you, tell someone else. You could tell a teacher, school nurse or welfare officer, friends’ parents, or your GP. Keep telling until someone helps you!
Services you could call
You could also call:
- The Sexual Assault Crisis Line on 1800 806 292 and talk to a Counsellor 24 hours a day.
- The Kids Help Line: 1800 55 1800
- Victoria Police Sexual Offences and Child Abuse Unit of Victoria Police.
This is not “abuse” unless you are injured during the smacking.
If a parent or caregiver chooses to punish you by smacking, they should never:
- Use a closed fist
- Use an object to smack you with
- Smack you on the face or head
- Leave marks on you.
If any of these things are happening to you, talk to someone and get help.
It is hard when you think something has happened but you just don’t know. How you deal with it depends on the situation.
If you were asleep/unconscious and awoke to find some physical indication that something has happened, you might want to call the Sexual Assault Crisis Line or your nearest Centre Against Sexual Assault (CASA) on 1800 806 292, to speak with a Counsellor about your options.
All children experiment with touching private parts as they grow up, touching themselves and sometimes touching others. The thing to remember with touching is that no-one should ever be forced to do something that they don’t want to.
If the kid you are touching is younger than you, they might not really know if they like it or not. ItÂ´s sometimes very hard for younger kids to tell older kids “no”.
If you are not sure that what’s happening is OK, then stop. If you're worried about something you can talk to someone by ringing your nearest Centre Against Sexual Assault on 1800 806 292 or Kids helpline on 1800 55 1800.
Being sexually abused as a child is a traumatic experience. An experience as difficult as childhood sexual abuse can cause changes in how a person feels, thinks or behaves. These changes can last for many years.
Many people feel shame, anger and sadness. Some people develop symptoms of depression, anxiety or post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
If you have been sexually abused as a child, it may be hard for you to trust other people and feel safe in relationships. This can make you feel very lonely.
Statute of Limitations
In Victoria there is no time limit (Statute of Limitations) on reporting sexual assault or abuse , so you can report an assault that happened years ago. Sometimes it’s harder for police to find enough evidence to support the case when a lot of time has passed. It may be difficult to find witnesses and forensic evidence . You can speak to the police about your situation and ask questions about what would happen, before you make an official report.
Civil action and compensation
In some situations it’s possible to apply for compensation outside the time limit
Action you can take
Talking to a trained professional can be a first step in working out the issues you are facing, and starting to deal with them.
Some options are
- Talk to a Counsellor at a Centre Against Sexual Assault (CASA).
- Call the Sexual Assault Crisis Line 1800 806 292 to talk to a Counsellor about your options.
- Talk to your GP and ask for a referral to a psychologist or social worker.
- Ring 000 to report the assault to the police. In Victoria, call a Victoria Police Sexual Offences and Child Abuse Investigation Team.
The law says that if someone has sex with you without your consent, or without checking that you consent, this is rape. The law also says you can’t give consent if you are asleep, unconscious, or so affected by alcohol or drugs that you are not able to agree freely (make up your own mind).
If you don’t remember what happened, you may not have been in a state where you could decide freely. If so, what happened to you was rape.
If you are under 18, the person who took the photos and is showing them could be charged with producing child pornography. If they print a photo, put it on the Internet or forward it to someone else they could be charged with publishing child pornography or distribution of an intimate image.
Showing the photos at school is also sexual harassment if you are over 16 (under the Sex Discrimination Act). If you are under 16, this is not covered in the Act.
The issues you are dealing with can be very distressing. Make sure you have someone you can talk to about how you are feeling.
- The Sexual Assault Crisis Line on 1800 806 292 and talk to a Counsellor 24 hours a day
- The Kids Help Line: 1800 55 1800
- Victoria Police Sexual Offences and Child Abuse Investigation Team (SOCIT)
Lots of people worry that their body is different now because of the sexual abuse — especially your private parts. You may even wonder if other people can tell what has happened to you. Your body is changing as you grow. If you feel sore or uncomfortable, or have worries about your body, try and tell someone you trust. There are even people specially trained to talk to you about bodies.
