Sexual Assault is a general term used to describe a broad range of sexual crimes committed against a person.

These crimes include sexual intercourse without consent, aggravated sexual assault, indecent assault and acts of indecency (these offences generally involve inappropriate touching, including genitals or other intimate areas or forcing a person to touch the genitals or intimate areas of another person). An offence is aggravated if there is a threat, whether actual or implied, or it is done in the company of other people, or is committed upon a person under a certain age or under authority of a person (teacher/relative/carer) or involves the use of a weapon, force or threat. Sexual Assault is a crime of violence. It aims to humiliate and degrade the victim and can occur within marriage. It can be a frightening experience that may have long term effects. These effects occur regardless of a person's age, gender, status, culture, ability or sexuality.

Although women are primarily the victims of sexual assault, men and transgender people can also be victims. According to the NSW Rape Crisis Centre, one in five women in Australia will be sexually assaulted at some stage during their life. The great majority of victims will know the person who assaulted them.

In the period after a sexual assault victims may experience a wide range of feelings including:

  • fear
  • anxiety
  • numbness
  • disbelief
  • panic
  • anger
  • shame
  • loneliness
  • embarrassment
  • irritability
  • guilt
  • powerlessness
  • loss of control
  • vulnerability
  • distress
  • confusion

It is a normal reaction to experience these feelings.

Sexual assault is never the fault of the victim. When a victim reports sexual assault to police they will be offered access to a NSW Health sexual assault counsellor. With the victim's consent, police will contact one of these services on their behalf and arrange transport there if the matter is urgent. These services provide free and confidential counselling. If the sexual assault was recent and the victim agrees, the counsellor will arrange for a forensic medical examination. This examination will gather evidence for court if the victim decides to proceed with criminal action.

If the local sexual assault service is not available police will, for adult victims and if the victim agrees, phone the NSW Rape Crisis Service so the victim can speak privately with a counsellor. If victims wish to contact the Rape Crisis Centre themselves, they can call 1800 424 017, or through the online service at www.nswrapecrisis.com.au. This service is available 24/7.

The useful contacts section of this fact sheet outlines a list of other counselling, support and resource centres to assist both adult and child victims.

Anyone can talk to police about reporting a sexual assault. When victims formally report a sexual assault, police officers will be respectful, non judgemental, supportive and understanding. Even if a victim decides they do not want any further action to be taken, by reporting the sexual assault this helps the police to record the crime which may assist with future investigations.

It is never too late to report a sexual assault. Some victims choose to report immediately after the assault happens, others may report days, months and even years later.