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Sexual abuse

Sexual abuse

Domestic violence can take many forms, including coercive control, financial abuse and spiritual abuse. Domestic violence also includes sexual abuse, which includes any occasion where you’re forced to take part in sexual activity against your consent.

What is sexual abuse?

The sexual abuse definition is quite wide ranging. This is because sexual abuse occurs on any occasion when you’re forced, pressured or tricked into taking part in sexual activity.

Sexual abuse does not just involve penetrative sex; it covers all sexual activity that you haven’t consented to, including all sexual behaviours that make you feel uncomfortable, frightened or threatened. This includes sexual abuse indicators like somebody showing you their genitals without your consent (also known as ‘flashing’) or somebody sexually harassing you by touching you in ways you don’t want to be touched.

It is never ok for anyone to force you to take part in a sexual act you’re not comfortable with, even if you’re married to them or are in a relationship with them.

Who commits sexual abuse?

Sexual abuse can involve strangers or people you know, including your:

  • Boyfriend, girlfriend, partner, husband or wife;
  • Ex-boyfriend, ex-girlfriend, ex-partner, ex-husband or ex-wife;
  • Carer or paid support worker;
  • Parent, guardian or any other family member;
  • Casual sex partners;
  • Friends.

In addition, sexual abuse can also be committed by someone you know but aren’t close to, like a neighbour, a boss, or a friend of a friend.

Who can obtain a Domestic Violence Order to stop sexual abuse?

Domestic or family violence refers to violence, abuse and/or intimidation between people who are currently or have previously been in a ‘relevant relationship’.

In order to apply for a Domestic Violence Order in Queensland, you need to be in a ‘relevant relationship’ with the perpetrator (known legally as the defendant). These relationships are defined by the Domestic and Family Violence Protection Act 2012, which states that relevant relationships include:

  • Spousal relationships, including de facto relationships, biological parents of a child and same-sex couples
  • Family relationships, including relations by blood or marriage and cultural relationships
  • Informal care relationships, including unpaid carers who assist with day-to-day living arrangements.

If you are not in a ‘relevant relationship’ and do not qualify for protection under the Domestic and Family Violence Protection Act 2012, there are other options available to you for seeking protection and we would encourage you to contact the police to discuss your options. If you are in a ‘relevant relationship’, you should speak to an experienced family lawyer who will be able to explain your rights and outline how you could possibly free yourself from the situation with the help of the law.

Sexual abuse signs

Sexual abuse signs are varied and a wide range of actions constitute sexual abuse. This means that all of the following actions are considered to be sexual abuse indicators:

  • Rape (forcing someone to have sex or perform a sexual act);
  • Committing indecent assault (this includes all indecent behaviour before, during or after an assault);
  • Child sex abuse or assault (including all situations where power is used in order to convince children to undertake sexual activity);
  • Incest (sexual offences committed by relatives);
  • Sexual molestation (including all forms of indecent touching).

If any of these sexual abuse examples are committed against you, then you may feel as though the situation is your fault. However sexual abuse is never the fault of the victim. If one of these acts has been committed against you, then it’s important that you know people are willing to listen to you and help you.

In addition, if you’ve been a victim of one of these acts, then you may be feeling one of several sexual assault effects. The impact of this abuse can be long or short term, and the incident may affect you in different ways. For example, you may experience feelings of shock and disbelief, or you may be unable to sleep. All sexual assault effects are incredibly distressing and your emotions may change from one day to the next. Talking to a close friend or a family member may help you cope and deal with the abuse you’ve faced.

Leaving an abusive relationship

If your partner or someone else you know is putting pressure on you to have sex or perform sexual acts that you’re not comfortable with, then they are not respecting how you feel and their actions may constitute domestic violence. If anyone is making you do something that you do not want to do, then you do not need to stay with them. If you’re considering leaving an abusive relationship or have been a victim of sexual abuse in Australia at the hands of someone you are in a domestic or ‘relevant relationship’ with, our trained and experienced lawyers can give you advice about the options available to ensure your protection.

Scott Richardson

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