What is Sexual Assault?

CASA Forum defines sexual assault as any behaviour of a sexual nature that makes someone feel uncomfortable, frightened, intimidated or threatened.

It is sexual behaviour that someone has not agreed to, where another person uses physical or emotional force against them.

It can include anything from sexual harassment through to life threatening rape.
Some of these acts are serious indictable crimes.

The terms sexual assault and sexual abuse are often used interchangeably and on this website, they will be used as such.

Generally the term sexual abuse refers to abuse that has happened in childhood and has occurred more than once.

Sexual assault is often a term used to describe one-off incidents of sexual assault in adolescence and adulthood.

Sexual assault is an abuse of power.
Sexual assault is never the fault or responsibility of the victim/survivor.

Examples of sexual assault include:

  • Stalking e.g. repeatedly being followed or watched by someone;
  • Rape e.g. being forced to have vaginal, anal or oral sex
  • Unwanted touching e.g. pinching, patting, embracing, rubbing, groping, flicking, kissing, fondling, being touched on the breasts, bum, legs etc;
  • Sexual harassment e.g. dirty jokes or rude comments about a person’s sex life;
  • Obscene gestures e.g. simulating masturbation in front of a person;
  • Voyeurism e.g. being watched doing intimate things without permission;
  • Unwanted sexual comments or jokes e.g. comments about a person’s body or relationships;
  • Sex-related insults e.g. calling someone a slut, dyke, homo, slag etc;
  • Pressuring for dates or demand for sex e.g. invitations that turn into threats or not taking ‘no’ for an answer;
  • Indecent exposure e.g. someone showing private parts of their body or ‘flashing’ their genitals;
  • Being forced to watch or participate in pornography e.g. taking a photo without permission, forcing someone to be on video, making someone watch a pornographic movie;
  • Offensive written material e.g. dirty notes, letters, phone messages, emails, SMS, pictures;
  • Incest/intrafamilial child sexual assault e.g. a family member e.g. father or brother engaging in sexual activity with a child or young person;
  • Unwanted, offensive and invasive interpersonal communication through technologies such as mobile phones, internet social networking sites and email.

© 2013 Copyright Victorian Centres Against Sexual Assault (CASA) Forum. Some changes have been made to the original material.

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