Victoria Legal Aid

Sexual assault

What the law says about sexual assault offences in Victoria, what you can do and where to get help.

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Sexual assault includes rape, incest (sex with a close relative), child abuse, and unwanted sexual behaviour, for example, unwanted kissing and touching.

It also includes behaviour that does not involve actual touching. For example, forcing someone to watch pornography or masturbation is also sexual assault.

Sexual offences are serious crimes. Maximum penalties are between five and 25 years in prison.

It can be very difficult to know what to do if you have been sexually assaulted, but there are services that can help you.

What you can do

After a sexual assault you can:

An intervention order can order the perpetrator (the person who sexually assaulted you) to stay away from you.

A Centre Against Sexual AssaultExternal Link counsellor or advocate can help you decide what to do and work with you to help you recover from the effects of sexual assault.

What are considered sexual offences in Victoria


Sex is considered rape if:

  • someone sexually penetrates you without your consent, either:
    • while being aware that you are not, or might not be, consenting
    • while not giving any thought to whether you are not, or might not be, consenting
  • after you start having sex, the other person does not stop after becoming aware that you are not, or might not be, consenting
  • a person makes you sexually penetrate (or not stop penetrating) them or another person or animal. It does not matter if the person being penetrated consents to the act. You must also consent.

Sexual penetration means putting any part of the penis into the vagina, anus or mouth. It also means putting any part of an object or another part of the body, for example, finger or tongue, into the vagina or anus of another person. The penetration can be just the tip of the finger or penis and can happen for even a very short time. It does not matter if semen comes out or not.

Consent means you willingly agree. Under the law you are not agreeing to penetration if you were:

  • physically forced to do it or you feared someone else would be forced
  • scared of what might happen to you or someone else
  • unlawfully held, for example, locked in a house or car.

Under the law you are also not consenting if you:

  • are asleep, unconscious or so affected by alcohol or drugs that you cannot freely and voluntarily agree
  • are not able to understand that what is happening is sexual
  • mistake the sexual nature of the act or think the person is someone else
  • a condom is tampered with or removed without consent
  • believe that the act is for medical or cleanliness purposes.

If you do not agree to the act, it is rape whatever the relationship between you and the other person. A man can be guilty of raping his wife or girlfriend.

Compelling sexual penetration

It is against the law to force another person to take part in sexual penetration, including with animals. It is also against the law to make someone put an object into their vagina or anus, unless it is for a genuine medical or cleanliness purpose.

Indecent assault

Indecent assault covers sexual acts other than sexual penetration, such as touching your breasts or bottom without your agreement.


Incest happens when an act of sexual penetration is done with a close relative, for example, a parent, step-parent, grandparent or sibling. It is also incest if you are under 18 and the person lives with your parent but isn’t married to them.

If you are forced to take part in incest against your will, you have not done anything against the law. Only the person who forces you has broken the law.

Sexual servitude (slavery)

Sexual servitude happens when a person forces you to be involved in prostitution (sex work) where you may:

  • be being held against your will
  • have to pay back a debt
  • have been threatened, for example, with assault or deportation.

Sexual offences against children

These are offences that are committed against people under 18. These include:

  • sexual penetration of a child aged 12 or younger
  • sexual penetration of a child aged between 12 and 16
  • indecent act with a child under the age of 16
  • continued sexual abuse of a child under the age of 16
  • sexual penetration or an indecent act with a child aged 16 or 17 by an adult who cares for, supervises or has authority over the child. This may include a teacher, employer, foster parent, sports coach and other roles
  • organising to get a child under 16 for sexual penetration or an indecent act by an adult
  • organising to get a child aged 16 or 17 for sexual penetration or an indecent act by an adult who cares for, supervises or has authority over that child
  • possessing and producing child pornography.

It does not matter if the child agreed to the act. However, a person may not have broken the law if the child consented and:

  • they believed the child was older than 16, and had a valid reason to think that
  • the accused person was no more than two years older than the child
  • the accused believed they were married to the child.

Sexual offences against people with cognitive impairment

Cognitive impairment includes mental illness, intellectual disability, dementia and brain injury.

A person who provides medical or health services to a person with a cognitive impairment or who works or volunteers in a residential facility must not take part in an:

  • act of sexual penetration
  • indecent act with the person with cognitive impairment.

It is against the law even if the person agreed to the act.

Residential facilities include psychiatric institutions, supported accommodation and other residential services for intellectually disabled people.

Other support

Find out how you can get other support for relationships.

Disclaimer: The material in this print-out relates to the law as it applies in the state of Victoria. It is intended as a general guide only. Readers should not act on the basis of any material in this print-out without getting legal advice about their own particular situations. Victoria Legal Aid disclaims any liability howsoever caused to any person in respect of any action taken in reliance on the contents of the publication.

We help Victorians with their legal problems and represent those who need it most. Find legal answers, chat with us online, or call us. You can speak to us in English or ask for an interpreter. You can also find more legal information at

Reviewed 14 December 2023

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