Safety and first aid

Sexual assault

Sexual assault can be a violent, unexpected, traumatic and sometimes life threatening event or series of events.

The Sexual Assault Resource Centre (SARC) provides a 24-hour emergency service in metropolitan Perth. For emergency help after a recent sexual assault phone 6458 1828 or 1800 199 888 (free from land line only).

What is sexual assault and sexual abuse?

The term ‘sexual violence’ is often used to describe sexual assault and sexual abuse.

What is sexual assault?

Sexual assault is any unwanted sexual act or behaviour which is threatening, violent, forced or coercive and to which a person has not given consent or was not able to give consent.

Examples include:

  • putting a penis, object or other parts of the body into someone’s mouth, anus or vagina
  • being forced to give or receive oral sex – putting a penis into someone’s mouth
  • being forced to masturbate or forced to watch someone masturbate
  • unwanted sexual touching – on private parts of the body
  • sexual harassment – making inappropriate sexual comments
  • voyeurism – someone exposing themselves to you
  • making someone watch a sexual act or pornography.

Sexual assault is a crime.

What is sexual abuse?

Sexual abuse is when someone in a position of power or authority takes advantage of a person’s trust and respect to involve them in sexual activity. It can involve any of the examples above.

Sexual abuse can occur between:

  • a child and an adult
  • a child and an older child
  • a patient and a doctor
  • a student and a teacher
  • a parishioner and a priest.

Sexual abuse is a crime.

What is rape and what is date rape?

Rape is another word used for sexual assault. It is any unwanted sexual act or behaviour, which a person did not consent to or was not able to consent to.

Date rape happens when someone you have just met or are going out with forces or manipulates you into having unwanted sexual contact. Date rape can involve forced sexual acts or subtle or threatening sexual behaviour.

Regardless of your relationship, sexual contact without consent is against the law.

“If someone buys you a drink or dinner then you must have sex with them” – this sort of wrong belief contributes to date rape.

Just because someone bought you a drink or dinner, it does not entitle them to have sex with you. Date rape is never okay.

Rape and date rape are crimes.

Why does sexual assault and sexual abuse happen?

Sexual assault and sexual abuse are committed by both men and women, although the majority of offenders are male and are known to their victim. Usually incidents are planned and occur because the perpetrator wants to feel a sense of power and control over another person. It is usually not about sexual pleasure.

Sexual assault and sexual abuse do not discriminate. They can happen to women, men and children, regardless of age, race or culture. In Australia, statistics show that 1 in 5 women and 1 in 20 men over the age of 15 years will experience sexual violence at some stage in their life time.

It is important to know that sexual assault or sexual abuse do not happen because of the dress or behaviour of the victim.

Where to get help

Sexual Assault Resource Centre (SARC)

  • 24 hour crisis line for recent sexual assault – phone (08) 6458 1828 or 1800 199 888 (free from land line only)
  • Crisis telephone counselling between 8.30am and 11.00pm daily – phone (08) 6458 1828


  • In an emergency situation, go to the nearest hospital emergency department
  • See your doctor
  • Country residents may be able to access services in their local area – a list of country resources is available on the SARC website under ‘Information resources’

Sexual Assault Resource Centre

This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

Link to HealthyWA Facebook page