Useful phone numbers
- Contact your nearest Centre Against Sexual Assault: 1800 806 292
Your sexuality is not determined from a single or even repeated experience. It is developed over time and is influenced by many things, like your identity, family, friends, biology and environment
Many people can feel confused about their sexuality at some stage in their life, so for victims of sexual abuse this can be even more confusing. Remember that sexual abuse is not about sex, it is about power and control.
It’s important in any relationship to be able to say what you want to happen. If you are feeling uncomfortable with something your boyfriend has asked you to do, pay attention to those feelings and say no.
If your boyfriend doesn’t accept this, and tries to force or bully you into doing something sexual, then he is not being respectful of you and may be committing a crime.
Don’t take your clothes off on web cam. You don’t know who could be watching at the other end, even if your boyfriend says he is alone. Also if he records images of you, they could get into the wrong hands and end up all over the Internet.
Again, if your boyfriend tries to push you into doing this, he’s not treating you with respect. It’s always difficult when someone you like or love, and who you want to like or love you — asks you to something that makes you uncomfortable. Talk to a friend you trust, or to a trusted adult .
It is good that you have noticed something that makes you feel uncomfortable and want to do something about it. Don’t keep these things to yourself, tell an adult that you trust, such as your teacher, a family member, another parent or a police person. They will decide what to do. You are very brave for wanting to keep kids safe!
The person told you these things to frighten you. They know that what they are doing is their fault and it is wrong. They want to keep it a secret, but it is a ‘bad’ secret because it makes you feel sad, embarrassed, or all mixed up. The only way to stop feeling scared or worried or sad is to tell someone else about what has been happening to you.
If you are having trouble at school with sexual harassment because of your sexual orientation or identity, talk to someone you trust like a teacher, parent or counsellor. Schools have ways to deal with this sort of bullying or harassment, so talk it through with a trusted adult.
Remember that violence is unacceptable. You have the right to take action against any one who is intimidating, threatening, harassing or assaulting you. It doesn’t matter who the person is. The Victorian Police have Gay and Lesbian Liaison Officers located throughout Victoria. If you are experiencing violence or harassment, you can contact them to discuss the issues you are facing.
You can try to:
- Ignore them — walk away, don’t give them a reaction. That’s what they want.
- Avoid them — if you know where they hang out, avoid being there at the same time.
- Tell them to stop — use a calm voice, tell them to stop and then walk away.
What if they keep doing it?
Sometimes it’s hard to stand up to the person who is harassing you. Or they might threaten you if you tell them to stop.
If it keeps happening, it’s important to talk about it with someone you trust, like a parent, teacher, counsellor, or a manager where you work. Schools and workplaces have policies in place to deal with harassment and bullying, so talk to someone and together you can work out a plan to stop what is happening.
Remember, you have rights!
- The right to feel safe at all times
- The right to say no
- The right to privacy
This can be a bit tricky for both people involved because there are 2 issues.
- How well you know the person you might have sex with
- Giving consent (saying yes)
How well you know the person you might have sex with
Firstly, how do you make sure that sex with this person is going to work for you? It might be that you have a chat about what your limits or expectations are, so that if you’re starting to feel uncomfortable you can say stop. This probably sounds like an awkward conversation but it will give you a chance to suss out whether or not this person is likely to respect you.
At the end of the day, you need to know you can trust this person before you have sex. Bad sex is not sexual assault, but it is not a good experience.
Giving consent (saying yes)
The other issue is around the legal definitions of consent and remember that this can get a bit complex too so here goes….
Sometimes people feel pushed into sex because of peer pressure etc. Alcohol and drugs can cloud your judgement. People who are affected by alcohol or drugs are said to be legally unable to give consent.
If you’re mid-way through sex and you tell that person to stop and they don’t, then that is technically rape. Remember that consent has to be freely and voluntarily given without threat or intimidation. It is not consent if you agree because you’re scared to say no. If you’re too scared to say anything, that doesn’t mean you are consenting either. Silence is not consent.
Sometimes people are assaulted by a stranger, or they cannot remember the details of what happened.
If you were sexually assaulted you have the right to report the crime to the Police, regardless of whether or not you know who hurt you, or can remember all the details.
When a sexual assault
case is heard in court, the accused
may say they believed the victim consented
to have sex with them.
In Victoria, Australia the law says that the prosecution legal team must prove one of two things to show that what the victim said happened, did happen:
- That the accused knew that the victim did not consent, or
- That the accused thought maybe the victim hadn’t consented, but went ahead anyway.
The jury is told that:
- If the victim did not say or do anything to show they wanted to have sex, this means they did not consent to it.
- If the victim didn’t fight back, or has no injuries, it doesn’t mean they wanted to have sex.
- Just because the victim may have previously agreed to have sex with someone, it doesn’t mean that person can have sex with them whenever they want.
If the prosecution can show that the accused didn’t make reasonable efforts to find out if the victim was consenting, then they can be found guilty.
What law says about consent
Your age is an important part of consent. In Victoria, the age of consent is 16 years old.
In Victoria, Australia the law states that:
- If you are 16 years of age or older you can consent to engage in sexual activity with someone 16 years of age or older except if that person is in a position of care or responsibility for you unless you and your partner are recognized as being legally married in Australia. People in a position of care or responsibility include your teacher, foster parent, employer, youth worker, sports coach, counselor and health professionals.
- If you are between 12 and 15 years old, it is illegal for a person to have sex with you, touch you sexually or perform a sexual act in front of you, even if you agree. However, it is recognized as normal and common for young people to want to experiment with sex with people their own age so the law for 12 to 15 year olds allows two legal defenses for illegal sexual activity. 1) if there is no more than 24 months difference in age between you and your partner, or 2) the older person honestly believed that there was less than 24 months age difference between the two of you, or that you were 16 years of age or older.
- If you are under 12 years old it is illegal for a person to have sex with you, touch you sexually or perform a sexual act in front of you, even if you agree.
- Having sex with a brother, sister or anyone in a familial relationship with you (like a step brother or sister or a step father or mother) is illegal no matter what age you are.
- It is illegal to have sex with animals at any age.
The laws on sex might be different to this depending on where you live. In Australia you can find out the law for your state or territory by clicking on the links below.
Maybe the person is in your family or someone you or your family knows. This person might be very nice to you or even give you things that make you feel happy or special. You might not have wanted to hurt their feelings or to make them angry. Children are also taught to be polite and are often told not to say no, especially to grown- ups.
It is easy to understand why you couldn’t say no, and we also know that saying “no” doesn’t always stop the abuse.
You may think it (the sexual abuse) happened to you because of something you did or said. You may even think it happened because of what you were wearing at the time. The abuse happened because the other person was older or bigger or stronger than you and probably someone you trusted or believed in. The person might be in your family. That person used your trust to do what they wanted to do. They knew what they were doing was wrong. That is why they kept it secret, or told you to keep it a secret.
There is never an excuse for abusing or neglecting a child. But some parents don’t understand what being a parent means and don’t know how to look after a child.
Most parents love their kids, but some haven’t learned how to deal with their own problems. Others weren’t looked after properly by their own parents, and they just don’t know how to look after kids.
Some parents might be angry or worried about something else, and take it out on their kids instead of being responsible for their own issues. They might think that hurting someone smaller is a way for them to feel big and powerful.
But remember, there is never a reason to hurt or abuse a child! Kids have rights too! People who hurt their children need help to stop the abuse and to sort out their problems.
People need time to sort out their thoughts and feelings. It is very useful to have someone called a counsellor that is trained to help at times like this. Some things will be difficult at first and other things may even get better, but mostly things will not go back to exactly how they were.